Gary Korb takes one more look at the Holidays with his list of top shelf cigars adorned with fancy white & gold bands. Whether it’s a last minute gift idea or a humidor-worthy primo to ring-in the New Year, you’ll find 12 of them all dressed-up and ready to smoke.
2015 CA Report: Top 10 Mexican San Andres Wrapper Cigars
Mexican San Andrés Wrapper Cigars: Discover 10 of the Best
By Gary Korb
When I entered the cigar business in 2001, I discovered that, from a consumer perspective, Mexican cigars were not exactly the most…”desirable.” Yet, over the years, and even more recently, I noticed that a lot of the cigars I keep returning to are rolled in Mexican San Andrés maduro wrappers. In an effort to share my affection for this very special and highly-sought-after tobacco leaf, here’s a brief back story on its origin and marvelous flavor properties, including 10 of my personal favorites I think you’d enjoy as well.
If you ask some cigar smokers about their favorite Mexican cigars, don’t be surprised if suddenly their expression sours. Really? Are they that much of a turnoff? Try telling that to the Turrent family, the cigar industry’s oldest and most revered family of Mexican cigar makers and tobacco growers, whose farms supply just about everyone in the cigar business with Mexican San Andrés-grown wrapper leaf. Because, even if a certain number of cigar smokers intentionally avoid smoking Mexican cigars, chances are they’ve enjoyed many a cigar rolled in a Mexican San Andrés Morrón wrapper (also referred to as “San Andrés Negro” or “San Andrés Maduro”). And as someone who has become a big fan of Mexican San Andrés leaf, it’s about time this savory tobacco got some well-deserved love.
It all started in 1880, when Alberto Turrent I, emigrated from Cuba to Mexico’s San Andrés Valley with a pocket-full of Cuban tobacco seeds. Today, under the direction of Alejandro Turrent, the tobaccos grown on his family’s 2,000 acres are among the most prized by blenders all over Central America, and you’ll find them in such brands as Montecristo, Macanudo, and even Padron (surprise!), to name a few.
The San Andrés valley of Mexico in Veracruz (where most of the leaf is grown) is dense with fertile volcanic soil which produces the distinctive taste of San Andrés maduro tobacco. Additionally, the prevailing winds from the Gulf of Mexico, combined with the humid climate are what contribute to the concentration of naturally sweet n’ spicy flavors found in the leaf.
According to Tobacconist University, “The most famous of Mexican cigar tobaccos is San Andres Negro. Like Connecticut Broadleaf, San Andres Negro is stalk-cut and lends itself to binder and maduro wrapper production. This varietal is a tough leaf that can withstand the extra fermentation required to produce a maduro.”
As a result of the Cuban Embargo, during the 1960’s, Mexican cigars like Te-Amo cigars were all the rage among American cigar smokers who, truth be told, had mixed feelings about them. Due to the heavy import duties Mexico placed on imported tobaccos, all Mexican cigars were puros until 1996 when Mexico finally repealed the tax.
By then it may have been too late, since countries like the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Nicaragua were already exporting their cigars into the U.S. market, and cigar smokers left their Mexican cigars in favor of the quality and taste of the native-grown tobaccos used in the three aforementioned countries. Many believe this is what has contributed to Mexican brands having a negative image. But in a 2014 StogiePress.com article, “Viva Mexico – The San Andrés Wrapper,” the author writes: “That has changed as consumers’ palettes are now appreciating a bolder, spicier taste. This spicy, chocolate flavored leaf has found its way back into the cigar market with a vengeance. Consumers love it and manufactures are embracing it.”
So how does San Andrés maduro taste? Generally speaking, the leaf adds elements of earthiness, light spicy notes, and a slightly sweeter character to the blend, which is naturally found in maduro tobaccos. These qualities pair well with most filler tobaccos, which is why so many blenders today prefer it for adding flavor, smoothness, and balance to their cigars.
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Now that you know more about Mexican San Andrés tobacco, here are 10 of the best cigars that will help introduce you to this delectable leaf.
This Rothschild-sized number from La Flor Dominicana’s commemorative 1994 series serves-up a full-bodied blend of Dominican longfillers and binders concealed in a shimmering natural Mexican San Andrés wrapper. The smoke is earthy with flavors of leather and pepper balanced by a distinctive sweetness on the palate. Smoke this one after a full-meal for a satisfying, dessert-like treat.
This critically-acclaimed cigar from Alec Bradley boasts a gorgeous Mexican San Andrés Maduro wrapper that dovetails seamlessly with a Nicaraguan-Honduran blend of Criollo ’98 and Corojo ’99 Ligero & Viso tobaccos, respectively. Luxuriously complex, this cigar teems with sweet-spiciness and a thin ribbon of pepper in the chorus for a relaxing after-work constitutional.
