La Aurora, S.A.

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I thought I’d try something a little different this week by profiling a few different lines from one cigar maker. La Aurora has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity during the past few years, earning plaudits from pundits and neophytes alike. But the company itself has been around for years — over 100 years as a matter of fact — and has grown and diversified into a Dominican corporate giant called the Leon Jimenes Group that dwarfs its original cigar rolling concern.

The seeds of La Aurora were first planted in the tobacco fields of Antonio Leon in the late 19th century. His son, Eduardo Leon Jimenes, would use some of this tobacco for the first La Aurora cigars, perfectos called “preferidos” that were rolled and sold to the Dominican public.

In the early twentieth century the Dominican Republic was a very poor country struggling to maintain its independence, despite an American military occupation and the anarchy of warlord rule. In 1930 the dictator Rafael Trujillo came to power and established rule of law — his law — and while this lent some stability to the country it also stifled a free market. The Leon family wished to expand into the more profitable cigarette business but was prevented by the dictator. It seems that Trujillo owned the leading cigarette company and did not welcome the competition.

But all bad things must come to an end, so in 1961 Trujillo was assassinated. This allowed La Aurora to expand, as it had always wanted to, into the cigarette and beer industries. As the Leon Jimenes Group, it now dominates both of those markets in the Dominican Republic, producing the ubiquitous Presidente brew and Marlboro cigarettes for Philip Morris. Recently they have also added a banking concern to their portfolio, and are now recognized as the largest company in the country.

Cigar production is now a very small part of what the Leon Jimenes Group does, but as recent years have shown, it is still very important to them. When Fernando Leon Asensio was asked in a Cigar Aficionado interview if he would ever sell La Aurora, his response was, “No. How can you sell a son?”

La Aurora continues to receive the attention it deserves, not only from its parent company but from the cigar world as well. The Cien Años line celebrating the 100th anniversary of the company has been held in the same high regard as Fuente’s Opus X as a super premium cigar, and La Aurora has followed on this success with the 1495 line. Meanwhile it continues to produce its traditional La Aurora line with a Cameroon wrapper and the mild and genteel Leon Jimenes. Additionally it produces 5 Vegas and Pueblo Dominicana for Cigars International, and CAO’s flavoured small cigars.

I looked in the humidor over the weekend and discovered I have quite a few cigars that I didn’t realize until now are made by La Aurora. (Yes, I have been spending a little too much time on Cigarbid.) In the next couple weeks I’ll be reviewing some of these cigars to see how they compare, starting with 5 Vegas Limitada torpedos from 2005 and 2006. Time for me to get out the notebook and start smokin!

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