Let’s face it Cuban Cigars have been the defacto stick of choice for just about everycigar smoker in the qworld. That’s all good. But, there are other great cigars made outside of Cuba, although many of these fine brands have their roots in Cuba. We want to talk about five rocking cigar brands from Nicaragua that should be tucked into your humidor.
Mini History on Cuban and Nicaraguan Cigars
Let’s start with some cigar history. When Cuba nationalized (that is a polite way of saying grabbed the assets) the cigar industry and the U.S. placed a nasty trade embargo on Cuban cigars many manufacturers fled Cuba and shifted operations to Nicaragua.
For good reason. The country was much friendlier to the industry, the warm weather, and great soil conditions and until the 1970’s a supportive government helped to motivate some great brands to migrate to Nicaragua. Fast-forward to today and Nicaragua is now home to some great cigar brands including these five.
Joya de Nicaragua was one of the world’s most popular brands in the 1970’s and then fell out of favor and struggled after the Sandinista revolution tanked the cigar industry.
But, since the last 1990’s the brand has made a strong comeback after Alexander Martinez Cuenca purchased the struggling company and revived its fortunes.
Get your taste buds ready for these sticks. Expect a full bodied flavor, generated with a super complex blend of well aged leaf, hand made, aged for at least two years, with an earthy flavor that is typical of a great Nicaraguan cigar, these cigars are known as a “puros” cigars which only use binders, filler and wrappers from Nicaragua.
Oliva is another great Nicaragua brand of cigar tracing its origins back to Cuba in the late eighteen hundreds, moving to Nicaragua in the 1960’s. The family-owned company traces its roots to patriarch Melanio Oliva, who began growing tobacco in Pinar del Río, Cuba in 1886.
In 1964, in the aftermath of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, Melanio’s grandson Gilberto Oliva immigrated to Spain before eventually moving to Nicaragua and reentering the tobacco business. In 1995 Gilberto and his son, Gilberto Jr., launched the “Gilberto Oliva” brand — a label which evolved into today’s Oliva brand.
Today it is one of the largest cigar manufacturers in Nicaragua, based in Miami Lakes FL, but using native Cuban seed tobacco with fillers and binders only grown and aged in Nicaragua. The Oliva family does a consistent great job with this brand and their sticks are consistently highly rated by Cigar Aficionado, making the best of top 25 lists each year.
Jose Pepin Garcia manufacturers its cigars in the Little Havana section of Miami by hand using only tobacco grown in Nicaragua, using a wrapper from Ecuador coupled with again a rich blend of spicy Nicaraguan tobacco. It’s a full-bodied line of cigars typically with a hefty flavor in its core with hints of earth, cedar, leather and even a taste somewhat like fresh peppers.
A.J. Fernandez is another premium cigar maker with its roots in Cuba. The company is now run by Abdel J. Fernandez a third generation cigar maker who heads a company making an estimated nine million cigars per year, making it one of the largest and most prominent cigar manufacturers in the world.
You can expect a bold dark Nicaraguan wrapper that’s loaded with powerful ligeros from Esteli and Condega areas, giving their cigars a smooth taste, with an earthy taste combined with notes of espresso and spice.
So, you’ve picked up a great box of Nicaraguan cigars; how do you store these babies properly?
Five Critical Issues about Humidors Every Cigar Smoker Should Know
Some cigar aficionados have more than one humidor, using a specific humidor to protect and maintain the flavor of one type of cigars, another for travel purposes and a third for storing cigars to co-mingle the flavors by storing different brands of cigars.
Humidor basics: it’s a storage container that’s been designed to allow air flow, with an integrated device that maintains humidity of 70 to 75%, with a temperature of 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit. And, if you don’t have a device for humidity control it’s not really considered a humidor.
Air flow is critical; a humidor is not nor should it be airtight, you want air flow moving over your sticks and you don’t want to pack them in too closely. Let them breath.
Most humidors come with gauge, although you don’t absolutely need one. Gauges, or hygrometers indicate the interior humidity and they come in analog (round gauges with a needle like a car speedometer) or digital; the latter are typically more accurate down to plus or minus 2-3% accuracy.
A humidors efficiency is attributed to the overall condition of your cigars: a well stored cigar should exude a little oil, indicating the conditions are optimum, if you cigars are too dry then add a little bit more water, if they become moldy you are better off tossing them.
Tobacco beetles do exist and a humidor with consistent temperatures above 75 degrees more than a twenty-four hour period means you have a problem. You have to freeze and the infected cigars for 48 hours and then put them in the fridge for another 24 hours. And, clean out your humidor using an ordinary damp cloth with distilled water before using it again.
A Great Cigar is the Sum of Many Parts Including the Cigar Wrapper
There is so much that goes into a great cigar. As we said at the outset a great cigar wrapper can make or break a cigar.
But, where the plant was grown, the actual seed stock origin, the amount of ring gauges, the quality of the fermentation and the storage all help to define your experience.
We did a deep dive overview about cigar wrappers with this post and it should be informative. Check it out!