Even the blending experts don’t always agree on how much of a cigar’s flavor comes from the wrapper leaf – learn why, plus we pay forward a cool trick you can try to test your favorite cigar to see how much its flavor comes from the wrapper leaf.
2017 CA Report: Top 20 Underrated Nicaraguan Cigars
Top 20 Underrated Nicaraguan Cigars
By John Pullo
It’s the thrill of the hunt.
I understand why my wife carves a 3-hour path through Target: browsing the store’s dark and forgotten corners is part of the fun. It is sport. For us cigar lovers, meandering through a cigar shop is a similar experience. Why rush? The longer you linger, the better your odds you’ll find something you never noticed, and might even be compelled to give a try. And today, our slow walk through the humidor will yield some of the most underrated Nicaraguan cigars that you might not have noticed before. After all, who doesn’t like a nice surprise?
What do you mean by “underrated”?
A couple of things: cigars that are underappreciated, new releases that got lost in the shuffle, smokes that don’t have the blaring trumpets of social media fanfare – they just don’t get the recognition they deserve, in spite of the quality they deliver. If you recognize some of the names, or even call a few of them your favorites, great – that means you’re in on the secret of how enjoyable some of these cigars can be. Help spread the word, because very few smokers know much about them. And let’s see if we can change that, and discover a few hidden gems along the way…
Don Pepin Series JJ
This was a tough one, as the case could be made that Pepin’s Blue and the Black might also fall into the underrated category – though maybe more underappreciated, as they’re both pretty popular. And because My Father has a ton of good stuff out right now. Time to give the Series JJ its due: an impressive smoke that burns full, but comes together with deep and savory notes very quickly.
Nica Rustica notches both columns, among the most underappreciated and underrated Nicaraguans…surprised to hear that about a Drew Estate smoke? A rough-hewn interpretation of a cigar using the native tobacco, the Nica Rustica was intended to give a more raw display of what flavors lurk within the local Jalapa and Esteli-grown tobaccos. But time has been kind to this DE cigar – it is medium-full, spicy and sweet, and is actually much more smooth than the name implies.
RoMaCraft Intemperance BA XXI
I’ll make the case for Intemperance BA XXI being one of the more underrated Nicaraguan cigars out there because of the amount of attention it doesn’t get when lined up against some other great RoMa Craft Tobac blends like Aquitaine, CroMagnon and Neanderthal. Born from the spirit of resistance to the historical “experiments” to ban alcohol and tobacco, this edition of Intemperance cigars is well-balanced while being rich in leather, earth and pepper flavors thanks to the predominantly Nicaraguan fillers. If you live on a steady diet of hearty cigars, try this one and see what you’ve been missing.
Nat Sherman Metropolitan Habano
Ten bucks says you didn’t think of Nat Sherman when you saw Nicaraguan cigars. Usually the reaction is, “Nat Sherman…mild Dominicans, right?” Not anymore: an all-Nicaraguan blend is creamy and medium-full in body and flavor, clad in an oily Habano leaf that adds some tanginess to the experience. Overall, very well-balanced – and very much worth seeking out.
Everyone goes bananas over Crowned Heads’ yearly Las Calaveras release, and there is always much ado about La Imperiosa, Four Kicks, Jericho Hill, et al. Then, there is Las Mareas, and you’ve been missing it. While it’s a relative newcomer among our entries for most underrated Nicaraguan cigars, two things work to its advantage: (1) it’s made by My Father Cigars, and (2) it’s a puro that offers big rips of smoke. This is not a churn-and-burn Nicaraguan – let the flavors sink in, and don’t be surprised if/when they sneak up on you.
Hoyo La Amistad
Churning out some of the top Nicaraguan cigars from his expanded factory in Esteli, AJ Fernandez has put his mark on many outside brands these past few years (Aging Room, Montecristo and H. Upmann to name a few); but it’s his collaboration on the new Hoyo de Monterrey last year that feels like it kind of snuck under the radar. It’s Hoyo La Amistad, and it’s made with filler tobaccos from all 4 growing regions of Nicaragua. Spice, earth and coffee flavors linger throughout; with many of his other blends getting a ton of attention, don’t let this rich n’ bitey Hoyo get lost in the shuffle.
Don Tomas Nicaragua
Originally a Honduran classic, Don Tomas took a Nicaraguan twist a couple years ago: tobaccos from Condega and Esteli are in the filler, and the whole thing is finished in a shade-grown leaf from Jalapa. There’s some oomph here, but Don Tomas Nicaragua is a nice value smoke for the experienced palate that likes ‘em a little more mellow. If you’re new to cigars but want a bit of the “Nicaraguan taste,” this might be a good place to start.
Southern Draw Firethorn
The online cigar communities are blowing up about Southern Draw’s Rose of Sharon; so much so, it’s hard to find right now…but by no means should you wait on trying another Southern Draw, namely the Firethorn. An underrated alternative and a great “pairing” cigar with just about any drink, Firethorn is made at AJ Fernandez’ Esteli factory with Cuban-seed, Nicaraguan-grown tobaccos in the mix. The spice is there, as are the sweet sensations of caramel and cocoa; beautifully constructed, too. This is a boutique brand we think will be a household name in short order – try it now so you can say you were there before they become the “next big thing.”
