La Aurora Cigars History
Eduardo León Jimenes [Left], Eduardo León Asensio [Right]
In the late 19th century, Antonio Gavino León González purchased tobacco-growing land in the Tamboril area
. His son, Eduardo León Jimenes, then opened a small workshop in the nearby Don Pedro, Guazumal.
Until then, the Dominican Republic only grew and cured tobacco, which was then exported directly to countries where it was processed for cigars or pipes. Although it was just a small house with six employees, it was the first facility where ready-to-smoke cigars were commercially prepared on Dominican soil.
Initially, the cigars were manufactured for the local market from excess tobacco that was transported by donkey to the workshop. Its first creations were perfecto cigars called “Preferidos”. These are still produced today but are now under the 1903 range, which is named after the year the factory first opened.
As its market grew, La Aurora moved its factory to the more central city of Santiago de los Caballeros in 1912. Four years later, the Dominican Republic’s president and wealthiest tobacco baron, Juan Isidro Jimenes, stepped down under pressure from the USA due to its growing debt defaults.
Incidentally, there doesn’t appear to be any connection between Juan Isidro Jimenes and Eduardo León Jimenes. Indeed, the “Jimenes” name came from his mother, María Natividad Jimenes Lopez.
However, Edouardo León’s cousin was Dr José de Jesús Jiménez Almonte, a botanist who founded the Medical Association of Santiago in 1941, the Dominican Society of Botany in 1973, and the Academy of Sciences of the Dominican Republic in 1974!
The US occupation and instability that followed forced La Aurora to shut down production between 1916 and 1924. By the time General Rafael Trujillo had seized power, La Aurora resumed its activities.
La Aurora: The Next Generation
Left To Right: Eduardo, Fernando, Guillermo & José León Asensio
Six years later, La Aurora was registered as the E.León Jimenes Share Company. However, Trujillo’s monopoly on cigarette production prevented La Aurora from expanding as it wanted. When Eduardo León Jimenes passed away in 1937 at 52 years old.
His brother Herminio took the helm until Eduardo’s oldest son, the 21-year-old Eduardo León Asensio, became its president. However, he was rarely alone and was often supported by his own brothers, Fernando, Guillermo, and José.
Together, they created the union “Sindicato de Trabajadores de E.León Jimenes” in 1957. It sought to protect worker rights in the face of advances in machinery that risked replacing them. However, it also provided shelter from Trujillo’s frequent attempts to seize more of the country’s tobacco industry.
Following Trujillo’s assassination in 1963, E.León Jimenes swiftly moved its headquarters to Villa Progreso on the outskirts of the city and built a new cigarette factory. After signing an agreement with Philip Morris to produce Marlboro cigarettes, cigars would eventually only account for a single per cent of the company’s sales.
Nevertheless, the additional funds allowed it to fund its ventures into beer during the 1980s. Today, its Cervecería Nacional Dominicana brewery produces Heineken and Miller beer but it’s best known for its national brand, Presidente.
In 2003, it even founded the Banco León, which represented a union between the Banco Profesional and Banco Nacional de Credito.
La Aurora & Guillermo León Herbert
Guillermo León Herbert
Born in 1960, Fernando León’s son, Guillermo León Herbert, started working for the family business from a young age. Although Grupo León Jimenes had diversified in many sectors, he first started by following his forefathers with summer jobs in its cigar factories.
By 1983, he entered the Group’s logistics department until he joined his father in 1995 among La Aurora’s leadership.
Shortly afterward, Guillermo resumed his father’s short-lived 1961 project where he sought to grow wrapper leaf in Sabana del Puerto. Learning from his father’s experiences, Guillermo was able to launch a Dominican puro cigar blend just in time for business’ centenary.
Initially a limited release, the “La Aurora 100 Años” became so popular that it was incorporated into the brand’s main lineup. Indeed, it was even recognized as the best Dominican cigar in the world by Cigar Aficionado.
After 95 years in Santiago de los Caballeros, La Aurora’s facilities returned to Guazumal in 2007. In 2009, Guillermo León Herbert’s father, Fernando León Asensio passed away.
Guillermo then became La Aurora’s vice-president. Due to its centralised structure, the presidency was held by his uncle, Grupo León Jimenes chairman José León Asensio. Therefore, in order to fully take the helm, Guillermo León bought all the remaining shares of all the family’s cigar brands in 2011.
As a result, La Aurora opened a new chapter by returning to its roots and once again becoming an independent cigar brand. Today, La Aurora produces nearly a billion cigars per year including machine-made ones of which 8 million are just its own handmade premium lines.
La Aurora’s Vision & Philosophy
As mentioned above, Guillermo León Herbert bought full equity of La Aurora so that it may once again flourish as its own entity.
Although La Aurora and León Jimenes are now entirely independent of the family’s main business, Guillermo is still a shareholder in the group. Therefore, while there is no direct link, they still enjoy a familial relationship.
Guillermo was raised in tobacco and regularly visited the fields and factory with his father in his youth before undertaking a summer job there. Like his family, he has always had a deep respect for tradition as well as a belief in ethics and doing things the right way.
Nevertheless, Guillermo also admires modernisation and innovation. Therefore, he seeks to implement a philosophy that combines both modern and traditional values in the factory. Indeed, he envisions La Aurora as a conduit for driving traditions into the future.
