Cigar.com: Abe, it's great to see you. How are things going at Pinar del Rio?
Abe Flores: It's great to see you also my friend; things are going great here at PDR Cigars. We finally moved into our new factory here at La Palma in Tamboril, and things could not be better.
CC: Your brand has been one of the fastest growing boutiques in the Dominican Republic. What has been the secret to your success?
AF: Well, there's no real secret. I just make sure every cigar made at my factory is produced with the highest quality tobaccos and I combine these tobaccos to produce a well-constructed cigar, all at a reasonable price for the every day consumer.
CC: Your new factory should hopefully ease some of your growing pains. What does this new factory afford you to do that your old factory didn't?
AF: Yes, it has helped tremendously! The brand has grown and doubled in sales in the past year and a half and it was getting to be a challenge to supply all of my dedicated customers. I originally intended to have a small little boutique factory in Tamboril with a maximum of 20 pairs of rollers producing an average 5 to 6 thousand cigars per day. But now with the new location, we have enough room to increase our size to 60 pairs of rollers ... that's 120 rollers producing 18,000 cigars per day! Right now I only have 40 pairs of rollers and I'm happy with that amount. Also, the new space allows me to process and store my own tobaccos, all grown by farmers dedicated to my factory.
CC: One brand that's starting to turn heads is Obsidian. What is it about this blend that makes it so special?
AF: This cigar is one of my favorites and one of the most complex blends out of my factory. The mixtures of tobacco seeds from four different countries makes it like the perfect musical arrangement of highs, lows and mids on a stereo EQ. The Brazilian Habano wrapper is called "Cubra" and it's one of the most unique tasting wrappers out in the market right now. It has power, spice and this wonderful sweet undertone. It expels this wonderful aroma all with a perfectly sharp burn line.
CC: While you're located in the Dominican Republic and produce your cigars there, you seem to use very little Dominican tobacco, especially relative to other factories who operate in the Dominican. What is the reasoning behind this?
AF: Well, it all depends on the blend. I just love Nicaraguan tobaccos and I feel that they complement well with Dominican Habano, Corojo and Criollo leaves. It's like the rhythm section in a band: the Nicaraguan seeds are my bass and drums, the binder is the guitar, while the wrapper is the vocalist.
CC: How many cigars do you enjoy in a day?
AF: I lose count by 4pm. Maybe on average 5 to 6? Not sure anymore.
CC: When you're blending a cigar, how does it all start? Can you walk us through the process from start to finish?
AF: Usually I'll set up a long table with a bunch of seco, viso and ligero leaves from all the different types of tobaccos I currently have in inventory or from the ones I'm about to purchase - all stacked in neat piles. I'll first ask myself, "What type of new cigar am I looking to create today?" Once I have an idea, I will start by smoking each leaf individually to taste them one by one. Once I find the one leaf I feel will be my base, I'll start to blend from there. I'll try to come up with many different versions of the blend with different binders and wrappers. Then I'll smoke them once the first day and weed out the blends I don't like. I'll pick 3 or 5 blends, store them in the aging room for a month or two, then I'll smoke them again and pick out the best one.
CC: If you were making a cigar just for yourself, without giving any consideration for the cigar market or demand, what would you make?
AF: I do have a cigar I make for myself and save them in bundles of 50. It's a 5.5"x44 and it contains all Dominican tobaccos with a Havana wrapper, binder, and filler. I love this little cigar. It has tons of flavor and spice. This cigar gets me through the day and I always can go back to it as it's never boring.
CC: Obviously your cigars are your favorite, but are there other brands you admire and enjoy?
AF: My taste changes all the time but right now I can say I've enjoyed Oktoberfest by Manolo Quesada, CAO La Traviata, My Father No. 1, Tatuaje Havana VI, and Oliveros Aging Room made by Jochi Blanco.
CC: What is next for your brand? Any inside info on future releases you can share with our readers?
AF: All I can say is be on the lookout for some more small batch releases and also for a Limited Edition box-pressed Pinar del Rio.
CC: Where do you think Pinar del Rio will be in five years?
AF: I think we'll be a bit bigger and more established in the industry. I'm hoping, by then PDR cigars will have become a staple in every enthusiast's humidor.
CC: Abe, thank you for taking the time to meet with me. Anything you'd like to add before we wrap up?
AF: Thank you also for taking this time with me today. I would like to thank everyone who has supported me and my company, especially all of the loyal consumers who believe in me and the Pinar del Rio brand.