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Cigar 101

Piloto Cubano Tobacco

J. Bennett Alexander Alexander's picture

J. Bennett Alexander

Among the more commonly used types of tobacco leaf in the Dominican Republic (DR) is piloto cubano, more commonly referred to simply as piloto. The name comes from a zone in Cuba’s Vuelta Abaja tobacco-growing region called Piloto. The varietal is now found in different tobacco-growing countries, but principally in the DR.

FROM CUBA TO THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

The piloto leaf migrated from Cuba to the DR in 1962, smuggled out in envelopes stuffed with cotton, and became one of the most versatile tobacco types in the country. While, obviously, the piloto seed was originally purely Cuban, after planting and replanting in the DR, the varietal has become a Dominican type and is basically considered native. Piloto tobacco is grown principally in the DR’s Cibao Valley, in the Santiago province, the home of the country’s cigar-making industry.

LET THE SUN SHINE IN

Piloto tobacco requires a lot of sunlight to grow properly. For that reason, the strain is planted in October in the DR, and it grows easily while avoiding the dry season, January and February.

FLAVOR

In general, piloto is considered to have an intense flavor. It’s most commonly used as filler tobacco, though some is grown – including by the Fuente family – in the sun as wrapper leaf, and carries some notes of cinnamon, nuts and some earthiness with light vanilla undertones. The stronger leaves deliver some pepper.

CIGARS MADE WITH PILOTO TOBACCO

If you’re smoking a Dominican cigar, the chances are high that it includes some piloto tobacco. Almost every Davidoff cigar uses piloto tobacco from different positions on the plant and in different proportions. The Davidoff Grand Cru No. 3, 5 by 43, about $17, is a relatively mild cigar wrapped in Ecuador Connecticut, but uses piloto to add a peppery note.

The Honduran Punch After Dinner cigars, 7.25 by 45, between $6 and $7, carry piloto filler in the blend. They come with an Ecuador Sumatra or a Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro wrapper. The cigars are medium in body, with the Ecuador Sumatra-wrapped version being earthy and peppery. The Maduro has extra sweetness and strong dark chocolate, hickory, and black pepper notes.

La Flor Dominicana’s Reserva Especial is a medium-strength cigar with a blend containing piloto filler and Ecuador Connecticut wrapper. The Gran Robusto, 5.5 by 60, and the Toro, 6 by 54, each sell for $10. The peppery wrapper is complemented by earthy spices and a toasty creaminess. As with all La Flor Dominicana cigars, the construction is impeccable, and the burn is razor sharp.

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