This square-pressed Maduro from 601 master blender Erik Espinosa is a beautiful cigar. As one panelist put it, “Its dark, oily Nicaraguan Maduro wrapper is so toothy Stevie Wonder could read it.” The moderate veins are typical for a Maduro and the blue and gold band on the dark chocolate wrapper looks mighty regal. The prelight smell—reminiscent of hay with some sweetness—is a preview of the earthy smoke to come from this robust blend of aged Nicaraguan Cuban-seed long-leaf tobaccos. The binder is also Cuban-seed. The body is well constructed, solid with some slight give. The draw through the neatly triple-capped head is easy. Panelists found toasting and lighting required a bit of effort but they were rewarded with aromatic clouds of sweet, creamy smoke and a burn that required no correction throughout the duration of the smoke. The granite gray ash is firm. Look for sweet cocoa and coffee flavors initially which—within the first half inch—matures into rich, dark chocolate flavors. By the end of the first third, notes of leather develop, balancing the chocolate and coffee flavors in this complex, medium to full-bodied smoke. Close to two inches in, the initial sweetness returns and some spice is introduced. Further into the second third, the complexity deepens and the stogie morphs into a serious full-bodied smoke. Try it with a Frangelico.
The Nicaraguan cigar industry originated when Cuban cigar makers escaped the revolution and re-established their livelihood in Nicaragua with Cuban-seed tobacco. Blessed with dark, rich soil, their new home was ideal for tobacco cultivation and Nicaragua quickly became known for cigars that rivaled Cuban quality. Unfortunately, revolution and war came to Nicaragua in the 1980s and devastated the industry, but it’s rebounded dramatically and is once again producing tobacco considered by many to be the finest in the world.
The Esteli Valley is in many ways the heart of Nicaraguan production and is known for its very powerful and spicy tobacco. The Jalapa Valley produces arguably the finest tobacco in the country: somewhat sweeter and less intense than Esteli, but extremely complex. The tobacco of the Condega Valley is often described as a blend of the other two regions.
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