Nicaragua is a country in Central America located on the strip of land that connects the bulk of the South America continent to Mexico. This land is home to countries such as Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica; all countries that are known for their cigar prominence. Nicaragua is no exception, having risen to prominence in recent decades for producing some of the world’s finest cigars. South and Central America, in general, are gold mines for cigars, with the perfect climate and growing conditions. Here, we’ll be taking a closer look at the country of Nicaragua, the cigar history and their current presence within the smoking world.
Sowing the Seeds of Success
Nicaragua’s cigar history is relatively compact, as the country only became notable for cigar production in the second half of the 20th century. The turning point for this came in 1959, when Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba, causing a mass exodus of the nation’s much-loved cigar producers. Fortunately, their search for new territory did not last long, with Nicaragua being located just a few hundred kilometres south-west of Cuba in the Caribbean Sea.
With two very distinct seasons, appropriately labelled as the wet and dry seasons, the country’s climate, humidity and yearly rainfall make for ideal tobacco growing conditions. Cigarette tobacco was already a popular industry in the country, with cigars being a relatively novel introduction. Cubans arriving in the country began exporting the tobacco to small factories to roll cigars, rather than doing it within Nicaragua. However, after settling, factories were set up, and the story of Nicaraguan produced cigars began. Unfortunately, this new home did not last long, as factories were bombed, set on fire and shot during the violent Sandanista campaigns of the 1970s. This meant that many of the Cubans who had arrived in Nicaragua had to seek yet another home, this time in Honduras or the Dominican Republic.
For just six years, between 1979 and 1984, Nicaragua had a decent share of the cigar market, exporting to numerous countries in the Americas. However, after a US embargo in 1985 was set in place, cutting all trade between them and Nicaragua, the country lost a significant customer for its cigars. The trade ban had the objective of undermining the Sandanista government, which eventually toppled in 1990 seeing Violeta Chamorro take power.
There was to be one final set back for the cigar industry in Nicaragua, this time a natural event which could not have been stopped or prepared for, a hurricane. Hurricane Mitch was the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane ever, causing over 11,000 deaths in Central America, with 3,800 of which occurring in Nicaragua. This caused millions of dollars in damage to property and severely effected land across the country. However, a resilient nation as ever, Nicaragua came back fighting, essentially ushering in the modern period of cigar making in the country.
Brands and Flavours
With cigar manufacturers in the country coming from all over the world, influences and flavours have adjusted to reflect this. Some producers opt for a straight forward and cheaper production method while others look for a more luxurious and sophisticated product, offering smokers intense flavour and character. Previously perceived as a country of poor quality smokes, Nicaragua has turned the tide and is now recognised for their premium cigar production, ranking second behind the Dominican Republic for volume in this area. As with countries such as Cuba and the Dominican Republic, tobacco flavours can vary from different producers. For producers that work closeby to Esteli, considered the country’s cigar capital, you can expect spice, power and earthy flavours from the smokes. Whereas, when smoking cigars produced from tobacco grown in Ometepe, you can expect chocolate and sweet flavours.
Many cigar brands across the spectrum now look to make cigars that partially or fully use Nicaraguan tobacco, including some very familiar names! My Father has a factory in Esteli where it produces its own brand of smokes along with some others. Oliva also has a strong presence in the market, along with Padron.
If you’re interested in trying your very own Nicaraguan cigar? Or other cigars from Central America, why not check out our range of Dominican Republic and Cuban cigars here! You can also find more information on cigar smoking on our blog.