Nicaragua

Casa Fernandez Miami Arsenio Serie Oro

 

Country: USA/Miami
Wrapper: Nicaragua
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Price: $9.68  - $9.94

Available in 3 sizes:
Robusto  - 5 1/2" X 54 (Robusto),
Toro - 
6 1/2" X 52 (Toro)
Coloso - 6" X60 (Toro) [pictured]

Q&A

Paul Palmer
President

Arsenio Ramos, whom this particular brand is named after, is an integral part of Aganorsa’s tobacco dream team. How did this veteran of the Cuban tobacco industry end up working for a Nicaraguan tobacco growing operation?

In the process of creating Aganorsa, what Eduardo Fernández (founder and owner of Aganorsa) did was go to Cuba and find the most knowledgeable and best tobacco people available. Arsenio had been working for CubaTabaco (Cuba’s state-run tobacco company) for about 45 years and he met Eduardo and they hit it off and he’s now been with us for about 15 years. What he brings to the table is an in-depth knowledge of all the complexity of tobacco. For example, in the previous breakdown we talked about regions, primings, seed varieties, lots, all of that minutiae; he’s very good at that. He’s also the head of our “blending round table.”

So how does your blending process work when a cigar company wants you to make a brand for them?

Because we have a cigar factory in Miami as well asin Estelí, we can blend in either location. If a private brand customer comes to us — now we don’t do that many, we pick and choose because my philosophy is that we have to have synergy from the aspect of making us better. That can be blending, that can be packaging, that can be whatever… Now as for the process, 10 years ago you would sit at a table that was ten feet long with all kinds of tobacco. So you could blend for three hours until you’d almost reach nicotine poisoning and then you’d walk away and do it again that afternoon or the next day. Today because we have the  intelligence on our tobacco, our farms, all the things that we’ve discussed ... A customer usually comes to us to get out of a problem. He may have a vision of something new and hasn’t been able to achieve it or he may have a problem cigar that he wants us to fix. So we smoke that cigar, we listen to the customer, and we basically use his palate to get where he wants to go. So our blending has changed but it has changed for the better because of all of the intelligence that we’ve accumulated about our tobacco. It’s the data that we collect that really drives all of our tobacco.

Now when you talk about data and intelligence, you get the idea that there is a data warehouse sitting in a server behind one of the tobacco barns in a field in Estelí but that is obviously not the case. We are instead talking about the data and intelligence that is stored in the minds and notebooks of a handful of your most trusted tobacco men, are we not?

Yes but there are reams of data as far as a particular lot, a particular priming, a particular seed variety, a particular farm, a particular region — all that is documented. But it is a work in progress from the standpoint that every year we re-validate the farms, the lots, the harvest, and everything else. We need to make sure that we’re on point with what we think that tobacco is so that when we stand in front of the customer or when we’re maintaining a private brand that we’re making, it’s always the same. So that the cigar the smoker enjoyed a year ago, a month ago, or that he’s smoking right now has got to be the same. So we may change lots or we may change primings (referring to the process of tweaking a blend for consistency’s sake) but it is our responsibility as blenders to ensure that it is always the same for the smoker.

So in addition to yields and quantities and things of that nature, you also store information about flavor, strength, aroma, etc.?

Yes we do. When you blend you have to know the attributes of that leaf you are using. So when a customer says he wants a little bit of spice or whatever, you need to understand how your tobacco behaves from harvest to harvest. So when you present a solution to get to the final blend, you have to be able to use that component that gets to where the customer wants to go.

 

Casa Fernandez Miami Aniversario 2014

 

Country: USA/Miami
Wrapper: Nicaragua
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Price: $12.50

Available in 1 size
Ares - 6 1/4" X52 (Toro) [pictured]

Q&A

Paul Palmer
President

In 2013 you released an Aniversario and then in 2014 you released another Aniversario. Both of them had a white label and silver lettering, so some consumers have had a hard time differentiating the two. Some probably didn’t know they were picking up a different cigar. Can you clarify the reasoning behind this and the difference between the two?

