Nicaraguan Cigar Festival Day 4
This was the last full day of our journey through Nicaragua, and it certainly was the most informative, the most engaging, and the most entertaining. The day started as they all did: very early in the morning. My group boarded our bus and headed toward the A.J. Fernandez fields for a look at the tobacco-growing process. When we arrived, however, there seemed to be no one to lead us around.
We got a quick look at the planting process and then at some of the tobacco underneath cheesecloth, but we were quite upset that they were not prepared…until we found out the reason. Not even a week before our arrival, there had been a terrible fire at one of the curing barns, and the workers had been spending the subsequent time moving tobacco around and attempting to rebuild. They felt horrible for not being properly prepared, so they decided to give us a special treat. Not only did A.J. send special cigars to my group at the dinner that evening, but we got a tour of the A.J. factory by his right-hand man, Ricky Somoza. The factory was so impressive that I wrote a separate article detailing just this outstanding facility.
Our next stop was definitely unique—it wasn’t a field and it wasn’t a factory. It was more of a fermenting and sorting facility owned by the Oliva Tobacco Company (not to be confused with the Oliva Cigar Company). Angel Oliva III is a third-generation tobacco grower and distributor and while his Oliva Tobacco Company does not roll a single cigar, his family is one of the most important in the industry, with fields and farms all around the world growing the tobaccos that are sold to some of the biggest names, including Fuente, Pepín García, Altadis, Drew Estate, and Perdomo.
If any Nicaraguan cigarmaker uses Ecuadorian Habano or Connecticut broadleaf, chances are it was bought it from Oliva. The compound is massive and filled with tobaccos from around the world, and the family recently had to build an even larger third building to support the operation. These fields are also some of the most progressive in the world, utilizing new techniques for drainage and irrigation systems, some of which were tested by a group of Israeli irrigation experts. It is a very impressive operation and one we should all be thankful for. There is no doubt in my mind that if you have smoked a premium cigar in the last 10 years, you have smoked tobacco grown by the Oliva family.
Our day ended with the Formal Gala Dinner, for which the Nicaraguan Festival Committee spared no expense. It was luxurious and elegant with chandeliers hanging overhead, a red carpet, and professional photographers. It was also our final chance to rub elbows with the big names, and I had a nice conversation with Pete Johnson from Tatuaje and got to meet Nick Melillo, formerly of Drew Estate and now heading up his own company, Foundation Cigar.
It was the perfect evening to end what had been a remarkable journey. I left with lifelong friends, life-long memories, and honestly enough cigars to last me a lifetime. I am already planning my return next year for Puro Sabor 2017!