In a sun-kissed Dominican field of tobacco in 1936, as the world at large focused their eyes on the events unfolding in Berlin and Rome, Jose Arnaldo Blanco II formally began the business of rolling his family’s tobacco crop into cigars. He named his new factory Tabacalera Palma and it was one of the very first cigar manufacturing operations in the Dominican Republic. Within twenty years, Jose’s facility employed over two-hundred full-time rollers, producing one-seed Olor Dominicano cigars for the local market.
At a very early age, Jose’s son—Jose Arnaldo “Jochy” Blanco III—began cavorting in and around the factory and fields, jumping from one tobacco bale to another, playing hide-and-seek with his cousins and siblings. Eventually, Jochy joined his father in the family business, finally becoming CEO and president of the operation. In 1995, Blanco relocated the original Tabacalera Palma factory to a free-trade zone in Tamboril, which is located on the outskirts of Santiago, the second largest city in the Dominican Republic. Over the course of the next several years, Jochy continued to expand his operation—renting separate manufacturing facilities to Abe Flores of PDR Cigars and forming a tobacco-growing partnership at the La Candela farm with Litto Gomez of La Flor Dominicana, which they named Estancia Flor de Palma. Beginning in 2009, Blanco partnered with Rafael Nodel to form Boutique Blends. The first cigar brand they launched was SWAG, followed the award-winning and small-batch Aging Room series of cigars.
Two years ago, Jochy acquired IndianHead Cigars from Bill Bock, fulfilling a long-time desire to have his own marque. The purchase included brands that have been in the market since the 1990s, giving Blanco a large number of cigars that meet the 2007 predicate date recently established by the United States Food and Drug Administration. As soon as the ink was dry on the closing documents, Jochy began the process of creating a new brand, which he called La Galera. The name translates from Spanish as “the rolling room”—that area in the factory where, according to Jochy Blanco, “The magic happens.” Blanco’s first batch of La Galera cigars shipped to retailers in mid-January of 2016.
In commemoration of Tabacalera Palma’s 80th anniversary, Jochy Blanco introduced two special cigars at this year’s IPCPR show in Las Vegas—the La Galera 80th Anniversary Limited Edition and the La Galera 1936 Box Pressed.
La Galera 1936 Box Pressed Breakdown
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano
- Binder: Dominican Criollo ’98
- Filler: Dominican Piloto Cubano | Dominican Criollo ’98
- Factory: Tabacalera Palma (Dominican Republic)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 5½” × 46 “Pegador” (corona gorda)
- Price: $7.20
The La Galera 1936 Box Pressed is one of Jochy Blanco’s IndianHead Cigars’ two new brands designed to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Tabacalera Palma, which was established in the Dominican Republic by his father in 1936. This new line of cigars is initially offered in six sizes—Pegador Corona Gorda (5½” x 46, $6.30). Chaveta Robusto (5” x 50, $7.20), El Lector Toro (6” x 54, $8.00), Cortador Torpedo (6⅛” x 52, $8.00), Pilon Gordo (6¼” x 60, $9.20), and the Cabeza Caracol Churchill (7¼” x 50, $8.50). Each of the vitolas are named after items found in a cigar manufacturing facility and are shipped in attractive wooden boxes containing twenty-one cigars.
Around seven years ago—well before he had purchased IndianHead Cigars—Jochy envisioned a specific blend for a new line of cigars. After securing the desired grades and types of tobacco, including binder and filler leaf from his La Canela farm, Blanco stored the tobacco in an aging barn, allowing the leaves to reach their maximum potential. The La Galera 1936 Box Pressed is the result of Jochy Blanco’s initial vision and his meticulous planning and execution.
The La Galera 1936 Box Pressed Pegador is an attractive example of a box-pressed cigar, its edges slightly rounded in the Cuban tradition. Its Ecuadorian Habano wrapper is almost flawless—silky smooth, nearly imperceptible seams, light tooth, and subdued veins. The color of the corona gorda is burnt umber, with beaver-colored blotch marks, sporadically spread across its face. In the hand, the cigar is light in weight, with the tactile oiliness of a frozen ramekin of butter.