Yes, we’ve had two Aniversarios as we call it. The reason is simply demand, requests by customers for us to create an ultra-premium cigar. They said, “Give me the best of what you can make.” So the first one was the Casa Fern.ndez Aniversario 35 (a 6 x 54 released in 2013) and the second was the Casa Fernandez Aniversario Serie 2014 (a 6 . x 52 released in 2014). The blends are different. We amped up the strength and flavor on the Aniversario Serie 2014 and it has had phenomenal reviews (check out the Top 25 section on p. 53 to 62). You know, being blenders and growers and also having a cigar company, the Aniversarios really make sense. They are our flagship; sold in a box of 10 but affordable. They both have a retail price point of $12.50 and for that product we are exactly where we want to be.

My understanding is that you made a limited number of boxes. Will consumers still be able to find the Aniversario Serie 2014 that we are featuring in this breakdown as time goes by?

It’s funny you ask that because just this morning we were going over the numbers for both the CF Aniversario 35 and the CF Aniversario Serie 2014. We made 2,000 boxes of each but you know, the market leader in Aniversarios maintains those years and those blends into the future so we’re talking about doing that because stores are coming back to us and asking if they can have more boxes of the 35 and the 2014 and we don’t have them. So we’re talking about making the 35 and the 2014 part of our regular lineup so people will be able to g et them well into the future.

To my recollection, Casa Fernández’s greatest hits are always box-pressed. Are you guys just fans of the format or are you simply good at making it? Or perhaps both?

Again that comes from feedback from our customers. Ever since we acquired Tropical Tobacco in 2002 we’ve always had an advisory board. It’s made up of 10 of the customers who we hold in high esteem, who are incredible businessmen and oh by the way, are great customers of Casa Fern.ndez. They give us suggestions and we also bounce off ideas with them and the feedback is always box-pressed. Why? Because at the store, the consumer likes a box-pressed cigar and the perception is that a box-pressed cigar is harder to make. And we’ve refined the process of box-pressing cigars; it’s part of our production and we do it very well.

Is box-pressing in fact more difficult or is it just a perception?

Well, it’s a longer process, it’s a detailed process, but it’s something that we have down. It is more difficult in every aspect; in the draw, in the look, in the presentation, in the blend, everything about it is more difficult. But once you’ve refined the process, then it just becomes second nature.

It’s painfully obvious when a cigar company does not have the process down. The wrapper wrinkles on the top. Sometimes it looks like an accordion on the sides. Without giving away any trade secret, how do you guys manage to prevent that?

That’s really just expertise in cigar making. There are a lot of reasons why that would happen but generally speaking, that’s a result of cigar making. You just have to know how to do it. Now we don’t do a square cigar. We do what is called a Cuban box-press or a semi box-press. We prefer that over a square cigar. But it is difficult and the guys who are getting the wrinkled cigars just don’t have the process down.

 

 

 

 

Casa Fernandez Aganorsa Leaf Maduro

 

Country: USA/Miami
Wrapper: Mexico (also available in Nicaraguan Corojo)
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Price: $8.00  - $9.00

Available in 4 sizes:
El Supremo  - 6" X 58 (Gordo),
Illustre - 
5" X 48 (Robusto)
lire - 6 1/2" X50 (Toro) [pictured]
Robusto Extra - 5" X 54 (Robusto)

Q&A

Paul Palmer
President

Cigar geeks have known the Aganorsa name to be synonymous with excellent tobacco, but most casual cigar smokers have no clue what Aganorsa stands for. Could you explain what it means and why it is on the label of this cigar?

We registered the brand Casa Fernandez Aganorsa Leaf because it made sense and because Aganorsa is the name of our parent company. It’s also the identifier for the leaf that we grow. Aganorsa itself is an acronym for an agriculture conglomerate (Agricola Ganadera Nortena S.A.). We registered that brand about five years ago. The first offering for it was three sizes in a box-pressed Corojo (referring to the wrapper leaf), and two years ago we created the CF Aganorsa Leaf Maduro which is covered with a Mexican San Andres wrapper and is currently available in four sizes.