As Guillermo and his team realise that they have a moral and social obligation towards responsibility, they have worked hard on sustainability. Consequently, La Aurora’s Corporate Social Responsibility program has drawn up a 2030 agenda for sustainable development.
It combines environmental and social concerns with projects to reduce plastic consumption, reforestation, a housing plan, and economic contributions to provide its people with homes and basic services to improve their quality of life.
Where Are La Aurora Cigars Made?
Needless to say, La Aurora has grown since it operated from a modest Dominican house in Guazumal, Tamboril. Today, La Aurora employs over 2,000 people who work in numerous production plants.
The factories are located in two of the Dominican Republic’s industrial parks. One of them is in Santiago de los Caballeros whereas the other is in Guazumal, Tamboril, just like the original factory.
The Guazumal facility produces the majority of the cigars for all of its brands and includes both handmade and machine-made products. Similarly, La Aurora also manufactures products for other brands.
Meanwhile, tobacco growing is mostly undertaken through contracted farmers with whom the brand has enjoyed decades-long relationships. However, La Aurora’s own agronomists will directly oversee the cultivation processes. Additionally, it also has its own fields in which it experiments with new techniques and tobacco varieties.
Most of La Aurora’s tobacco is sourced from the Dominican Republic, but it may procure some from abroad, too. While it usually enjoys a relatively close relationship with these farmers, they aren’t quite as intimate as those closer to home.
Who Makes La Aurora Cigars?
As mentioned above, La Aurora employs thousands of artisans and workers to produce its cigars. Nevertheless, Guillermo León has entrusted the factory’s manufacturing process and daily operations to a handful of key people. If you’re wanting to learn more about how cigars are made, check out our specific guide on that subject.
Firstly, La Aurora’s Master Blender is Manuel Inoa, a man known for his expressive and truly Caribbean character. Manuel strives to tell stories through multisensory experiences with a focus on flavour.
Thanks to his highly developed sensorial skills, he’s a creative award-winning cigar blender. Yet, he’s particularly proud of his seminars where he connects with cigar lovers around the world.
Lead Tour Guide
Eugenio Polanco first joined La Aurora when he was just 18 years old and has now been part of its story for over thirty years. Today, Eugenio is La Aurora’s leading tour guide. When he was first approached by La Aurora, Eugenio was studying languages at the Instituto de Idiomas.
He was already fluent in English but soon realised that he needed more languages as the factory welcomed a growingly international clientèle. He, therefore, learned German and worked on his French. Today, his knowledge of cigars is unmatched and he’s fluent in five languages!
A veritable polyglot and people person, Eugenio often welcomes visitors at the door while brandishing a characteristically large cigar.
Magdaleno Bonilla, La Aurora’s Master Roller. “Magda” is known as the factory’s wise man who has often stood out for his “street smarts” as well as his exceptional skill in rolling cigars. He has a passion for the leaf and always rolls breathtakingly well-crafted cigars with a contagious smile.
Production Lead & Brand Ambassador
Finally, Wascar Aracena is La Aurora’s Dominican Republic Brand Ambassador and production lead for Principes. An expert in artisanal tobacco, Wascar has a lifelong passion for cigars, rum, coffee, and Dominican culture. Wascar is known at La Aurora for his ever-present high spirits, good advice, and wise words.
Andullo Cigar Ageing
Among the majority of the island’s manufacturers, La Aurora is the best known for promoting andullo ageing. A traditional and labour-intensive process, it’s surprisingly rare compared to more conventional methods.
Cured tobacco leaves are wrapped in palm tree seed pods, which are then held together by rope. The result is a tube shape that’s referred to as a “yagua”. As the tobacco ferments and loses moisture, the rope is tightened every few weeks.
About five of these pressings are undertaken overall. During the process, a yagua may be opened and even replaced to ensure homogeneous fermentation. Unlike the more common pilón method where tobacco is stacked into large piles, andullo doesn’t produce any heat and is, therefore, a cold ageing process.
When aged for long periods of time, the leaves can almost turn into a paste where they’re used as chewing or pipe tobacco. However, La Aurora follows a slightly shorter process where the leaves retain their structure and are incorporated into blends.
Other La Aurora Projects
While La Aurora focuses primarily on its own cigar brand, it has a number of other ongoing projects.
La Aurora Cigar Brands
As mentioned above, La Aurora owns several additional cigars. brands. Firstly, León Jimenes was launched in 1987 as a tribute to the brothers Eduardo and Herminio. It produces a smoother experience thanks to its celebrated Connecticut wrappers.
Meanwhile, Principes is La Aurora’s celebrated machine-made cigar brand that was first launched in the 1950s. Made from the trimmings of the premium La Aurora cigar production, over a billion are made every year.
La Aurora also produces its Fernando and Guillermo León family reserve lines as well as two Imperiales blends by León Jimenes.
You can learn more about the brand’s different cigar blends with our La Aurora cigar reviews.
Rum E. León Jimenes
In 2013, La Aurora launched a premium rum, E. León Jimenes 110 Aniversario. Specifically designed to be paired with cigars, it celebrated the tabacalera’s 110th anniversary. Aged for a total of eight years, this rum is first matured in American White Oak barrels before being finished in virgin French Oak casks for the last two years.
A complex rum, it produces a floral bouquet and exceptionally rich flavour characterised by contrasting sweet and spicy notes.
As a testament to its success, 110 Aniversario was awarded and Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco Spirit Competition as well as 97 points by the Beverage Testing Institute.