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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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Why I Will Never Question The Price of a Cigar (Pre-Tax)

Courtesy: Adobe Stock

Depending on the State or Province you buy your premium cigars in, the price of your favorite stick has likely been inflated by State and Federal taxes. New York State is one of the worst offenders in this regard, and its 75% tax on premium cigars is not even half of what our friends in Ontario, Canada have to pay to the provincial government in order to enjoy a fine cigar. This is a travesty, but if we put taxation aside, I think it’s incredible that premium cigars are not more expensive than they are. When you consider everything that goes into producing each handcrafted smoke, it’s frankly amazing that they don’t all cost $40 or $50 a stick.

Premium cigars are meant for more than just smoking. They are made to be admired like the pieces of immersive artwork that they are. The next time you light up, take time to appreciate the texture of the wrapper, the weight of the cigar in your hand. Have a taste of the cigar prior to cutting, and see if you can identify flavors the wrapper leaf might contain. Take your time. Respect the craft of premium cigar making and the craftsmen that create them. Immerse yourself and pay some attention to the details. Because when you do, I believe you’ll see the true value in the experience of a premium cigar, and realize that you paid only a fraction of what that experience is actually worth to you.

It has been said that 200 pairs of hands are needed to create and deliver to your hand the cigar you are now holding. What do you think it pays to be a farm hand in the tobacco fields of Nicaragua? I know that Padron, Perdomo, Oliva, My Father, J.C. Newman, etc. do their very best to provide a good life for their employees, but it is still Nicaragua, and farming is still very hard work.

Consider that the tobacco in your cigar might have been harvested years ago, perhaps even a decade. Consider the amount of care and the number of people it took to look after that crop for all of that time. Consider your favorite cigar, the one you’ve smoked dozens of times and it always has that same taste. How is that possible? It’s a plant, grown in the earth, and there are people so skilled that they can create a blend for a cigar, and then continue to reproduce it for years and years. Do you know how to do that? Because I sure don’t. But some do, and they deserve the admiration and respect of the one receiving the fruit of their knowledge, hard work, and craftsmanship.

The more time I spend around cigars, the more I’ve learned about what it takes to produce and distribute them. When I consider all of this, I think it is absolutely incredible that you or I can have the experience of a premium cigar for $8, or $10, or $14. The next time you hear someone at your shop complaining about the price of a cigar, perhaps you will consider politely helping them see why that view is ignorant and ridiculous.

Keep Coming Back.

-DP