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ProCigar 2024 : Come for the cigars, stay for the party!

ProCigar 2024

The Dominican Republic’s annual ProCigar Festival, now in its 16th year, brings together cigar lovers from all corners of the world to celebrate the country’s tobacco prowess through a series of tours, seminars, and dinners. This year the six-day event hosted over 1,000 guests representing 20 different countries. The festival starts in La Romana, where Altadis’s Tabacalera de Garcia is located, then makes its way up to Santiago, where the majority of the ProCigar member companies are based. When registering for the event, guests choose which field or factory tours they want to participate in, and on the final day all guests participate in a day at a tobacco plantation together. This year we started our coverage in Santiago and selected tours with Quesada Cigars and La Flor Dominicana.

Santiago Day 1

Welcome Cocktail Party

While the La Romana group was riding up after visiting Tabacalera de Garcia, we were flying into Santiago and arrived in time for the Welcome Cocktail at the Hodelpa Garden Court where our ProCigar 2024 backpack was waiting for us. The ProCigar branded backpack was full to the brim with a sampler box containing 12 cigars, accessories from Colibri, Les Fines Lames, HumiDif, and others as well as a ProCigar polo and cap. Lastly the welcome pack also contained a pack of delicious Jules Destrooper butter crisps! They didn’t make it past my morning coffee the following day.

Once we’d stowed our backpacks, we continued to the pool deck where they’d rolled out the red carpet for us with live music, drinks like Brugal Leyenda rum, hors d’oeuvres, and a three-pack of cigars. Guests rubbed elbows with some of the Dominican Republic’s legendary cigar makers as well as some up and comers. As is tradition for our group, we continued the party at Saga Restaurant & Cigar Club where we enjoyed tomahawk steaks and drinks with a background of live music and plenty of cigar smoke in the air.

Santiago Day 2

Quesada Cigar Factory Tour & Welcome Party

Let the cigar tours begin! At ProCigar, the consumer gets to select what cigar tour he/she attends on each day, and for our first tour of 2024 we visited Quesada Cigars to celebrate their 50th anniversary.

We boarded an early bus to Quesada Cigars where a celebration of the company’s 50th anniversary was planned. We were greeted by the father/daughter team of Manolo and Raquel Quesada, who handed us each a Casa Magna Liga F to start the day. After intros and a brief company history by Manolo, we experienced a guided tasting led by Ferio Tego’s Michael Herklots and Manolo Quesada. We were able to taste the 50th anniversary cigar along with each of the component tobaccos in the blend separated out into small cigars. We love these component tastings because they allow you to isolate and identify where each flavor and sensation in the cigar is coming from. We celebrated the anniversary with a proper Champagne toast led by Raquel, then enjoyed a rum tasting led by Brugal’s rum master, Miguel Ripoll, and brand ambassador Susana Ortega.

A delicious traditional Dominican roast pork was served for lunch along with traditional sides. This was followed by a beautiful cake to commemorate the anniversary. Along with the cake and coffee, Casa Magna Connecticuts were passed out and enjoyed. Lastly, on the way out every guest received a two-cigar coffin of the Quesada 50th Anniversary cigar. It was a memorable way to start the ProCigar 2024 tours.

Upon returning to the hotel, we attended a cigar seminar hosted by Michael Herklots and ASP’s David Perez. The seminar focused on the difference that a wrapper can bring to a blend. Each participant received two cigars with the same filler and binder blend; the only difference was that one had a Habano wrapper and the other Connecticut wrapper. It was highly interesting and informative to experience this while being guided by the head of one of the biggest growers of premium cigar tobacco in the business and the ever-eloquent Herklots.

As is typical at ProCigar, the parties are top notch, and the Welcome Dinner at Parque Central de Santiago was no exception. All the entertainment was excellent, from the artist live painting while we mingled to the folkloric dancers while we dined. The food, drinks, and cigars were fantastic, and the dance contest was a lot of fun as well.

Santiago Day 3

La Flor Dominicana & White Party

Few factory tours can convey the essence of being a ‘tabaquero’ in the Dominican Republic as well as the tour for La Flor Dominicana. We started the day at LFD’s farm with Litto Gomez and his team putting on a show with his collection of paso fino horses. We watched the show while enjoying an LFD Reserva Especial, fresh coconut water, and light bites. We moved on to check out LFD’s fields and curing barns where Litto and Tony took turns taking us through the process. Then the tour took a twist when Tony and Litto Jr. surprised their father with a mini museum paying homage to his life that they called Casa Gomez. The museum takes you through Litto’s beginnings in Spain, Uruguay, then Miami and eventually to the Dominican Republic and the founding of La Flor Dominicana.

From there the tour moved back to the factory where folkloric dancers greeted us and guided us to our seats and handed us a new smoke, the LFD Ligero. As usual on this tour, the food was exceptional. There was a paella loaded with lobster, shrimp, clams, and mussels. Then there was the roast pork, churrasco, sausage, chicken, and to top it off they brought tomahawks over to each table and carved them. Amazing! We walked off all the food and drinks with a tour of the cigar factory accompanied by the LFD Solis, Litto Jr’s blend.

After some rest, we hit the party of the year, the White Party! The event is held at Santiago’s Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración, as unique of a venue as you will find. In fact this is the only event held at the historic landmark. Upon entering, we were handed a box with Art de Fumar’s art on it. Inside, the box was packed with the best of the best in Dominican cigars. As is the case every year, this event brings out a who’s who of the Dominican Republic’s elite. The Golden Soul band got everyone up and dancing, then suddenly the floor opened and we could see Tony Gomez on one knee. His longtime girlfriend Mina made her way to the center of the dance floor and soon there wasn’t a dry eye in the house; she said YES!

Santiago Day 4

Field Trip Day & Final Gala

In recent years, the final day of tours for ProCigar has been organized as a “Field Day.” While that name may conjure up ideas of middle school students competing in relay races and tug of war, ProCigar’s field day is about gathering all participants and cigar makers at one of the member company’s farms. This year’s field day was hosted by La Aurora at their Jacagua plantation, and while there were no sack races or tug of war, there were games like bingo, corn hole, darts, and dominos. There were also excellent cigars, food, and drinks to go along with the fun vibes.

For the final night of ProCigar 2024, the organization went all out with their Gala Dinner at El Centro Español. Guests were greeted with another beautiful, collectible box of cigars. In addition to the cigar legends, festival participants, and upper crust of Dominican society on the list, the Dominican Republic’s president, Luis Abinader, was in attendance, a first for the festival. Michael Herklots ran the auction to benefit Voluntario Jesús de los Niños and the Hospicio San Vicente de Paúl, among other nonprofit organizations, and ProCigar’s own initiative “A Home for My Family.” The auction raised over $500,000. Once the auction was over, we got down to the business of dancing. We don’t get tired of saying it, attending the ProCigar Festival is worth every penny for smokers who want to learn, smoke excellent cigars, and enjoy some of the best parties in the cigar business.

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