Should tobacco have a DOC?

Should tobacco have a DOC? A controlled designation of origin. To protect certain growing areas just as happens in the wine and food industry. You can produce great wine with the same variety of grapes as Bordeaux wines, but if they are not grown in the Bordeaux region you can’t call it Bordeaux. You can make the best sparkling wine in the world, but if you’re not producing them in Champagne, it’s not Champagne. And Cognac from outside the Cognac area is just brandy. 

The same goes for some food. The famous Italian Parmesan cheese for example. You can recreate the flavor and consistency outside Parma, but it’s not Parmesan. Or the Spanish Iberico ham, that’s controlled as well. Unfortunately, not all products have a DOC. As a Dutch living abroad, it hurts me to see flavorless Gouda cheese from Australia, New Zealand, or America. Gouda from the Gouda area is fantastic, the weak copies aren’t worth the name Gouda. Tobacco is unprotected as well.

Ministry of Cigars - Should tobacco have a DOC
Caves, Champagnes Bollinger. Photo by Lomig on Unsplash

Connecticut, Sumatra, and Cameroon

Many tobacco varieties get their name from their origin. Habano originally comes from Cuba. Sumatra is from the Indonesian island Sumatra. Connecticut is pretty self-explanatory as well. Cameroon is a bit of a different story, as originally those are Sumatra seeds. But nowadays, you see Connecticut, Sumatra, and Habano from multiple countries. There are even claims of Cameroon from Brazil and Honduras. And it is confusing to the consumer.

Each region and variety has its uniqueness. The same tobacco grown in Ecuador or Indonesia tastes completely different. Heck, even the same tobacco grown in Esteli and Ometepe will taste different, and those areas are both in Nicaragua. If you taste Connecticut Shade from the Connecticut River Valley you’ll taste other nuances than Connecituc Shade from Ecuador. Honduran Connecticut Shade is different than both of them, with more nuttiness. So the denomination “Connecticut Shade” no longer tells what to expect.

Isn’t it time for a DOC?

Shouldn’t tobacco growers from Connecticut, Sumatra, and Cameroon work together to create such as DOC? To protect the use of the name? We would support that. It would make things clear for the consumers. Promoting a cigar with non-African Cameroon as Cameroon would be impossible. The same goes for a non-USA Connecticut or a non-Indonesian Sumatra. Because when you expect the unique flavor of African Cameroon and you get a Brazilian version with a different profile, you could consider that a scam. It’s buying a ring that’s advertised with big letters GOLD and then small print ‘plated’. To us that does not seem fair. 

 A DOC isn’t a quality seal though. It does not automatically mean that the quality is the best. It is just a guarantee that the product comes from a specific area. And it also doesn’t mean that non-Connecticut Connecticut, Sumatra, or Cameroon can’t be of high quality. In all fairness, I prefer a Honduran Connecticut Shade over any other region due to its specific flavor. And I’m looking forward to smoking the Honduran Cameroon that Julio Eiroa is growing. But that does not change the fact that it doesn’t feel right to use those names. 

Just as many cigars use Cuban seed, and are advertised with that phrase, the same thing should happen with other regional names. Instead of brand X claim using a Sumatra binder, it should say “Ecuadorian binder Sumatra seed”. Or Honduran wrapper, Connecticut seed shade-grown. That would take away the false advertising and create more clarity to the end consumer on what to expect. After reading this, what do you think? Should tobacco have a DOC?



3 thoughts on “Should tobacco have a DOC?

  1. My dear,

    To the question “should tobacco have a DOC” I can say a big “Yes”.
    It gives the consumer more clarity about the product he is buying.
    This is especially true for cigars from the so-called New World!!

    I am moderator of a small Cigar Club (part of a website / forum) where I discuss our cigar experiences weekly with some enthusiastic cigar aficionados.
    And it strikes me that cigar smokers have some difficulty with the origin and name of the different seeds, tobacco leaves and tobacco processing.
    I made an introduction text about the cigar for those who were interested. So that they have a little more background information. And know what they are smoking.
    A DOC system would therefore be fantastic.
    It gives the cigar a clear and above all honest added value!!

    Greetings from The Netherlands.

  2. How do you address the fantastic varieties of these designations grown in Ecuador then. So many cigars have an Ecuadorian component especially wrappers. It would be a shame to not give Ecuador its appropriate importance in the cigar industry. In fact its products deserve more respect than to be relegated to a lower tier.

    1. how about specific names, such as Ecuador Sumatra Seed instead of “Sumatra”. Or Ecuador Shade instead of Connecticut Shade.

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