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Nicaragua

The New Cigar Capital Of The World

Recently I have been thinking about this interesting juxtaposition: As citizens of the most prosperous nation to ever exist, the way we choose to spend our money effects the lives of real people all over the world. Even a niche subculture like ours, the premium cigar community in America, can have an enormous impact on the lives of people and families in much less prosperous places. American cigar smokers have recognized the quality and craftsmanship of premium Nicaraguan cigars, and as a result, an enormous boom in demand has created tens of thousands of jobs, allowing hardworking men and women to earn an honest living and support their families.

Amazing. But…

This boom in demand came on fast. So fast that even some of the biggest names in the industry, those who have benefited the most, have begun to question whether the current trajectory is sustainable. Is the obsession with Nicaraguan cigars spreading too quickly? Will quality begin to suffer as demand continues to skyrocket?

Thanks to the American market, and its trend toward richer, fuller bodied cigars, Nicaragua has, for the last five years running, exported more premium cigars to the United States than any nation, overtaking the D.R. who held the title for years prior. Over the last decade, the number of cigar factories in Esteli, the hub city of the cigar industry in Nicaragua, has doubled from 40 in 2010 to 80 in 2020, directly sustaining an estimated 45,000 jobs. Padron, Oliva, My Father, San Cristobal, Drew Estate, Rocky Patel and Perdomo are just a few of the companies with huge factories in Nicaragua, employing thousands of people. It is these farmers, rollers and factory workers that you are supporting when you buy premium Nicaraguan cigars. This is something I believe I can feel good about as I puff away on my Padron 3000 Maduro.

However, if you’re thinking that rate of growth seems alarmingly fast, perhaps even unsustainable, you would not be alone. AJ Fernandez himself, whose operation has an enormous footprint in Nicaragua, has been worrying about where this trend is taking us. While he clearly has benefited in the short term from the massive boom in demand for Nicaraguan tobacco, he also warns of a time when quality might begin to decline as manufacturers spread their resources as thin as they possibly can in a desperate effort to keep up with greater and greater demand.

Rocky Patel has expressed similar concerns, specifically with regard to the number of skilled rollers. When speaking about the challenges of operating his Nicaraguan factory, TAVICUSA, Rocky has said that the most difficult piece of the puzzle in 2022, with demand for Nicaraguan cigars at record levels, is finding and keeping skilled rollers. New companies are building new factories, and good rollers are being wooed from one company to the next. Consistency is something that cigar aficionados value in their favorite brands, but it may become more and more difficult to achieve consistency across time as the Nicaraguan cigar industry continues to stretch and grow.

I am of the opinion that it is our job, the American cigar smokers, to continue to support and smoke our favorite brands at our local shops, and to have faith that the manufacturers can all work together to keep quality tobacco growing in the fields, and consistent, delicious cigars rolling off of the factory floors without allowing greed or shortsightedness to bring the whole party to an end.

The United States now accounts for 95% of the tobacco exported from Nicaragua, according to the economic data archive Central America Data. This means that cigar smokers in America support the livelihood of tens of thousands of men and women in Nicaragua. Despite what your doctor might have said, there is at least this reason to feel good about, and take pride in, smoking premium cigars.

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The Boys Head to Vegas

Every year, the Premium Cigar Association hosts the largest gathering of premium tobacco professionals in the world. The PCA Trade Show is open only to member organizations, but their membership is vast. The PCA provides its membership with resources, information, and legal muscle in the fight against the government restriction of premium tobacco. Its Political Action Committee exists to fight unreasonable and burdensome regulations, and help create a business environment where small premium tobacco businesses can thrive. For these reasons, Tallchief Cigars stands with the PCA as a member company. This also means that Carl and Dave will be flying to Las Vegas next week on a pilgrimage the PCA Trade Show.

We do run a cigar shop and website. But we were smokers first. The opportunity to experience a PCA show would have been just a dream to us not long ago. So we plan to bring at least some of that experience to you, the Tallchief Cigar Circle.

The massive Convention Center will be filled with cigar companies large and small. There will be everything from the mega-blockbuster release that everyone has been waiting for, to the tiniest boutique brands desperate to get their cigars into the hands of smokers. And from them all will come free samples by the dozens. So look for the treasure chest of new and unknown smokes upon our return. We plan to share.

We also plan to document the experience a bit, so if you are a cigar nerd like us, make sure you follow our social media accounts from July 8th to the 12th.

Keep Coming Back.

DP

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Blackbird Cigars

If you’ve been through our shop in the last few months, you’ve probably heard of Blackbird Cigar Company. Back in January, Carl and I traveled to Las Vegas for the Tobacco Plus Expo, a huge premium tobacco convention, in search of something awesome and new to bring into the shop. We have so many discerning cigar enthusiasts in the Tallchief Cigar Circle, and our guys know a good cigar. We all hit the mother lode with Blackbird.

With this brand, the first impression is a good one. This company knows how to market a new product. Check out their website, you’ll see what I mean. And not only do the cigars smoke well and taste great, but the presentation is just as good. Much like the Camacho model, each line has its own bright color, and is immediately identifiable. On the shelf in our humidor, the lineup of brightly colored boxes with the badass scratch font does a great job of drawing attention. I am convinced that these cigars would sell well in any shop, but they have certainly caught fire in ours.

Five of the six premium cigars in the Blackbird lineup.

Six different offerings make up their premium lineup, and each blend is as unique as the next. For a mild option early in the day, there’s the “Finch” Sumatra and the “Jackdaw” Connecticut, both are mild but complex in their own ways. The “Unkind” Cubra is a medium plus, with one of the most unique flavor profiles I’ve had in while. But for my palette, the “Crow” San Andres is a dart to the center of the bullseye. The extra dark San Andres wrapper and Nicaraguan tobaccos bring a ton of body, and rich notes of chocolate and earth.

I could go on to describe the “Rook” Sumatra, the “Cuco” Criollo, but I think I’ll just let you smoke them and decide for yourself which blend is the one for you. Aside the six box lines, there is also the “Nest”, a double maduro bundle cigar which smokes like a $10 stick. Many have found that the main complaint with budget smokes is the construction. The makers of Blackbird Cigars wanted to produce a budget cigar that tastes great and won’t fall apart the way that many cigars in its price range do. The “Nest” is an incredible value.

For the first time, Blackbird Cigars are now available for shipping on our website as well as in store! Blackbird Cigar Co. is still a relatively small company, and we are the first shop in the area to discover them, and therefore the only shop in Western New York where you can get them. Order a box online, or stop into the shop and let us know which line you want to try first!

Keep coming back!

-DP