So before you launched the brand, the Aganorsa name was only visible to those who travelled to Estelí, Nicaragua and upon entering the town looked to the left and saw the company’s sign. How much has that awareness increased in recent years?

Well, the Aganorsa name has gained in popularity; there’s no question. It’s gained for several reasons; the name is being discussed in feature articles in magazines, by bloggers, and everything else. But customers are becoming more aware of Aganorsa because it just has a very unique flavor. 

What tobacco varieties does Aganorsa grow and which is the one that imparts that signature sweetness?

Primarily we farm Corojo ’99 Cuban seed, Corojo 2006, and Criollo but the Corojo ’99 Cuban seed is the one that is fresh and sweet on the palate.

Speaking of farming, what does the Aganorsa tobacco farming operation look like? What regions do you grow in and what does each region bring to the table?

We only farm in Nicaragua; in Jalapa Valley, Condega Valley, and Esteli. We have about seven farms in Jalapa, which is where we grow most of our cover leaf. Jalapa is most like Pinar del Rio (Cuba); it’s known for flavor and aroma. In Condega Valley we have about two farms and we grow most of our Criollo there and it’s a little bit different as far as blending attributes. It’s spicier, it’s sweeter, it’s kind of refined. And then you have Esteli; we have about two farms there. Esteli is known for power, its black volcanic soil. It’s the combination of the three regions and the combination of all the farms and the lots within the farms that give you the complexity in the cigar.

While the original Casa Fernández Aganorsa Leaf had a Corojo wrapper, the one being featured in this breakdown has a Mexican Maduro wrapper.
How did you arrive at this wrapper for this blend?

In the old days we used to use Criollo for our Maduro cigars. It would go through about four iterations of fermentation until we got it dark and that’s what we’d use for Maduro. Unfortunately there isn’t enough Criollo to maintain our demand for Maduro because the U.S. market has a high demand for it. So that being said, we found that the San Andres Morron (a wrapper tobacco grown in Mexico) really pairs well with our tobacco. We’ve used Broadleaf but very sparingly and not in our own brands (referring to the brands that they manufacture for other cigar companies). But the San Andres works really well in our blends and we’ve received a lot of great feedback and a lot of great ratings on that particular cover leaf.

 

Arturo Fuente Destino Al Siglo Gran Aniverxario

 

Country: Dominican Republic
Wrapper: Dominican Republic
Binder: Dominican Republic
Filler: Dominican Republic, United State, & Nicaragua
Price: $23.22  - $26.58

Available in 4 sizes:
Siglo de Familia (Grand Corona) - 6 1.2" X 46
Siglo de Passion (Churchill) - 6 3/4" X49 [pictured]
Siglo de Amistad (Robusto) - 5 1/2" X 50
Siglo de Amor (Perfecto)- 5 1/4" X50

Q&A

Carlos Fuente, Jr.
President of Arturo Fuente Cigar Company

Would you share with us the story behind the making of the Don Arturo Destino al siglo?

I never in my life thought that I would live to see the 100th anniversary of our company. Not because of my age, but because you just don’t think of those things. You think about the day-to-day and surviving and that kind of stuff. But one night, a little more than 10 years before the 100th anniversary, it hit me. I had the idea that I wanted to do something special for it using a Chateau de la Fuente Sun Grown wrapper. I wanted to come out with a cigar called Destino al Siglo, which meant destiny to a century or destined to reach the century.

The idea was that, on the 90th anniversary, I would come out with a box with 90 candle-shaped tubes. I even designed the tubes so it was going to be like a birthday cake with 90 tubes of these cigars instead of candles. And every year leading up to the 100th we would come out with the next box so that one would have 91 tubes, then 92 tubes, and so on till y ou get to the century, hence destiny to the century. So I got the tobaccos and we started making cigars little by little for 2 years leading up to the 90th anniversary (2002). By the time the 90th rolled around we were so busy that we just could not do it. Those cigars ended up being the original Destino al Siglo 13, a cigar that we now give away at events for Cigar Family Charitable Foundation.

