Tampa may be the Cigar City, but as Jeff Borysiewicz — owner of Corona Cigar Company and Davidoff of Geneva’s Tampa location — has learned, there’s lots more cigar culture to explore across the globe.
Borysiewicz primarily travels to Latin America, as his companies produce cigars at factories in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. “1999 is when I really started traveling,” he says. “About three years in, I had the opportunity to go straight to the factories in the countries and make unique blends. That led to a cost savings because the product went right to us.”
Though he says it has become less of a cigar-focused country in recent years, Borysiewicz first explored Costa Rica. That nation’s tobacco industry is centered in the Pursical region, about an hour’s drive from the capital city of San José. A number of the region’s cigar factories and tobacco plantations are still in operation for visitors to tour.
Borysiewicz then began spending time in Honduras and eventually Nicaragua, where Corona now produces cigars at the Gran Fabrica Drew Estate factory in the city of Estelí. Corona exports its own Florida Sun Grown tobacco (grown in Clermont, Florida) to Estelí to be blended and wrapped with premium tobacco from Nicaragua and Honduras. Earlier this year, the Drew Estate Florida Sun Grown stick was named the best Nicaraguan cigar by Tobacco Business magazine.
“Some of the best cigars are Nicaraguan cigars,” Borysiewicz says. “It’s a beautiful country with beautiful people. They’re growing such great tobacco. [Producing cigars there is like] being a chef and walking into this awesome kitchen with all these great ingredients. Combine that with some American tobacco, and you’ve got great cigars.”
The Davidoff brand produces cigars at a factory in the Dominican Republic, which Borysiewicz says is currently the best bet for American cigar lovers looking to go international. The country’s cigar industry is centered around the capital of Santiago, and Borysiewicz recommends making a stop in the city of La Romana for a cigar tour (“It’s a fun little day trip,” especially for cruise passengers, he says). Notably, La Romana is home to the 50-year-old Tabacalera de Garcia, the Dominican’s largest cigar factory. Visitors can see the tobacco aging and hand-rolling process up close on a walking tour of the facility Monday through Friday.
Borysiewicz does venture out of Latin America, too. Davidoff of Geneva Tampa features a full bar stocked with exclusive, rare spirits, including a huge selection of scotches and bourbons that Borysiewicz sources from the Scottish Highlands each year. He and his wife (who hails from Scotland) make a near annual trip to rural distilleries throughout the country to bring back spirits found hardly anywhere else in the world.
“Single malt whisky, especially if it’s old and rare, is incredibly expensive,” Borysiewicz says. “Certain distillery-exclusive whiskies are over 100 years old. We have some very, very exclusive products in our location.”
While Scotland might be an easy trip across the Atlantic, it’s currently a much trickier task for Americans to reach most of Latin America’s cigar-producing countries. In April, the US government announced new restrictions on non-family visits to Cuba — where Borysiewicz has historically spent time learning about Cuban tobacco with farmers who grow it — and civil unrest in Nicaragua has made some travelers reconsider their plans. The Drew Estate factory in Estelí even scrapped the 2018 dates for its highly popular Cigar Safari as a result of the uncertainty and has not yet announced a 2019 tour. On the upside, Borysiewicz says, great cigars and cigar events aren’t relegated solely to tobacco-producing regions. Cigar lovers should explore experiences wherever they happen to be traveling.
“You wouldn’t think of Hawaii being a cigar state, but we had a great time at a cigar festival there,” he says. “People love cigars all over the world, no matter where they are.”
Across all his travels, Borysiewicz has found that cigars, more often than not, are a point of agreement for people who have little else in common.
“Cigars are a global product,” he says. “There are people in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and all over the world that enjoy fine cigars. Cigars are like a token. You can be hanging out with someone who doesn’t speak English, and maybe you don’t speak Mandarin, but there’s still a bond there. There’s an understanding and respect of the craft.”