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Cigars from Around the World

From Cuba to Africa, the cigars we enjoy come to us from all over the globe with each region offering different qualities. >By Gerry Cohen



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Cigars come from all over the world. Of course, we all know the usual suspects: Cuba, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras, and the U.S. But cigars also come from lesser known ports such as Costa Rica, Mexico, Brazil, the Philippines, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Denmark. Millions of cigars are produced every year, with each region proudly

claiming its own are the best. So who’s right? In all honesty, there is no correct answer: beauty—or in this case, taste—is all in the eye of the beholder. To stretch a metaphor: you are the Saint Peter of your pallet, standing in judgment before the smokes recently departed from around the globe. Who will you let into your pearly gates?


Let’s take a quick spin around the globe and look at what makes the tobacco from various countries unique.


CUBA: Centuries of Tradition


Cigars are the only product in the world that are manufactured in significant quantities through a process exclusively done by hand. Cuban cigars, for example, go through a process of 192 hand production steps on their way from seed to finished cigar—a prime rea- son they are expensive. It is also this handmade quality that gives each cigar its unique profile. This skill and attention to detail coupled with a perfect microclimate featuring optimum soil, nutrients, sun, rain, humidity, and temperature produce some of the world’s finest cigar materia prima. No one has been able to perfectly recreate a new Vuelto Abajo,

the island’s tiny agricultural triangle known for its famous red earth. Harvesting begins early January and ends during March or April, depending on when the seeds were planted. The perfect balance between sunshine, temperature, and humidity is required for the tobacco leaf to reach optimum cigar goodness: too much of any one of these variables and the effect could be devastating.


The high quality of Havana cigars is predicated on the selection of the best leavesand consistent production. One factor that makes Cuban cigars unique is naturally occurring lithium that’s found in the soil. And just like fine wines, Cuban cigars age unbelievably well and take on a multidimensional complexity that one can learn to enjoy and appreciate on different levels.


The Cuban Revolution spawned the growth of the cigar industry throughout Central America and the Caribbean as cigar exiles took up their trade in other countries. On the other hand, the same Revolution shut the doors for the U.S. consumer to enjoy Cuban product. Consequently, non-Cuban cigars have flourished.




DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: The Leader


The majority of cigars sold in the United States originate in the Dominican Republic. By value, “the D.R.” accounts for more cigar imports to the U.S. than all their competitor nations combined, and they even rank three-times as much than their closest competition, Honduras. If you go into any U.S. smoke shop and randomly grab a stick, chances are that you would be holding some leaf from Hispañola. Many of the biggest names in manufacturing are based there including Arturo Fuente, Davidoff, General, Altadis as well as host of smaller or newer names such as Litto Gomez, Garo, La Caya, and Arganese.


Tobaccos produced in the Dominican Republic share many qualities with those of Cuba the islands are very close to each other both in geography and climate, thus environment. The prime tobacco growing area in the D.R. is the north central Yaque Valley. This fertile area is a part of the Cibao Valley, located in the northwest part of the country. The Yaque Valley is the D.R.’s answer to Vuelto Abajo in Cuba. The majority of Dominican cigar manufacturers reside

in Santiago, while many smaller independent manufacturers work out of nearby Tamboril. Altadis’ sprawling Tabacalera de Garcia Ltd. facility, meanwhile, is found in the south of the island in La Romana.


Dominican tobacco is often used for filler (even in cigars originating in other nations), although more recently, Dominican wrapper is becoming more common and accepted. One of the first cigar makers using Dominican tobacco for wrappers was Fuente along with pioneers at Davidoff and La Aurora. More recently, Altadis introduced their first Dominican puro, Mi Domincana by Jose Seijas (named for the cigar giant’s soft-spoken master- blender) while General released their puro, Cohiba Puro Dominicana.


Since most Dominican filler tobacco is derived from Cuban seed varieties, the tobacco has several full-flavored qualities and can be used to create some interesting and complex blends.


HONDURAS: Bold Alternative


Honduras produces a full-bodied cigar mostly from Cuban or Connecticut seed. The tobacco is strong and spicy with a heady aroma. A Connecticut seed variety is shade grown and is similar to Connecticut-grown shade leaf tobaccos. The cigar capital of Honduras is Danlí, situated in the south of the country. The Danlí region has a perfect climate with an average temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit and an average humidity of 75 percent. In 1980, however, the Honduran tobacco industry suffered a major blow due to a blue mold infestation which wiped out tobacco crops. During this time, the Dominican gained in popularity and became the most popular source of imported cigars in the U.S. Since then, Honduras has strongly remained the next-largest source of premium cigars, with manufacturers like Plasencia, Toraño, Rocky Patel, Camacho, and Villazon leading the way.


NICARAGUA: A Strong Contender


Nicaragua boasts four main tobacco growing regions. Estelí is the second-largest city

in Nicaragua and is situated on the PanAmerican Highway. It was here, following the Cuban Revolution, that many cigar makers decided to make their new home. Its soil is black and produces a heavy, full-flavored tobacco leaf and is known for producing the strongest tobaccos, typically dark, and rich with full flavors, body, and aroma. Jalapa is situated in the northern part of the country on the Honduran border. Its soil is heavy. sporting red clay that produces smooth, elegant, rich tobacco. It is also known for producing wonderful wrappers. The tobacco is full of flavor and unique dueto the rich and complex aromas it creates.

Jalapa’s tobacco is quite similar to Estelí’s tobacco: the difference is strength.


Condega soil is rocky. Always sun grown, the tobacco leaves are somewhat thinner due to cloudier conditions and are used for filler and binder. But it also produces very oily and pliable leaves with great colors that can be used for wrappers. This region produces Nicaragua’s second-strongest tobaccos.


Ometempe is a volcanic island in Lake Nicaragua. Volcanic soil is prized for its natural minerals, which make it unique and enhances plant growth. The earthy tobacco grown here is similar in style to that of Jalapa but is stronger with more depth in the smoke and a sweeter taste.

Some of the more important cigar makers include Padrón, Toraño, Oliva, Perdomo, Drew Estate, and José “Pepin” Garcia.


MEXICO: Run for the Border


Mexico’s tobacco growing region, the San Andres Valley, is located in a mountainous region in the eastern part of the country about three hours from Veracruz City. A prominent source of maduro wrappers—San Andres Negro tobacco, which comes from criollo seed, cures and ferments naturally dark without cooking—and sun grown varieties, Mexico also grows a lighter, Sumatra seed type and significant quantities of leaf used by many non-Mexican cigar makes as filler and binder in their blends. Mexican cigars are usually made from 100 percent

local tobacco. Te Amo and Santa Clara are the two most important cigarmakers.


U.S.A.: Famed Connecticut River Valley


In the United States, Tampa, Fla., has been the center of cigar production for years, mostly recently sharing this distinction with Miami. Americans produce a lot of machine made cigars processing the leaves they harvest in Florida, Maryland, and Kentucky. But it’s the Connecticut River valley produces some of the finest wrapper leaf in the world, known as Connecticut shade. It is grown north of Hartford, Conn. and has a brownish yellow to fine brown pigmentation and is quite pliable creating a mild to medium-bodied smoke. You will encounter this wrapper on many fine premium cigars. Connecticut broadleaf, a dark almost black leaf, is used as wrapper for maduro cigars.

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