So at this point in the chronology you’ve missed the 90th but the 100th anniversary is the focus. so what were your plans at this point?

What I envisioned was that for the 100th anniversary I would celebrate my grandfather’s life and our history with a cigar with 4 different tobaccos. Dominican tobacco, a hint of tobacco from Nicaragua, a hint of tobacco from the United States, and Cuban tobacco. Back then I thought that by the year 2012 Cuban tobacco was going to be available to manufacturers and that would close the circle. It would be the culmination of the origins, the places, and the history where my family has made cigars. And I had tobacco saved that was 35 to 40 years old and it’s hard to say this because people say all kinds of stuff but plenty of people got to go there and see the tobacco. I was saving it for the 100th anniversary. We were going to have a big party in Tampa and invite the world and it was going to be a huge thing. Well, before the 100th anniversary, as you know we had the fires in 2011 that burned down two of our buildings and I lost ALL of that tobacco. Gone.

Well instead of coming out with another cigar, we just said let’s wait. Things happen in life and it just makes us stronger. I had the example of my dad and my grandfather who overcame hardships of their own. Don’t get me wrong; it was very, very painful to see it go up in smoke. But sometimes things happen for a reason and you get inspiration from it. For example, the Angel’s Share was a project that was inspired by the fire.

We started seeing the Destino al siglo Gran AniverXario arrive in stores in late 2013. What does the final product represent for you?

The cigar represents the Fuente story, the heritage, the love for the family and friends, the love for our supporters, our neighbors, it represents everybody. That’s what I tried to compose. That’s why even the sizes are Siglo de Amistad (Century of Friendship),

Siglo de Passion (Century of Passion), Siglo de Amor (Century of Love), and Siglo de Familia (Century of Family). It’s a special cigar with a special meaning. There are a lot of symbols and messages all over the label. Even the color is significant – why blue?Because my grandfather’s original label, the one that I remember when I was a little boy, had the shield with AF the same as we have today, but instead of being red it was blue. It was that [shade of] blue. I was the one who changed the shield to red, probably back in the late 70s. So I thought it would be appropriate to go back to my grandfather’s original color for this label.

 

Davidoff Nicaragua - Robusto

 

Country:  Dominican Republic
Wrapper:  Nicaragua
Binder:  Nicaragua
Filler:  Nicaragua
Price:  $9.90 - $16.50

Available in 3 Sizes:

Short Corona (3 3/4" X46) 
Robusto (5" X 50) [pictured]
Toro (5 1/2" X 54)

Q&A

Richard Krutick
Head of Marketing Davidoff of Geneva

After years of producing what is, to many, the very definition of a Dominican luxury cigar, what prompted Davidoff to release a Nicaraguan puro?

It stems from Davidoff’s new philosophy, which is to create a taste experience that satisfies every smoker and each of their unique palates. The [Davidoff] Nica-ragua is the first product to take that step and it was an obvious choice for tobacco considering Nicaragua’s current popularity.

So if the tobacco is being sourced entirely from Nicaragua, why not make the cigars there as well? Was that ever a consideration?

We did consider it for a moment, but to maintain that quality, consistency, and strict manufacturing process we’re known for, it was imperative that we produce it in the Dominican Republic. And everyone agreed that Henke Kelner (Davidoff’s master blender) should be the lead no matter what. He’s the legend.

What were some of the challenges, if any, in finding Nicaraguan tobacco that struck a balance between having the Nicaraguan intensity while being sophis-ticated enough to be a Davidoff?

You know, I wish I had a cool story about how we found this magic farm, but the reality is that a large amount of the tobacco used was already in Henke’s possession in the Dominican Republic. He’d purchased it years prior and had already been testing it in different blends for quite some time.

So were you able to get enough of it to make the Davidoff Nicaragua long term or will you eventually run out?

Thankfully, Henke and the team were able to secure enough tobacco from their resources to ensure its longevity into the foreseeable future. To give you an idea, the demand for the Davidoff Nicaragua has been such that we’ve doubled our sales projections for this year, which were already pretty aggressive, and have not had any supply issues.

