The word terroir means “land” in French, but it is most commonly used in the wine trade to indicate the qualities that are imparted to grapes by the growing environment. This basically comes down to soil quality and weather, both of which have a tremendous impact on the quality of the fruit.
The same thing goes for tobacco (and coffee, and probably all agricultural products.) Tobacco is a resilient plant that will grow almost anywhere, but black tobacco suitable for cigar making is much more finicky and is in many ways sensitive to the terroir. A tobacco grower does everything he can to produce the ideal conditions that will result in the type of leaf he wants — from buttressing the soil with minerals and fertilizers to shading the plants with cloth to create a lighter shade of wrapper leaf.
Cigar blends usually incorporate leaves from several different regions to create a balance of the best qualities of each region. As an example (maybe not a great one), piloto cubano from the Dominican Republic might be used for spice, combined with a milder volado leaf to promote an even burn; a broadleaf binder from Connecticut might be used to give it a round leathery taste, and it might be finished off with a maduro wrapper from the San Andres Valley of Mexico for a chocolatey sweetness. It would be unusual to find tobacco with all of those qualities in one region, let alone one farm.
But that is exactly what the Toraño family has done with its Single Region release. Part of the reason they are able to do this is because it’s a hell of a region — the Jalapa Valley of Northern Nicaragua is one of the most fertile and productive places to grow cigar tobacco outside of Cuba. The Jalapa Valley is known for the sweetness and rich flavor of its tobacco, and is sometimes contrasted with tobacco from Esteli, which tends to be sharper and stronger.
All of the tobaccos in the Toraño’s Single Region come from one farm called El Estero after a stream that runs through the farm. Three sizes are in production:
- 5 x 52 – Robusto
- 6 x 54 – Toro
- 7 x 50 – Churchill
The Toraño Single Region Toro is a finely crafted cigar. The wrapper is ruddy, slightly veiny and rough, but it’s oily and luscious all the same. The roll is solid and the head is well formed. The neatly wound triple cap clips cleanly. The tobacco is packed tightly but it draws perfectly. The burn is slow, albeit somewhat uneven at times, and the ash is remarkably dark. I’ve only seen ashes this dark on Cuban and a few Nicaraguan cigars.
Overall construction: excellent.
The Single Region toro is nicely balanced from the very first puff. The smoke is soft and subtle with a peppery note that serves as an accent rather than the central flavor. It is medium in body, but high-toned with a notably acidic zing. Notes of cedar are prominent.
Cocoa and caramel come to the fore in the second stage, creating a sweetness that is almost syrupy at times. The aroma is complex, balancing cedar with something slightly fruity. It’s fairly unusual.
The last third becomes more concentrated as the pepper returns and the tobacco picks up a touch of char. At one point I found overtones of whisky on the nose, or maybe butterscotch. The body of this cigar seems to be uniformly medium, with a relatively light nicotine kick.
Based on some lukewarm reviews I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the Single Region, but it turns out this is a fantastic smoke. It reminds a little of Pepin Garcia’s Troya Classico, another medium-bodied Nicaraguan puro that I like a lot (and which is unfortunately no longer in production.) In some ways it’s a classic Nicaraguan cigar — woody with notes of cocoa and that characteristic zing — but it’s more complex than most cigars in its class, particularly on the nose.
This is a really interesting cigar that is both wonderfully complex and also very easy to smoke. I enjoyed it a lot, and with a price around 5 or 6 dollars, I’m think I’m going to be enjoying it a lot more in the near future.