In the U.S., Cuban cigars have been illegal for over 50 years. However, there are plenty produced in other countries that can give those forbidden stogies tough competition, including the créme de la créme that comes from the nutritious volcanic earth of Nicaragua.
When the Cuban cigar industry was nationalized by the government and the Americans placed a trade embargo upon the small island nation, many of the country’s premiere cigar makers sought exile in Nicaragua – bringing both their expertise and their finest seeds. The country’s warm and gentle weather nurtured tobacco to near-perfection, enabling the Nicaraguan cigar industry to gain an esteemed reputation and flourish in the 1970s. Unfortunately, civil war would late cause many tobacco plantations to be burned or taken over by the military.
Since then however, the tobacco industry has enjoyed a strong comeback, with Nicaragua becoming one of the world’s top producers of fine cigars. Over 50 brands are currently being produced in this Central American country, giving smokers options for every taste preference and price range.
One of the most established of the Nicaraguan cigar brands is Padrón. This well-respected company first established its headquarters in Miami back in 1964, but it now operates from a facility in Nicaragua and produces handmade cigars using Cuban-seed tobacco. The brand has grown from the original Padrón Series cigars to include the Padrón 1964 Cigars line, the Padrón 1926 line and the Padrón Family Reserve line.
Joya de Nicaragua
The Joya de Nicaragua also has a rich history, enjoying great popularity in the 1970s but faltering after the Sandinista Revolution led to the nationalization of the country’s cigar industry. In 1994, Alexander Martinez Cuenca purchased the struggling company and vowed to return Joya de Nicaragua to its former glory. The classic cigar was such a huge success that the line grew to include the Joya de Nicaragua Antaño, the Celebración and the Antaño Gran Reserva.
The Oliva brand was launched in 1886 in Cuba but moved operations to Nicaragua in the early 1960s. Today, Oliva is the country’s second largest grower of Cuban-seed tobacco. This brand includes the Serie 3 Melanio, Master Blends 3, Serie V Maduro Especial and Connecticut Reserve – all of which feature fillers and binders consisting of Nicaraguan tobacco.
Perdomo is another brand that can trace its roots back to pre-Castro Cuba, where Nick Perdomo Sr. was imprisoned for years before escaping to the U.S. Now Perdomo, currently based in Estelí, Nicaragua, produces the Perdomo Edición de Silvio Natural, Perdomo Exhibición, Perdomo Habano and Perdomo Fresco Natural.
Don Pepín García
While the Don Pepín García brand created by José “Pepín” García .col-sm-10ides production between a factory in Estelí, Nicaragua, and one in Miami’s Little Havana, the cigars this company produces all use Nicaraguan tobacco. Popular lines include Don Pepín García Blue Label, Don Pepín García Black Edition (Cuban Classic Black Label) and Don Pepín García Serie JJ (White Label).
Tabacalera Fernandez had very humble beginnings, starting out in a rundown Estelí, Nicaragua, factory with only six rollers. Fortunatley, the company has since grown into one of the largest in the country and producing nine million cigars each year. Some of the cigars manufactured by A.J. Fernandez are Diesel, Emilio, Man O’War, Padilla, Pinolero and San Lotano.
Another cigar company with its factory in Estelí is Drew Estate, the name behind more than a dozen brands. Cigar lines now under the Drew Estate umbrella are ACID, Undercrown, Liga Privada, Nica Rustica, MUWAT, Herrera Estelí, Tabak Especial, Isla del Sol, La Vieja Habana, Ambrosia and Subculture.
CAO was founded in 1968 as a pipe company and has been producing Nicaraguan cigars since the 1990s. CAO cigar brands include Brazilia, Criollo, Gold, Italia, MX2, Concert, Gold Maduro, LX2 and Osa Sol. CAO is probably best known for its line of flavored cigars that mix natural flavors like vanilla beans with tobacco from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.
Launched in the mid-1990s, Rocky Patel was started when Hollywood attorney Rakesh Patel developed an interest in the industry through his celebrity clients, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger. The brand really took off when the name was changed from Indian Tabac to Rocky Patel Premium Cigars in 2002; the Vintage 1990 and Vintage 1992 cigars came out the next year. A long list of Rocky Patel cigars followed, soon to be joined by a line of Rocky Patel Private Label Cigars.