In 2008—just when reasonably-priced quality handmade cigars were going the way of the dodo bird and beehive hairdo—Pioneer Valley Cigars debuted. This mild-bodied stick is made in the Dominican Republic by Tabacalera el Torcedor CxA. It’s named to celebrate its Connecticut Shade wrapper, grown in Pioneer Valley which, since the mid-nineteenth century, has been famed for producing the finest tobacco available for cigar wrappers. The Connecticut River Valley runs from Middletown, Connecticut, north to the Massachusetts/Vermont border. Pioneer Valley happens to be in Massachusetts’s, dead center in that valley. Beneath this silky, natural, gorgeous leaf is a hand-selected Connecticut Valley Broadleaf binder and a blend of mellow, well-aged Cuban-seed long-fillers from the Dominican Republic. Look for an even burn, salt/pepper ash, a creamy core of toast and cedar, and crisp tobacco notes. Rest this puppy in your humidor for a month and you’ll get a nutty, spicy, more complex stick. A slightly chilled Añejo Tequila complements this cigar beautifully.
Though tobacco is indigenous to Hispaniola, the tobacco industry in the Dominican Republic existed in the shadow of Cuba’s dominance through the 1960s. When the exodus of Cuban cigar makers began in the wake of the revolution, many decided the Dominican Republic would be ideal for the resumption of their livelihoods. Unrest in Nicaragua in the 1980s fueled the Dominican cigar industry further. The country now makes more than half of the premium cigars imported into the U.S.
The Cibao Valley and the nearby city of Santiago are the center of cigar production in the Dominican Republic. Three main varieties are grown here: the mild and native Olor Dominicano; the intense Piloto Cubano, brought from the Vuelta Abajo of Cuba; and San Vicente, a milder and more acidic Piloto hybrid. Dominican puros were once unheard of as it was widely thought impossible to grow quality wrapper leaf on the island, but new growing techniques are now allowing some exceptional puros to be produced.
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Rocky Patel's Decade Torpedo, rated 95 in Cigar Aficionado.