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Cigar 101: Country of Manufacture vs. Origin of the Tobacco

Lately we’ve been seeing a little confusion from aspiring cigar aficionados about what country of origin has to do with the actual taste of a cigar. That’s why today’s Cigar 101 is about a cigar’s country of manufacture vs. where its tobacco is grown.

A cigar’s country of manufacture refers solely to the country in which the cigar was rolled. So if the cigar box says your stogies are made in Nicaragua, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the tobacco in them is Nicaraguan; it just means they were made in Nicaragua. To find out what’s actually in your cigar, you might have to dig a little deeper.

Tobacco from different countries will have a lot of different flavor profiles. Nicaraguan tobacco, for example, is typically spicy, earthy, and leans towards full-bodied. The three major tobacco-growing regions in Nicaragua are Condega, Esteli, Jalapa, and the island of Ometepe, each of which gives its tobacco some distinguishing characteristics. Esteli produces the strongest tobacco in Nicaragua, followed closely by Condega, then Jalapa, and finally Ometepe. Tobacco from Ometepe (used in Upper Cut) is some of the most sought out in the country, as the volcanic soil of the region gives it a unique earthy sweetness.

Honduras also produces some very flavorful tobacco leaves—Alec Bradley, Camacho, and Rocky Patel are just a few of the companies that prominently feature Honduran leaves in their blends. The three main tobacco-producing regions in Honduras are Trojes, Copan, and the Jamastran Valley, which is a scant few miles from Nicaragua’s Jalapa Valley.

Tobacco from the Dominican Republic is generally milder and smoother. Brands like Macanudo and Arturo Fuente that are known for making mellower smokes utilize Dominican tobacco. I could go into great detail about Dominican tobacco, but James Suckling of Cigar Aficionado already did an amazingly good job of it in a 1996 article.

Aside from the countless countries of origin, there are also a few tobacco terms that cigar companies will throw around—namely volado, seco, viso, and ligero—all of which refer to the different leaves on a tobacco plant. Ligero leaves, literally meaning “light,” are the strongest because they are exposed to the most sunlight. Next come viso leaves, which are right in the middle, then seco leaves, and finally volado leaves, which are the closest usable leaves to the soil. For the novice smoker, it’d be wise (at first) to avoid cigars that advertise their high ligero content—these tend to be powerhouses.

In the interest of preventing this blog from becoming overly epic, I won’t go into the tobacco grown in places like Mexico, Colombia, Peru, the U.S., India, Turkey, and Syria, among many others. But there’s plenty of information on the internet about the tobacco from all those regions and more.

I hope this has been as informative for you to read as it was for me to write, because I admit I didn’t know half of this until I looked at some of the links I posted above. Here a few more that may be helpful:

Camacho’s History of Tobacco in Honduras

Honduras – Primed For Success (Cigar Snob)

Stogie Fresh TV (there’s a lot of great information on here!)

Cigar 101: Wrapper’s Delight parts 1, 2, 3 (Our very own primer on wrapper shades!)