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Travel Diary

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Yamasá - Henke Kelner's David

A few days before I had the opportunity to go to Yamasá, I was lucky enough to talk to Henke Kelner about this very special tobacco plantation.

Henke's eyes shine when he talks about this place and it seems to be the story between a father and a difficult and naughty, but in the end well-behaved child.

Henke on the plantation in Yamasá (Copyright: Klaas Kelner)

To harvest on the fields of Yamasá tobacco of the high quality it now generates, was a hard piece of work, lined with failures, experiments and lessons from nature.

"When I visited the Academia in Florence and saw Michelangelo's David, I learned that other artists refused to work on the raw block of marble that later became the world-famous sculpture. But Michelangelo already saw the finished David in the primary rock. It was the same with Yamasá: "I saw in the original state of the territory what kind of tobacco could grow there".

Yamasá lies in the interior of the country and the clouds that move west from the Los Haitises nature reserve often rain down over Yamasá - the climate is much wetter and humid than in the Santiago area. The soil composition is also different, and until Henke and his team knew how to deal with the soil, they reaped some bad harvests. "The first harvest was a disaster. The PH value of the soil was too low, it must be about 5.6 - we fertilized, but I overlooked that the sand is very coarse-grained and the fertilization was washed away," explains Henke Kelner.

If you know how much effort and love has been invested in this country in the meantime, it's no wonder that the tobacco from there looks great and tastes good.

When I visited the plantation, however, it seemed like a miracle to me: beautiful tobacco plants grow here on two "fincas" (one 143 acre/58 ha, the other 93 acre/38 ha), all of them are used for wrappers – shade grown.

The expanse and area of the "roofs" seems endless...

Carlos, the agronomist of this farm, explains:

"Through the roof, the plants get 30 percent less sun, the leaves get bigger and contain less nicotine because there is less photosynthesis," explains Carlos. In addition, fewer pests reach the plants and therefore fewer pesticides have to be used.

Irrigation is carried out using a drop system on the ground (this is also how fertilisation is carried out) and a sprinkler system. A lake fed with groundwater is the water reservoir. If there is a shortage of water, the nearby river, which also belongs to the ground, helps.

The climate in the region is also perfect for drying the tobacco in a total of 12 barns. Every hour, even at night, an employee checks the relative humidity in the drying barns.

I had the possibility to observe the harvest of the 4th cycle and noticed that the leaves are treated like raw eggs, with great care.

Which cigars decorate these beautiful wrappers? For example Davidoff Yamasá and some Limited Editions.

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