Finca el Pinar, Home of the World Famous Robaina Cigars

Founded in 1845, Finca el Pinar, also known as Finca Robaina, grows some of the world’s finest tobacco. 20 kilometres drive south-west of Pinar del Río, the farm and its cigars became famous under Alejandro Robaina who passed away in 2010. Alejandro’s grandson, Hiroshi Robaina now runs the property.

Although Rocío and I weren’t cigar fans, we didn’t want to miss seeing an iconic aspect of Cuba. From Pinar del Río we took a Lada 2107 taxi to Finca Robaina (20 CUC/US$20 round-trip including waiting time). Fortunately our January 2017 visit coincided with the tobacco growing season when the fields were lush and green.

Finca el Pinar tobacco farm workers

Finca el Pinar tobacco farm workers on a break; note the black seedling trays on the left

Unlike most tobacco farms, Finca Robaina remained independent post-revolution. Alejandro was persuasive enough to convince Fidel Castro it shouldn’t be taken over by the state. However, 90% of production still goes to government-run cigar factories in Havana. State company Habanos SA’s Vegas Robaina brand is named after the family.

Rooster in undercover tobacco field

Rooster in shaded tobacco field

Finca el Pinar has both open and shaded tobacco fields. The 2 CUC (US$2) entry fee includes a cigar-making demonstration and explanation of the different tobacco leaves used. The farm seeds, grows, harvests, cures (dries) and ferments the tobacco before sending it to factories for cigar assembly.

Tobacco drying shed

Tobacco curing warehouse

The guide explained the three categories of cigar tobacco leaves: wrapper, binder and filler:

  1. Wrappers: the outer layers, coming from the shaded fields
  2. Binders: the inside wrappers, coming from the bottom leaves in the open fields
  3. Filler: also sourced from the open fields, filler leaves have different properties based on their plant position and incidence of sunlight:
    1. The bottom leaves (volado) determine combustion
    2. The middle leaves (seco) provide the flavour and aroma
    3. The top leaves (ligero) determine the cigar strength: light, medium or strong
Tobacco leaves drying, Finca el Pinar, Cuba

Tobacco leaves curing overhead in warehouse, Finca el Pinar, Cuba

While cheaper cigars are machine-made, the best are hand-rolled and often cost tens of dollars per individual cigar stick. The man demonstrating cigar rolling at the farm looked completely bored, as if he was a circus animal.

Man rolling a cigar out of tobacco leaves

Man demonstrating how to hand-roll a cigar; note the mould used to hold partially-made cigars prior to wrapping

Orchids and shrine to Patron of Tobacco at Finca el Pinar

Orchids on a tree trunk behind a shrine to the Patron Saint of Tobacco

Wooden hand holding tobacco

A sculpted wooden hand cigar holder

Finca Robaina doesn’t sell cigars, although they were for sale at a nearby building. Rocío considered purchasing some as gifts but the cigars were expensive and while they looked authentic we couldn’t be sure.

Our Lada 2107 transport from and to Pinar del Río

Our Lada 2107 transport from and to Pinar del Río

Although the farm tour could be more comprehensive, Finca el Pinar is still a worthwhile destination, particularly for cigar lovers. People on limited budgets or schedules can also visit less famous tobacco farms closer to Viñales.

2 thoughts on “Finca el Pinar, Home of the World Famous Robaina Cigars

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