Nicaragua, the next King of Cigars?
Cuba will always be the birthplace of premium cigars but why are many speculating that Cuban cigars have had their heyday?
Cigars are grown as much as craftedJust as there’s much talk of “terroir” in winemaking, cigars are also grown as much as crafted. During political unrest of the 1950s, many of Cuba’s most talented cigar makers fled Castro’s communist regime in search of the perfect soil and climate conditions to spread seeds from their best crops. The soil composition and climate of where that tobacco is grown and the type of seed used all influence the flavor of a cigar. After scouring the world to find a suitable place to put down roots again, the Cuban farmers were excited to discover Nicaragua ticked all the boxes.
They were first drawn to Nicaragua’s Esteli region for its rich black soil and its similarity to the growing conditions they were used to in Cuba both in temperature and humidity. Now in a country only slightly bigger than the state of New York, there are four very promising tobacco growing regions each generating top-quality tobacco to rival that of any in the world, including Cuba.
Cuban tobacco plants thriving in four main growing regions of NicaraguavEach of these four regions produce tobacco with distinct characteristics. Esteli is known for consistently producing full-flavoured tobaccos that are used to create equally full-bodied, aromatic cigars. The rich volcanic soil of Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua produces a completely unique tobacco that is known for its earthy and sweet flavours. Darker, oily leaves prized as wrappers grow well in the rocky soil of Condega. Jalapa, on the Northern border, features red clay in its soil that produces a complexity in its taste and aroma that rivals the complex logistics involved in growing tobacco in such a remote location.
Tobacco growing has become Nicaragua’s top industry with tobacco tourism, a strong portion of their tourism industry, not far behind. Still, many Nicaraguan tobacco farmers are carefully controlling their output and focusing on growing the highest quality plants possible, even if that means keeping the quantities modest. They are even pioneering successful organic tobacco fields.
Nicaragua’s cigar industry grew from strong Cuban rootsAside from having the optimal micro-climates for naturally hot housing tobacco plants, Cubans dominated the cigar scene for centuries by ensuring they preserved the art of cigar making. Moving to Nicaragua was part of that journey. Closely guarded secrets, and the wisdom gained in each generation was carefully handed down through families. The art of cigar making, including how to grow the best tobacco, how to cure and crucially how long to age the tobacco before rolling each cigar by hand, was first-hand knowledge passed down from generation to generation. Therefore when you trace back the history of the tobacco factories in Nicaragua, you’ll find strong Cuban roots from those early Cuban immigrants who brought their passion and talent to a new land.
Nicaragua paving the way for cigar making in Central AmericaCentral America’s first cigar factory was established in Esteli just before the Cuban revolution and went on to produce Joya de Nicaragua, which enjoyed a time as the most famous brand of cigars in the US. The factory was so good at promoting and preserving the craft of cigar making it became known as “Cigar University” because so many of its workers graduated to open their own factories in all corners of Nicaragua and beyond.
But like Cuba, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing in Nicaragua.
Nicaragua have also had their own political upheaval in the 70s followed by natural disasters that threatened the fledgling cigar industry. Then in the 90s, the tobacco and cigar industry rallied and has been growing even stronger ever since. Today Nicaragua’s reputation for producing hearty, luxurious cigars has grown as quickly as the attention it’s receiving and is poised to upstage Cuba.