The Philippines has a long history of tobacco cultivation and cigar making beginning in the 16th century when tobacco seeds were brought to the country via the Acapulco-Manila galleon trade route. Private enterprises were not allowed to engage in the cigar business until 1881 when the tobacco monopoly was abolished. One of the companies put up following the abolition was the Compañia General de Tabacos de Filipinas S.A. also known by its nickname, “La Tabacalera”. In 1887 the company established “La Flor de Isabela” (The Flower of Isabel), the largest cigar factory in the world at that time.
After a century, Compañia General de Tabacos de Filipinas S.A. sold its entire tobacco and cigar business, including the name, to a Filipino group. The group modernised the facilities and brought in a Cuban master cigar maker as a consultant. He improved every aspect of the operation and taught workers the Cuban rolling style which ensures a consistent draw. Eventually, the company reverted back to its old name, Tabacalera, and is known as Tabacalera Incorporada today.
My friend Jose Perfecto, who works at Tabacalera Incorporada, introduced me to cigars two years ago. He told me that their cigars are still rolled by hand and pressed using wooden moulds that are a century old. This piqued my interest and made me want to visit the factory to see how the cigars are made from start to finish. I asked Jose to give me a tour of their factory in Dasmariñas, Cavite which they have been using for the last 6 years. The factory is about an hour and a half drive from Metro Manila.