By: Kelly Luciw
Last month we explored the history of Cuba, and left with the thought of Nicaraguan cigars potentially out-rivaling a country that has long been known for its hard-to-reach puros. This month we’re going to explore regions of Nicaragua and get an inside look as to why Nicaraguan cigars are increasingly popular and favored among cigar enthusiasts, new and old.
In the 1960s, Nicaragua faced much adversity through political interruptions that disrupted and inhibited cigar tobacco production. But fast-forward to the last decade, and you’ll see Nicaragua has flourished, producing some of the most rich, complex tobaccos in the world. Estelí, Jalapa Valley, Ometepe, and Condega are the sources of most Nicaraguan leaf production.
Found in Central America, Nicaragua is located between Honduras and Costa Rica. As the climates of these three nations are all similar, the ultimate difference is found in Nicaragua’s jet-black soil. Each region in this country contains unique soil characteristics and varying levels of mineral enrichment that result in distinctive aromas, flavors, and qualities in tobaccos grown there.
First we’ll take a look at Estelí, Nicaragua. This region contains dark, dense soil that commonly yields strong tobaccos which are significantly spicy in character. Receiving exposure to the sun, the plants harvested within this region contain thick leaves that produce a stronger experience. Primarily utilized as a filler component in a cigar’s blend, these leaves can also be used as strong binders and Sun Grown wrappers. AJ Fernandez uses copious amounts of Estelí-grown tobaccos in his blends like Man O’ War Ruination and San Lotano.
> Jalapa Valley
Next stop on our journey is Jalapa Valley. Similar to the soil found in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio valley — a fine, sand-like soil that is slightly red in color — leaves from the Jalapa Valley region are relatively soft with a reddish hue. The sweet and aromatic Jalapa leaf is used as a filler component, but the best-looking leaves will be reserved for use as wrappers. Oliva Serie ‘V’ prominently features heavily fermented Jalapa Valley ligero leaf in its blend.
Found in Lake Nicaragua, the humidity encompassing the remote island of Ometepe helps maintain the quality of its rich, volcanic soil. So dense with nutrients, the land requires minimal fertilization. The mellow to medium character of the leaf allows the earthy, sweet tobacco in this area to cure quickly, and is most commonly used as fillers in a cigar. AVO Syncro Nicaragua and Toraño Vault both contain tobaccos from this lush island.
> Condega Valley
Lastly is Condega Valley, an area known for its cloud cover and rough, rocky soil which contains high mineral content. Although the tobacco from this region is less potent, it still carries a hefty amount of flavor. Leaves from Condega Valley appear thinner in texture, with slight sweetness and a fair amount of strength, and are used most often as binders.
Now that we’ve explored the four main growing regions of Nicaragua and each territory containing soils that are crucial to the distinctive flavors found in a cigar’s blend, the trending battle between Cuban and Nicaraguan cigars is certainly one to watch.