The Davidoff Nicaragua was named 2013’s Cigar of the Year by this publication and was at or near the top of just about everyone  else’s lists. What is the key to the brand’s rapid success?

You know, simply put, I think what we created was a Nicaraguan puro with a Davidoff twist. A lot of Nica-raguan cigars are known for their strength and sort of in-your-face flavor, but we think Henke was able to “tame the wild beast,” as he says. The key was taking that powerful flavor profile and giving it the smoothness, sophistication, and subtlety that Davidoff is famous for.

How much pushback did your team receive from Geneva when it suggested black and silver for the color palette for the Davidoff Nicaragua?

There was definitely a healthy debate when we first proposed the idea. We’re obviously known for being a white label cigar, and it’s seen as our heritage. That said, we started to consider this cigar as sort of the de-marcation for a new, more adventurous Davidoff — one that was putting itself out there to explore uncharted territory. So then we only saw it fitting to distinguish it not just in name, but also visually.

The Davidoff Nicaragua was the most exciting release of 2013 for Davidoff. What can smokers expect from the brand in 2014?

People should expect Davidoff to continue its dedica-tion to innovation and its desire to surprise and delight smokers of all styles. The Nicaragua was the first, but will certainly not be the last when it comes to going to different places and being able to provide these unique taste and flavor experiences. We’re currently exploring different regions for the future.

 

Nub Cameroon

 

Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Cameroon
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Price: $6.00  - $7.50

Available in 4 sizes:
358 - 3 3/4" X 58 (Natural Robusto)
460 - 4 X60 (
Natural Rothschild)
464T - 4" X 64 (
Torpedo)
466BPT - 4 X66 (Natural Torpedo)

Q&A

Cory Bappert
VP of Sales, 
Oliva Cigar Co.

Nub has been one of the more interesting phenomena in the cigar industry. It has been copied time and time again, yet whenever anyone refers to that size, they say “Nub size.” What do you attribute to the incredible success of this brand?

Hands down, Nub has become not just an established brand, but it’s become a staple in the industry as well. When it was first released, some dismissed it as simply a gimmick, but now it’s more recognizable than many other brands out there. These cigars are mainstream smokes across the country and, because of that, some people have tried to imitate them. Although imitation is the highest form of flattery, these other cigars just haven’t been able to stand the test of time. Nub is not a shape or vitola; it’s a brand. A brand that represents the hard work that has gone into it. Those who have tried to imitate the Nub unsuccessfully simply thought that they could recreate a 4 x 60 cigar (for example) and that it would sell, not taking into account the fact that, at the end of the day, consumers look for quality over everything else. Consumers are what drive a cigar’s success, and the staying power of the Nub is due to the loyalty of the smokers who purchase and enjoy it. We think that’s a direct reflection of its quality. It’s not just about putting tobacco in a mold and creating a certain size. There’s so much more to it.

We understand that Nub Cameroon is second only to the Nub Connecticut in sales, beating out the Habano, Maduro and Cain Nubs. Why do you think this is?

The Cameroon is really something special for Nub. The wrapper is a true African Cameroon that’s aged an exceptionally long time. We bought the wrapper years ago, and the tremendous flavors brought out by that aging process really shine through. Some brands use Cameroon wrappers that are not authentic African Cameroon, but we think it not only sets the Nub apart, but also that smokers themselves can taste the difference. It’s no wonder it has become the second highest seller in the Nub line.

You mentioned other Cameroon wrappers, but from a flavor standpoint, what specifically sets the African Cameroon apart from the others?

Well, today’s smokers are used to the better-known wrappers — the Habano and Connecticut for example — but the African Cameroon in the Nub imparts such a unique flavor profile. The nuttiness, light spice, and oak finish make it a favorite for so many. Some people say they are not fans of the Cameroon flavor, but get hooked when they try it once. I’d argue that this Nub has the truest Cameroon flavor out there today... especially since that authentic flavor has been lost with so many imitations in the marketplace.

This is the only cigar in the Nub line that’s box pressed, right? Why is that?

