Don’t Forget Connecticut

fdI will never take for granted the opportunity to visit the places responsible for giving us our cigars. I recently visited a wonderful tobacco growing region and I didn’t need to bring my passport.

With the Caribbean and Central America being home to most of the tobacco farms and cigar factories, it’s easy to forget about Connecticut, USA. It is amazing that the place which provides the world with two of the most sought after cigar wrappers, Connecticut Broadleaf and Connecticut Shade, is often overlooked or “forgotten about” by cigar smokers.

Maybe this is why Altadis USA – makers of such great cigars as Montecristo, Romeo Y Julieta, and H. Upmann – invited several groups of retailers, consumers, and members of the media to visit their farms in Connecticut this week.

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This weeks’ trip was my first to the Connecticut River Valley. The more farms and cigar factories you visit the more you learn just how many different ways there are to do things. It seems that each place has their own way of doing things and it is always a great learning experience.

The first thing I noticed was the smaller number of workers. Because the labor costs in the U.S. are so much higher than in the other parts of the world where tobacco is grown, the farmers in Connecticut have been forced to find ways to work more efficiently with fewer workers. Of course a smaller labor force doesn’t mean lower standards for production. One doesn’t create the most sought after wrapper leaf on the planet by cutting corners.

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I was also impressed with how they cured the tobacco in the sheds. Their process for firing the barns and making sure the moisture is slowly drawn out of the tobacco was very cool to look at in person. It takes a lot of effort and close supervision to accomplish this and they have perfected it.

Just getting to see Broadleaf growing in the fields made the trip worthwhile; it’s hard to appreciate just how large and thick the leaves are until you touch them while they are growing. We walked through several fields that were at different stages of development and it is amazing and just how quickly these leaves will grow in such a short time.

It was a great trip and I encourage all who get the opportunity to take it! It’s a beautiful part of the country and the smell of the curing tobacco hanging in the barns is certainly going to put a smile on your face.

The only downside was that we didn’t get to see any shade tobacco as they were focusing on Broadleaf this year. I guess that just guarantees a return trip in 2016.

Chris Gwaltney, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits category manager: premium cigars and craft beer

Follow me on Twitter @abcCigarChris

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