Look out Cuba! Nicaraguan tobaccos have arrived.

It was 20 years ago when the amount of manufacturers producing cigars in nicaragua could be counted on one hand. nowadays, the city of Esteli—located in the Northern part of Nicaragua—is the epicenter of the cigar-manufacturing industry. Th e reason? Nicaragua has rapidly become known as producer of some of the best tobaccos in the world. Th e pairing of its rich volcanic soil with ideal weather conditions has created what is now considered the Mecca of the cigar industry, the once little city called Esteli. Th e three major tobacco-growing regions—Esteli, Jalapa, Condega—are all located in the northern part of the country. Each region, although similar, has a slightly different climate, and when integrated with each area’s soil conditions, will create differences in the taste of the tobacco, even when it is grown from the same exact seeds.

And naturally, everyone wants in on the action. Rivaling the quality and characteristics of Cuban tobacco during its heyday, Nicaraguan cigars have made huge waves in the industry. Many cigar makers who fled Cuba during the revolution have since settled in Nicaragua. Th e list of brands produced there reads like an all-star team lineup. Brands like My Father Cigars, Drew Estate, Joya de Nicaragua (once the official cigar of the White House during the Carter administration), Padron and Oliva, just to name a few, will more likely than not capture the taste of the cigar aficionado. Don’t get caught up in all the hype of cigars from the “forbidden” island.

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Don Pepin Garcia Blue cigars (photos courtesy My Father Cigars).

In four of the past seven years, the No. 1 cigar in world was from Nicaragua.

Yes, Nicaragua is the new king.

Today, cigars represent 27 percent of Nicaragua’s foreign exports. It is the humble cigar that has created thousands of jobs for the Nicaraguan people. Th irty percent of Esteli’s 180,000 citizens are directly employed by the cigar industry, contributing to the area being the fastest-growing city in the country. Another 50 percent are positively affected by the cigar industry because of the need for everything from suppliers to hospitality and bottled water.

Another rapidly growing niche industry in Nicaragua is “cigar tourism.”

A hardcore cigar fanatic has the opportunity to satisfy cravings by touring factories, walking through tobacco farms and personally experiencing the entire process of how cigars are made, from seed to finished product. Th row in a little bit of sightseeing in exquisite Granada, and you’ve got the ultimate package!

So the next time the urge to light up hits you, walk into a store and choose carefully. Don’t be afraid to pick up one of those many brands from Nicaragua—or “Nica,” as it’s referred to by those in the know. I guarantee you will not be disappointed!

Ever wondered if that Cuban cigar you’re smoking is really a Cuban? Well, that’s another story—find out in my next column.

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