Right. The 466BPT Cameroon is the only Nub that’s box pressed, and it’s because we wanted to use the same concept that we used on the Serie G Cameroon, with which has had so much success. Initially, we thought we would keep the Nub vitolas consistent, and after seeing how good the Cameroon was with a box press, we were blown away. That sealed the deal for us.

Over the years, we’ve probably seen hundreds of “Nub stand” photos on the web and social media, what’s your favorite?

Haha...The Nub stand was something we used in an ad when the cigar was first starting to gain popularity. The image showed the Nub smoked down to the ring and standing on its ash. It caught on. I remember one in particular; it shows a Nub stand in front of the Eiffel Tower... We still get tons of shots to this day and think it’s pretty cool.

 

Nub Habano

 

Country: Nicaragua
Wrapper: Nicaragua
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaragua
Price: $6.00  - $7.50

Available in 4 sizes:
358 - 3 3/4" X 58 (Natural Rothschild)
460 - 4 X60 (
Natural Rothschild) [pictured]
464T - 4" X 64 (Natural 
Torpedo)
466- 4 X66 (Natural Rothschild)

Q&A

Cory Bappert
VP of Sales,
Oliva Cigar Co.

The Nub and Cain brands were developed under Studio Tobac, but that all seems to be in flux. What is the current state and structure of Studio Tobac?

We’re actually in the process of transitioning both the Nub and Cain brands outside of Studio Tobac, to be marketed separately. This allows us to focus more on making Studio Tobac a brand that releases more limited edition and exclusive cigars. Nub and Cain are so strong as individual brands that it’s more efficient to have them stand on their own and allow Studio Tobac to move forward in creating other unique and exciting lines.

The wrapper on that Nub Habano is a think of beauty. Is that wrapper used on any other cigars in the Oliva portfolio?

Actually, yes! That same Habano wrapper is also found, in some form or fashion, on a couple of our other premium lines. Specifically, the Serie O shares this same wrapper and the Serie V, one of our most sought after cigars, uses this wrapper but from a different priming.

What’s the biggest misconception cigar smokers have about Nub?

What we’ve heard the most at events or when speaking to consumers is that, because of the smaller vitola, they assume it’s a shorter smoking duration, and that’s simply not the case. Almost every time, I don’t even have to say a thing, because when someone suggests that, there’s another smoker who puts that myth to rest. Initially, that was the biggest challenge we found... convincing smokers unfamiliar with Nub that it was a comparable smoking time to most other vitolas.

It must surprise the hell out of those who think that Nub is a “quick smoke,” especially when they reach for a Nub Habano and find that not only is it not quick, but it’s also no joke. It has some power to it!

Yeah, it happens… our Oliva Cigar representatives as well as our tobacconists do their best to guide smokers in the direction of the product that the smoker will enjoy most but as you can imagine, some guys want to dive right in. And that’s OK too, as long as at the end of the day they enjoy their cigar.

Do you think the shorter size of the Nub influences when and where people enjoy them?

Honestly, I don’t think so. I haven’t heard anyone tell me that the size itself plays any part in that decision. On the contrary I’ve heard numerous people say that they enjoy them all over the place. 

Over the years Nub, Cain, and Studio Tobac have hosted some of the best in-store promotional events that we’ve ever attended. They were the kinds of events that people drove to from miles around for a chance win some pretty incredible prizes. Are there plans to continue with that event strategy?

I’m sure you remember when we gave away the Corvette and Mini Cooper with Nub and the custom motorcycle with Cain. But as much fun as those huge events were, we wanted to step back a bit and go in a different direction for promotions. Since the Studio Tobac tour is complete, what we’ve decided to do is keep the events smaller in size but much more widespread. The tour in a way limited us by only having one event in one location at a time. But with numerous events occurring simultaneously, we see it as a win for everyone. We still have plenty of give-a-ways and raffles for really great prizes, but we’re doing it at more shops across the country. Ultimately, we feel that more people can enjoy Nub events this way — people who may not have been able to travel to those larger ones. Our goal moving forward is to ensure that we can pass on more value to our loyal customers as well as keep them smiling with cool bonuses more often.