The Pegador is equipped with two bands, the combination covering almost three-quarters of the length of the cigar. The primary band is elaborate and embossed, with the La Galera Tabacalera Palma logo occupying the centermost focal point. Four-color reproductions of two paintings—one displayed in Jochy’s office and the other hanging in the packaging room—flank the logo, which is also surrounded by an assortment of gold medallions. The image to the right of the logo is from Blanco’s office—a scene of a lector reading a newspaper in a rolling room—while the packaging room’s painting of a glistening tobacco field beneath a cloud-filled sky occupies the left. Underneath the main band, a rectangular sub-band embossed in black and gold identifies the cigar as a “1936 BOX PRESSED”.
Firmly packed from the foot to the cap, with just a bit of give at the sides, the wrapper aroma combines natural tobacco with a subtle cocoa sweetness, while the open foot smells of cedar, hay, and an unkept barnyard. After the corona gorda is opened with a substantial guillotine cut, the cold draw is quite open, with just a touch of desirable resistance. Flavors of aged tobacco, coffee, and chocolate, with a smidgen of spice, immediately touch the palate.
After toasting and lighting the cigar with a soft flame lighter, the first draw is quite rough and tainted by a noticeable mineral quality, which fades away after the third puff. This initial note is immediately followed by a tingling at the tip of the tongue, which is indicative of the Dominican Piloto Cubano present in the blend. As the corona gorda settles into the burn, the Dominican Criollo ’98 filler tobacco produces its characteristic flavor of soft spice with light and creamy cedar undertones. The draw of the Pegador is nice and open, with an ample amount of smoke output. Aromas and flavors of natural tobacco, damp earth, and mixed spices mingle together with an overall mustiness to produce an initially attractive balance, while black pepper and anise are dominant on the retrohale. Both the body and strength of the cigar falls into the medium-to-full range.
As the La Galera 1936 Box Pressed Pegador enters into the second third, the draw begins to tighten—requiring quite a bit of effort to keep the cigar burning properly. The initial flavors and aromas are slightly enhanced, as coffee notes begin to flirt into the mix; while there is an increase in saltiness and heavy minerals. This culminates into a rather dry and unsweetened smoke, requiring unusually frequent sips of San Pellegrino—my preferred beverage when reviewing cigars.
Room aroma is reminiscent of dried oak leaves burning in old fifty-five gallon drums a football-field away from an open window. The burn line is a bit wavy, holding one and three-quarter inches of Gainsboro gray ash, highlighted with narrow lines of gunmetal between the stacks. As the ash falls naturally to the floor, the Pegador requires its first touch-up. On the retrohale, the black pepper continues to strengthen, bordering on the edge of harsh. The draw of the cigar remains tighter than desirable, while the body and strength continues in the medium-to-full range.
As it burns through its final third, the Pegador corona gorda loses practically all of its initial complexity and appeal. Aromas and flavors diminish to just charcoal, earth, and natural tobacco, while an overall bitterness becomes predominant as the cigar approaches its final inch. The cigar requires two more touch-ups during this stage, producing a smoking experience which ends on a harsh and unattractive note.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
The answer to that question is, “Not anytime soon.” Despite its attractive appearance and initially positive beginning, the La Galera 1936 Box Pressed Pegador began to diminish in aroma, flavor, and overall quality after the first length of ash naturally fell to the floor. I smoked three cigars for this review and all of them performed at roughly the same level. However, I optimistically stashed three more at the bottom of one of my humidors to revisit at a later date.
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
- Pairing Recommendations: Think sweet — Expresso with sugar cubes, a Mocha from your favorite barista, a Ballast Point Victory At Sea, or two Old Fashioned cocktails
- Purchase Recommendation: Try a couple
- Overall appearance
- Initial flavor
- Wavy burn line / frequent touch-ups
- Diminishing complexity
- Harsh finish