Many people begin smoking cigars and immersing themselves in the industry and think, “real” cigars are of the Cuban variety. The forbidden fruit that along with legendary flavor creates a mystique around the concept of enjoying one of the finest products manufactured in the small island nation resting a mere 94 miles from Key West, FL.
People often tell stories of a celebratory occasion in which a friend scored a few Cuban cigars from a friend of a friend. With no prior knowledge of the cigar industry, many people completely discount the notion of a Nicaraguan cigar as a superior product.
Exodus of 1959 from Cuba
The exodus of 1959 (for which the Torano Exodus 1959 cigar is named) in which many of Cuba’s famed cigar makers began searching for alternate locations to grow tobacco in Central America led to the creation of what is today known as some of the best cigars in the world grown in the Esteli, Jalapa, and Condega areas of Nicaragua.
The late Frank Llaneza (1920-2010) was one of the first to create legendary blends of Nicaraguan cigars after finding that Nicaragua provided a similar climate and great soil in which to cultivate a new wave of embargo-era tobacco.
Development of Nicaraguan Tobacco Fields
“Angel Oliva and I took the first Cuban-seed tobaccos to Jalapa in Nicaraguain 1954. By the end of the 1950s, he took some of the tobacco from Nicaragua back to Cuba to some of the farmers there so they could make cigars with it and smoke it just to see the possibilities of tobacco from Nicaragua. It was primitive in Jalapa back in those days. You couldn’t get there. There was no road.
You had to cross two rivers and there were no bridges. But after that, Mr. Oliva bought farms all over that area and built barns. We were finally able to use that tobacco as we needed it after we ran out of Cuban tobacco. At the time, there wasn’t anything that even resembled Cuban tobacco anywhere else in the world.” -Frank Llaneza in an interview with Gordon Mott, Cigar Aficionado Feb. 1999
The Future of Nicaraguan Cigars
Many roadblocks since then have threatened to curb the momentum of the Nicaraguan cigar industry including the Sandinista coup of 1979 and the devastation left behind by Hurricane Mitch in 1988 which leveled Nicaraguan cigar factories and fields owned by many including the famed Padron family. Since, Nicaraguan cigars have been recognized yearly as some of the best in the world. Nearly half (twelve, to be exact) of Cigar Aficionado’s list of Top 25 in 2010 are Nicaraguan cigars.
European and Asian Markets
As the largest cigar market in the world and with consumers unable to purchase tobacco from Cuba, many of the cigar lovers in the United States have turned to Nicaraguan cigars to whet their palate. Even European and Asian markets are beginning to take notice of tobacco outside of Cuba with companies such as Oliva Cigar Co. bringing Nicaraguan cigars to the forefront of the global connoisseur’s humidor.
If history serves us correctly, no political or natural disaster can stop the momentum of the Nicaraguan cigar industry. With makers such as the Padrons, Omar Ortez, the Olivas, and many others, Nicaraguan cigars are primed and ready to be the new gold standard for cigar lovers around the world.