Cigar Country: Nicaragua

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The story of Nicaraguan cigars is a dramatic one, spiked with crises but crowned by the achievements and endurance of its people. Today some of the best cigars in the world are coming from Nicaraguan fields, but it hasn’t always been easy for the vegueros and cigar producers of this small Central American country.

As usual, the history of Nicaraguan cigars begins with the exodus of 1959 when the great Cuban cigar makers left Cuba in search of new land to grow tobacco and roll cigars. While cigarette tobacco had been cultivated in Nicaragua for years, cigar tobacco had not been supported until the Somoza government found a way to take advantage of Castro’s revolution — they would take some of Cuba’s best cigar men, and some of Cuba’s best tobacco seeds, and finance a new industry for Nicaragua. Among the great cigar producers who played a part in this are Plasencia, Padron, Oliva, and Bermejo. Others would follow in time, but first, more disasters.

The Somoza dictatorship would fall to the Sandinistas in 1979. The tobacco corridor in northern Nicaragua was in fact a seat of activity for the revolutionaries, so the farms and factories of the region were quickly liquidated and the property redistributed under the new socialist government. Most of the production was redirected toward burley, cigarette tobacco, for Eastern European markets. Volume was the goal. The Cubans once again assisted by allowing tainted seed to infect the Nicaraguan crop with blue mold, and the production of wrapper leaf was virtually extinguished.

Up till this time Nicaragua was producing some of the finest premium cigars available anywhere, competing successfully with the top Cuban brands. The main brand, Joya de Nicaragua, became the standard. The Sandistas ended all that, but not forever. The roots of the great cigar families remained while the political storm would blow over.

The cigar industry would revive again with the election of Violeta Chamorro, ending the reign of the socialists. The Padrons, the Plasencias, and all the rest would start again, with only one more crisis to weather: in 1998, Hurrican Mitch struck Nicaragua with devastating effect. In some parts of the country, a year’s worth of rain fell in four days, rain that fell for seven days without cease. Rivers swollen ten times their normal capacity washed away bridges and houses and the rain caused avalanches that killed thousands. The country was left in ruins with more than 70 percent of its physical infrastructure destroyed. The tobacco farms and cigar factories were all affected by this. On one of the Padron farms the topsoil was literally washed away, leaving a field of rocks.

Once again, the farms would start over. And once again, Nicaraguan cigars would be recognized as some of the best in the world.

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The capital of Nicaraguan cigar production is in Esteli, a northern town of about 100,000 that has been largely supported by the tobacco and coffee industries. There are several major cigar factories– some of the biggest being Padron’s Cubanica, Segovia (Plasencia), Tabacalera Perdomo, NATSA, and Kiki Berger’s Tabacalera Esteli. Following the road north leads to the Condega valley, home to tobacco fields and factories, including the maker of Felipe Gregorio’s Nicaraguan blends. Finally, veering east from Ocotal and across miles of the worst roads imaginable one lands in the Jalapa valley, the jewel in Nicaragua’s tobacco crown.

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Nestled against the Honduran border, the Jalapa valley is extremely remote. Its proximity to the border along with its isolation made it a staging ground for both Sandinistas before the revolution, and for the Contras later on. Today the valley is known for its lush, moist microclimate that many Cuban expatriates have compared to Cuba’s Vuelta Abajo.

Tobacco grown in Esteli is considered to be stronger than that grown in Jalapa, and is usually used for filler, while Jalapa leaf is sweeter but still rich, and more suitable for wrapper. Condega leaf falls between the two in strength and texture. The varieties of tobacco found in the northern tobacco corridor have Cuban origins, most having been smuggled out of Cuba directly into the hands of the Nicaraguan tobacco growers. Some of the more recently developed varieties such as the Habana 2000 corojo hybrid for wrapper and Criollo 98 for filler are also being grown and developed in Nicaragua.

30 comments on “Cigar Country: Nicaragua

  1. tommy wood says:

    i love smoking cigars, iv’e been smoking for about 25 years and to me there’s nothing better in life, good friends , fine drink ,and a great cigar, i just wanted to ive came across you website and enjoyed it , thank you .

  2. Marco Aleman says:

    Estimados caballeros les agardeceria mucho si tuvieran la gentilesa de enviarme a mi e mail su correo electronico y un tel donde contactarlos para asi poder hablar con ustdes ya que tengo un socio en miami que esta muy interesado en comprar sus productos y el arriba a Nicaragua el proximo 26 de junio y tiene un encargo de sus amigos en miami de sus tan prestigiosos productos asi que me seria de gran utilidad algun numero donde contactarlos .

    muchas gracias`por su gentilesa.

  3. cigarfan says:

    No somos vendedores! A veces compramos puros, pero no somos comerciantes.

  4. Tariq Abdulaziz says:

    Nicaraguan cigars are the best I have ever had!

  5. […] of the best soil in the world for tobacco. You see, after Castro took over in Cuba, many of the cigar makers wanted out of Cuba. So they took tobacco growths and seeds from their fields and went in search of […]

  6. LuAnn says:

    I bought a espernay Musione cigar but can’t find out much about it or where to buy more. Can you help, other than serial number there is nothing else on the label. Many thanks.

  7. D M Croley says:

    I am from Havana, Florida (where I live today) and where once Florida wrapper leaf was grown for the cigar industry. In the late 1960s I was part of a small group from Gadsden County Florida which visited Nicaragua at the invitation of the then president Somoza for the purpose of establishing wrapper tobacco plantations in the Jalapa Valley. The effort came to naught because of the communist guerrilla activity and lack of stability in the central government. The Jalapa Valley soil was so rich that even the fence post would sprout leaves! Time – the mausoleum of all hope and desire!