Contrary to what you may be thinking from what’s in this list so far, there is more to making Nicaraguan cigars than just tagging the word “Nicaragua” to the brand name. It’s labeled full, but I’d say it’s more medium bodied, given the Criollo wrapper atop core tobaccos from Esteli and Ometepe. A true Nicaraguan puro, from one of the Dominican cigar making legends – you’ll get a welcome surprise if you’re willing to give it a look.
This is Asylum’s dark horse. Instead of being a spice-laden full-body feast, Lobotomy relies more on toast, cedar and cocoa to satisfy – so don’t be led astray by the name. Made up of an oily Habano Maduro wrapper and a Nicaraguan core, the smoke is thick and plentiful and the price is right – putting this Asylum on many lists, including underrated Nicaraguan cigars AND best mellow Maduros.
Black Label Trading Lawless
Here’s a brand the boutique folks have been raving about for a little while now; if your cigar life is decidedly more offline, let us tip you off to Black Label Trading. A good way to “discover” the brand is with Lawless: Nicaraguan tobaccos rolled to big and bigger sizes, finished in Ecuadorian Habano for a taste that’s full of nuance alongside some Nicaraguan spice. And with a healthy collection of small batch lines to Black Label’s credit, there’s much more to enjoy once you’ve scratched the surface with Lawless.
Because the powerhouse cigar smokers opt for the Antaño or the Dark Corojo, the Joya Cabinetta series is one of the most underrated cigars in their stable. Flavor abounds, yet this stick burns creamy-smooth with the Connecticut wrapper below the band; above the band, your taste buds come in direct contact with a sun-grown Criollo wrapper that adds some serious tingle. A real eye-opener, if you want to take the Joya Cabinetta for a morning test drive.
Perla del Mar
A rare sighting of the elusive mild Nicaraguan cigar…Perla del Mar is often lost in the sauce while everyone talks about Brick House and Diamond Crown. Perla yields easygoing yet excellent flavor for a Connecticut smoke. Another great pick for the uninitiated, or a nice (and underrated) choice if you’re in need of a milder smoke that leans Nicaraguan in its flavor profile.
If we play word association games, Cohiba usually doesn’t inspire anything outside of “smooth” or “Dominican.” The addition of binder and aromatic fillers from Esteli and Jalapa change the rules, making for a brash, more full bodied cigar that dishes flavors like pepper and cedar; not exactly what you’d expect from Cohiba. Still creamy, which is what you’d expect from Cohiba, making this an unsung hero in our Nicaraguan lineup.
Originally an EO Brand from “back in the day,” Murcielago got a reboot last year by Erik Espinosa as a solo act; maybe you missed the news. The folks who caught it have already given this full-flavored treat high marks – and now that we’re shining a spotlight on this blend again, best not to miss out on this second go-round. When pressed, fellow Advisor Gary Korb said, “you HAVE to have Murcielago on your underrated Nicaraguan cigars list.” Done.
Plasencia Reserve Organica
Plasencia may have been the first to make something truly out of the ordinary: a cigar crafted with organically grown tobaccos. A unique prospect, the extra care and quality to grow this tobacco organically far outweighs the Reserva Organica’s value – and there’s just something about adding a level of “purity” to the flavor. And by that definition alone, it’s one of the more underrated Nicaraguan cigars you can find.
There is not much of Pete Johnson’s cigar work that goes unnoticed, and to hear the Tat fans tell it – Tatuaje cigars are a thing of beauty. But put aside the chatter about Havana VI, Monsters, Fausto and the rest, and you’ll find a genuine diamond in the rough: Tattoo. It burst onto the scene over 2 years ago, but this says something about our collective attention span as cigar smokers. Nicaraguan fillers perform tastefully, and oh, that Oscuro wrapper…a great almost-full burn on the cheap, this Tatuaje is easily one of the more vastly underrated Nicaraguan cigars out there.
Rocky Patel Platinum LE Habano
You’ve done the Vintages. You’ve had your way with Decade, and tried the Sun Grown Maduro, #2 Cigar of 2016. There’s plenty more Rocky to be done: the Platinum Limited Edition Habano builds on the original Platinum’s 92-rated success, box-pressing the thick, rich Nicaraguan tobaccos and enveloping them in a lush Habano Maduro wrapper. Expect notes of dark chocolate and pepper from this underappreciated luxury smoke that’s well off the beaten path.
Nica Puro Rosado
I’m going out on a limb and guess you’ve smoked Nica Puro. Now, have you smoked Nica Puro Rosado? Did you even know there was a Nica Puro Rosado? Truth be told, this one caught us by surprise – so did the flavor. Jalapa, Condega and Esteli are all represented in the blend; and though this Rosado version is more mellow than the original, it still smokes with leather and sweetness, touched with spice. Search it out and see for yourself.
Villiger San D’Oro Colorado
Friends, there’s much more to Villiger than Exports – turns out, their premium cigars are among the most underrated sticks on the shelf. For the San D’Oro, Villiger partnered with Oliva Cigars (translation: high quality) to make this Nicaraguan blend, clad in Ecuadorian Habano. Everything about the flavor is dark: think earth, spice, espresso and chocolate. Time you get acquainted.
Of course, tastes vary – but if you’re still looking for that next great smoke, stop and give these underrated Nicaraguan cigars a chance. Keep an open mind, follow your taste buds and get ready for some surprises. If you have one you’d like to add to the list, comment below!