Three’s a charm in this Camacho offering a full-bodied, all-dark-leaf blend with an all-Honduran core and an oily San Andrés wrapper. This stealthily smooth smoke has a woody base that builds to a dark, complex mélange of espresso and cocoa underscored by earthy-spicy elements. Not your typical “first cigar of the day” fare, save this one for later and try to remain seated during the entire flight.
It’s no surprise this blend from Ernesto Perez-Carrillo landed the #2 slot in the “The 25 Best Cigars of 2014.” Vintage Nicaraguan & Dominican tobaccos, and an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder box-pressed in a pristine San Andrés wrapper combine for a remarkably complex and well-balanced smoke. A frontloaded pepper shot rounds out to an earthy-sweet flavor profile with mocha and fruity accents in the mix. This cigar also pairs nicely with everything from coffee to the best single malt scotches.
Erik Espinosa is no slouch when it comes to blending some of the best Nicaraguan cigars; he’s been doing it prosperously for years with his 601 cigars, among others. This San Andrés maduro-clad cigar combines with a diverse Nicaraguan leaf center revealing a rich cedar, cocoa, pepper and sweet-spicy base that earned it a “91” score in Cigar Snob magazine. Ratings aside, this medium-full cigar makes a great lunch buddy.
Crowned Heads cigars has clearly established itself as a major contender among the best boutique cigars. Made at My Father Cigars in Estelí, Nicaragua, this Jericho Hill selection is rich, potent and as complex as it gets, and smooth as a super-model’s complexion. The smoke is seductively fragrant revealing a “smoky,” hickory-like flavor with an appealing sweetness, while peppery notes linger on the finish. Great after lunch or dinner, this cigar really takes the edge off of a long day.
Leccia Luchador “El Castigo” (6″ x 60)
This big boy stars an exotic 5-nation blend built around three tobaccos all grown in volcanic soil: a high-octane Nicaraguan Ometepe filler, a savory Habano binder, and a luscious Mexican San Andrés wrapper. The smoke is medium-full, serving-up a complex, medium-bodied array of flavors that volley from sweet to spicy from end-to-end. Perfect for pairing with Tequila, Spiced Rum, or Espresso.
[Ed. Note: Leccia Luchador cigars are no longer in stock at Famous Smoke Shop.]
This impressive cigar from Drew Estate Cigars, was blended by the company’s workers specifically for their own enjoyment, but has proven to be a favorite for millions of avid cigar smokers. Using a medium-full recipe of Brazilian, Nicaraguan, and Connecticut tobaccos seamlessly rolled in a dark Mexican “Otapan Negro Último Corte” wrapper, this Toro satisfies with lush, smooth and creamy smoke that swells with a naturally inherent sweetness. Great any time of day, too.
This formidable, “freaky-looking” figurado blends Dominican and Nicaraguan long-fillers deftly rolled in a brick-hued San Andrés wrapper leaf. An earthy-leathery aroma follows in the wake of its full-bodied smoke that yields notes of pepper, cocoa, citrus, and a scintilla of cinnamon. Despite its unique shape, the cigar offers an effortless draw and even burn. A real attention-getter, save this one for a special occasion or the cigar lounge, and watch how many eyeballs it gets.
[Ed. Note: Quesada 40th Anniversary Salomon cigars are limited edition, and are no longer in stock at Famous Smoke Shop; click the image to view other Quesada 40th cigar sizes and options.]
Rolled in a toothy, naturally fermented Mexican San Andrés wrappers grown by the Turrent family (remember my overview above?). When added to the Corojo & Criollo long-fillers grown on the Eiroa family’s El Ranch Jamastran farm in Honduras, this medium-bodied Corona metes out a thick, creamy, mosaic of earthy, sweet and spicy flavors, thrilling the palate with every puff. Due to its smaller ring gauge, you’ll quickly discover why Mexican San Andrés has become the wrapper of choice for so many blenders and consumers alike. Perfectly balanced, incredibly satisfying, and so smooth, you can light it up whenever the spirit moves you.
[Ed. Note: Room101 San Andres cigars are no longer in stock at Famous Smoke Shop; click the image to view other Room101 cigar options.]
This list of 10 cigars demonstrates just how good Mexican San Andrés wrapper pairs with the other fine tobaccos used in each cigar. If you’re ready to take the plunge, check them all out; I have no doubt you’ll find a couple models that strike your fancy. Adios amigos!