The Big Idea: A Stronger Smoke
The cigars we’re smoking are becoming more buff. Just look at this year’s Best of the Best winners: Full- and medium-full-strength smokes dominate, with the Montecristo 1935 Anniversary Nicaragua the lone representative on the podium for the medium-strength category. Absent entirely are any cigars from the mild or even medium-mild segments. Meanwhile, a number of popular smokes, such as the J. C. Newman Diamond Crown Maximus and the CAO Vision, have debuted intense new versions that not only grabbed our attention but made our list for the year’s best cigars.
That means so long candela cigars, with their ultra-mild yellow-green wrappers, and hello to the flavors of Jalapa and Estelí, two of Nicaragua’s most popular regions for producing the dark, muscular tobaccos used in many of today’s premium stogies. In fact, 6 of this year’s 10 Best of the Best winners come from Nicaragua and feature its characteristically rich, earthy tobaccos. And the trend holds outside of our curated selection: Over the past several years, for the first time Nicaragua has outpaced the Dominican Republic as the leading exporter of premium cigars to the US.
The gravitation to stronger smokes is the result of a growing appreciation for the many flavor nuances to be found in fuller premium cigars, as with the current penchant for cask-strength whiskeys. We’re also firing up more stogies overall, with January 2021 exports to the US up by 55 percent compared to January 2020, according to the Cigar Association of America. This is unsurprising, perhaps, in the most homebound year in modern memory. With many of us now working from home, lighting up a mid-afternoon stogie is far more feasible than in an office environment. For smokers, at least, that’s one cloud with a silver lining.