    • cigarfan says:

      That’s really interesting — I wonder how the cigar industry would look today if your group had been able to start growing wrapper there that early. Let me know if you have any thoughts on the subject, and thanks for your comment!

  8. Anton Graser says:

    To all cognoscente and cigar afficionados:
    We (a happy band of travellers) are travelling to San Juan Del Sur shortly for a well-deserved vacation. I would like some informed comments on cigars to buy that are soft smokers, not too hefty so they can be smoked in one session, and perhaps a hint of vanilla or rum (sacrilege, I know, but that’s my taste…).
    Any suggestions?
    Thanks much!

    • cigarfan says:

      Nicaraguan cigar country is in the north, and it looks like San Juan del Sur is almost on the border with Costa Rica. I’m guessing that about 99% of the cigars made in Esteli are for export, so it could be a bit chancy finding top grade cigars that far south. Maybe if there are shops catering to tourists?

      If I were you I’d stock up at home before setting out. Your local tobacconist can give you some ideas of what you might like. Especially if you like that poofy flavored crap. (Just kidding!) Good luck, and enjoy the trip!

      • CJ says:

        San Juan del Sur has a cigar shop, also before going to SJDS you can pass by Granada which is a city that is home to Cigar makers, Doña Elba Cigars, which make premium cigars, if not you can also pass by the capiutal, Managua that has various cigar stores including, Nostalgia Cigars in front of Pizza Valentis and Cigarzone in Galerias.

  9. U says:

    Well I am a Nicaraguan girl that’s in love with cigars. If you are in San Juan and you want cigars you don’t have to drive 5 hours to Esteli just go to Managua we have stores with all the cigars from Esteli, the ones I preffer are cigars and cigarszone, one located in Los Robles and the othe one at a mall named Galerias Santo Domingo

    • Cujo83 says:

      last time i went to Nicargua to see my Family i went to Esteli to buy some Cigars, but when i arrived the town people looked at me like i was lost, but thanks for your tip, i will make sure to stop by next time.

  10. litedave says:

    I never knew to the extent that Nicaragua went through so many tragedies, yet pulled through them all. Even they survived the socialistic govenm that seized all their propertes and lands. Sometimes we do not know how lucky we are living in the US.
    Thank you for another well documented and very interesting treatment on the Nicaraguan cigar. My fav is the Pepin Black Label Toro, a nicaraguan puro that I would put against anything else on the market. It is amazing that these farms are still in business considering what they had to endure. Great read. Thanks!

  11. Radoslav Rashev says:

    I’m from East Europe and a great fan of Nicaragun cigars.I’m really interested in retailing cigars and want to make some business contact with local producers and traders.So if anyone can help I’ll be very grateful.
    Best,
    Rado

    • CJ says:

      Hi Rado,

      My name is Carlos Blandon, as a matter a fact I am starting a new brand of Cigars, I have sent some blends to a friend in Germany, if you are still interedt in retailing or trying some good Nicaraguan cigars, I would love to be in contact with you and have your opinion of my new brand. My email is cjbop@yahoo.com.

  12. GD Gregory says:

    Radoslav, I am currently a business student in the state of New Mexico (U.S.), with it appears the same type of idea (retailing premium cigars) as you. Currently I am researching the concept of a few business trips to the Central American Region to find some distributors of cigars.
    Would enjoy hearing form you, feel free to contact me at: iarmygrnt1@yahoo.com.

    • CJ says:

      Hi, my name is Carlos Blandon. I just wrote to Radoslav of a new brand of cigars I am making. On another hand I can also put you in contact with other cigar manufactures and retailers. I am willing to help you guys in anything possible. I live in Nicaragua and my email is cjbop@yahoo.com

  13. chalespinosa says:

    Am independent consultant tourism, financial & real estate consultant willing to pass along information to friends who have cigar operations in Esteli. if interested in purchasing cigars send e-mail: chalespinosa@yahoo.com will pass it along, with pleasure.

    Saludos cordiales

  14. We own and operatate a cigar store in Granada and have exclusive contacts with several premium cigar manufacturers in Esteli. We have license to export and can manage your purchase, or assist you build an export relationship.

    Regards,

    William Lopez
    Propietario

  15. Alyx says:

    You should totally check out the cigar factory tours given by the staff at Cafe Luz in Estelí. They take you to a local factory and walk you through the entire cigar making process from the moment the sheets of tobacco hit the factory to the moment the finished cigars hit the retail floor. You can also talk to anyone working at the factory. Everyone is so nice and really willing to share information.

  16. Slim Shady says:

    All nicaraguan cigars are available in the USA. Careful with “cigar shops” in Managua, they tend to buy from strangers who received them as gifts, who knows if they are legit or not, and what kind of storage they have been submitted to.

  17. bastien says:

    a quick question for you guys, i have been looking for a cigare made from tabaco grown near a nicaraguan volcano on a piece of land previously used to grow coffe plants. This give the cigare a unique aroma with some very agreable natural coffe notes to it. If anybody has heard of this cigare of which a can’t recall the name, please help me out.

    Thanks in advance.

  18. Christian G says:

    I have a friend coming from managua,Nicaragua, can anyone recommend some cigars for him to bring for me? Padron/maduros? I’m fairly new in the cigar game! Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks!!!!

    Also, if anyone knows the prices of
    Boxes that would help. I want to give him a little extra for going through troubles of bringing them for me ! :-D

  19. Mohammad shaheen says:

    The best Cigar ever is from Nicaragua……

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