Pinar del Rio: Cuba's Great Tobacco Land
Stunning views on the Pinar del Rio horizon
A TOBACCO MECCA. FAMOUS CUBAN CIGAR FARMERS. TRANQUIL IMAGERY
The roads were empty – it was as though we were the only ones driving the approximately two-hour trip from Havana to Pinar del Rio. Along the highway, we noticed people rushing towards us selling cheese and marmalade. Cuba’s Vuelta Abajo region, has a West section named Pinar del Rio, where many of the finest tobacco from Cuban cigars is grown and sourced. On a tour with the island’s tourist and travel expert Toby Brocklehurst, we explored the vast land which helps produce our favourite luxury.
RICH RED SOIL – It has long been known that tobacco grown in Cuba is dissimilar to anywhere else. The lack of rain, strong humidity and temperatures are perfect, and this was realised centuries ago. Our post Cuban Cigar Industry Pioneers, shares how Cuba was forced to sell their tobacco seeds to Spain in the 17th century, who then crafted cigars. Once realising all production was best in Cuba, the law was changed. Whilst Cuba has various tobacco plantations, Pinar del Rio is one the best, and partly features rich soil in a reddish hue, due to high levels of iron.
The red soil in Pinar del Rio is packed full of iron which leads to perfect tobacco for Cuban cigars, however, the land is also perfect for growing certain produce, such as papaya plants shown on the right.
"scenery eclipsed our vision"
FROM SEED TO PLANT – Tobacco farmers in Cuba spend nearly a year growing their plants. Around the beginning of summer, preparations are underway. Then from January to March, the harvest takes place. Leaves are harvested on different days and farmers take the lowest leaves first, working their way up to the top where Ligero leaves are positioned. Once collected, the tobacco leaves are dried for nearly two months before being classified. The work of a Cuban cigar farmer is never quite complete.
These are the beautiful green views one can expect when visiting Pinar del Rio. A retreat from Havana's lively vibrancy
"Prieto is a star in the industry"
PEACEFUL TRANQUILITY – At every angle our eyes turned, scenery eclipsed our vision. A serene silence, in an area with naturally occurring caves and layers and layers upon plants and lush land. We had the honour of visiting the farm belonging to Hector Luis Prieto, known as his ‘Finca Quemado de Rubi”. In English this translates to Estate Burned of Ruby. Piento is strongly regarded as one of Cuba’s most successful plantation owners. In 2008, he became the youngest man to receive the award for Habanos Man of the Year in the production category, because of his high volume of first-rate tobacco for cigar wrappers.
The sunset going down over the natural caves and climbing hills
"mandatory to take a drive to Vinales"
PIENTO FARM – Grown coffee beans roasted fresh, homemade food with delicious meals served at the farm’s restaurant, the place is almost a village that includes a selection of rented cottages, overlooking breath-taking imagery. Hector Luis Piento is a star in the industry – a celebrity figure people happily queue to meet. We luckily managed to steal a fraction of his time before he left to head home which is also located on his farm. A cigar-roller is on sight for people to see, but there’s a type of storage office where you can make cigar purchases. We very much enjoyed smoking one of his habanos.
Vinales, also in the Pinar del Rio region, has a welcoming town, valley and a nearby island called Cayo Levisa.
"a tobacco growing mecca"
TRIP TO VINALES – If you are planning a visit to a tobacco farm in Cuba, we suggest arranging a tour with an expert. Toby Brocklehurst is an ideal figure. His company In Cloud 9 offers a bespoke Cuban Cigar Tour you can book, taking you across the many tobacco growers in the area. After sightseeing in Pinar del Rio, it’s mandatory to take a drive to Vinales – just under an hour away. Here is the epitome of beauty, the valley there is declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Spectacular mountains and as still a part of Pinar del Rio, a tobacco growing mecca. In the town, expect to taste some of the most delectable food in the various restaurants and eateries.
CLASSIC CIGARS – Legendary farmer Alejandro Robaina famously owned land in Pinar del Rio. Vegas Robaina Cigars – a brand named after him, contain tobacco from the province’s fields. Specifically, the Montecristo Linea 1935 range, such as the Montecristo Linea 1935 Maltes Cigar, has its long filler tobacco leaves obtained in Pinar del Rio, as does the H. Upmann Sir Winston Gran Reserva Cosecha 2011 Cigar. When Cuban cigar companies are seeking to create a Limited Editions Cigars or an extra special habano, they go to these plantations to find their tobacco leaves.
Our time in Cuba’s great tobacco land Pinar del Rio, was exciting, interesting and fun. We have seen first-hand the many wonders of the plants which go on to create several of our Cuban cigars online.