Jun 30th, 2023
La Aurora, one of the oldest and most respected cigar manufacturers in the world, has gained a reputation for producing exceptional cigars that embody the legacy of craftsmanship. At the heart of La Aurora's success is Manuel Inoa, the esteemed master blender whose expertise and passion for tobacco have shaped the brand's blends for years. In an exclusive interview, we had the opportunity to delve into Manuel Inoa's journey, his role at La Aurora, and the secrets behind the brand's exceptional cigars.
Manuel Inoa's journey to becoming a master blender is a testament to his dedication and continuous pursuit of knowledge. When asked about his path, Inoa humbly stated there is no book to learn about being a master blender. Instead, he emphasized the importance of continuous study and developing a unique relationship with tobacco in all its facets. This relentless pursuit of understanding and mastering the art of blending has propelled him to the forefront of the industry.
Throughout his career, Inoa has had the privilege of being mentored by influential figures in the cigar industry. He credits Benjamin Melendez of General Cigars, Angel Daniel Nuñez, and Don Fernando León as significant influences who imparted their knowledge and wisdom. Their guidance inspired Inoa to approach blending more responsibly and thoughtfully, considering every aspect of the blends he creates.
Working at La Aurora is a labor of love for Manuel Inoa, and a typical day for him is filled with an immense amount of work. He starts his day by visiting the plant to oversee the day-to-day operations. Inoa also dedicates time to attending to customer mailings and working on projects for both private labels and La Aurora's own brand. His commitment to his craft is evident in his dedication to every aspect of his work.
When asked about his favorite aspect of working for La Aurora, Inoa's answer was simple yet profound. He finds great pleasure in smoking and tasting the different cigars, ensuring the quality remains excellent. For him, it is a gratifying experience to indulge in the fruits of his labor and to ensure that each cigar meets the highest quality standards.
One might assume that a master blender like Inoa would have a favorite blend, but his response showcases his deep appreciation for the art of blending. Inoa compares his blends to children, each unique and cherished in their own way. Just as a parent loves all their children equally, Inoa loves all his blends alike, recognizing that each one tells a different story and offers a distinct smoking experience.
The process of blending different tobacco leaves to create a unique cigar profile is a complex and intricate art. Inoa describes it as a creative process that involves mixing a variety of leaves in a harmonious blend. To create a new combination, he considers the needs and tastes of the consumers, ensuring that the final product is both satisfying and innovative.
“I love all of our blends equally; each one tells a different story.”
Consistency in flavor and quality is of utmost importance in the cigar industry, and Inoa takes excellent care to achieve this in La Aurora's cigars. He achieves consistency through a combination of factors, including the handcrafted combination of the best Dominican tobacco, the aging process of tobacco leaves, and the selection of pleasant notes. Each element is crucial in creating a perfect and consistent smoking experience.
Several key factors influence the flavor of a cigar, and Inoa works closely with these factors during the blending process. Climate, fermentation, aging, curing, soil variety, and the type of seed used all contribute to the exquisite flavors found in each cigar. Inoa's deep understanding of these factors allows him to manipulate and optimize them to achieve the desired flavor profile in his blends.
The selection and combination of different types of tobacco leaves play a significant role in achieving the desired flavor profile. Inoa explains that a combination of fermentation and curing is done to achieve full satisfaction when smoking the cigars. The characteristics of each tobacco leaf, such as strength, flavor, and aroma, are carefully considered and combined to create a well-balanced and enjoyable smoking experience.
Aging is another critical aspect of the tobacco blending process. Inoa emphasizes that the aging of the blend ensures that it remains as intended. The components of a cigar, including the wrapper, filler, and binder, must become one in terms of humidity, allowing the flavors to harmonize without distortion. To achieve this, tobacco must be aged for at least two years, guaranteeing a well-rounded and mature smoking experience.
Developing a new blend is a meticulous process that requires time and expertise. Inoa estimates that it takes around a year and a half to two years to develop a new blend, taking into account the tobacco market demands and the various stages of development and refinement.
According to Inoa, what sets apart an exceptional cigar from an average one is the quality of the tobacco. Without good tobacco, it is impossible to create a truly exceptional cigar. La Aurora prides itself on using the best Dominican tobacco, ensuring our blends stand out in the market and offer a remarkable smoking experience that aficionados appreciate.
As for emerging trends and innovations in the cigar blending industry, Inoa acknowledges that the industry is constantly evolving. New varieties and wrapper types are introduced continuously,
and staying on the cutting edge is essential. Each year brings changes in crops, presenting new challenges and opportunities for experimentation.
When asked about his favorite way to enjoy a La Aurora cigar, Inoa's response highlights the depth of his appreciation for his craft. Paradoxically, he finds that he enjoys a cigar most when working in the office. He can carefully savor and appreciate the cigar in this setting, drawing inspiration from its flavors and aromas.
From Manuel Inoa's meticulous blending process to our commitment to using the best tobacco, La Aurora has helped to set the bar for quality and artistry in the cigar industry. The dedication to excellence and the respect for tradition ensures that every cigar bearing the La Aurora name–ranging from 12 to 15 million annually–is a testament to the craftsmanship that has defined the brand for over a century.
“In the tobacco industry, there are always interesting trends. Crops change from year to year, and new varieties of tobacco and wrappers are always coming out.”