It’s taken Eduardo Fernández of Aganorsa Leaf 20 years to perfect his Corojo ’99 shade-grown maduro wrapper, but now he thinks he’s finally done it. He’s using the tobacco on three of his newest cigars: Guardian of the Farm Nightwatch, Aganorsa Leaf Signature Maduro and the JFR Lunatic Loco. All three are different blends, but they all have the same cover leaf in common.
Fernández is so pleased with this wrapper, he came all the way to New York City to show me. Well, to be honest, he was already in New York anyway, but no matter. He stopped by with not only his newest cigars, but little puritos of rolled up wrapper leaf.
“Here, smoke this first,” he said. “This way, you understand how it all comes together.” I didn’t mind. Smoking individual tobacco components is always interesting and something I like to do any time I visit a factory. Component tasting is a great way to learn how to identify tobaccos within a blend.
I lit up the wrapper leaf and was hit with a hearty burst of flavor that was both ripe and spicy with just the slightest mineral edge playing on the perimeters of my palate. The tobacco is from Jalapa, which is the wrapper capital of Nicaragua.
After tinkering with the soil for two decades, and fine-tuning the fermentation process, Fernández has finally turned Corojo ’99 into the Nicaraguan maduro wrapper he’s always wanted. It’s grown under shade in Nicaragua’s Jalapa region and fermented with very specific attention to temperature and time. Proper maduro cannot be rushed. It takes time to bring a tobacco leaf to this ripe state of darkness and maturity, and Fernández has been very patient with this particular cover leaf. Different varietals require different degrees of fermentation, depending on what you’re looking to get out of the tobacco.
You might be thinking “Wait a minute. I’ve smoked Corojo ’99 tobacco from Aganorsa before.” And you’d be right. Aganorsa has been growing and using Corojo ’99 in Nicaragua for years, but the company has never made a maduro version. That’s the difference. Or at least, not a maduro that Fernandez was satisfied with.
I smoked half the purito and was ready to see how it performed in an actual cigar. I lit up the Guardian of the Farm Nightwatch, made from a blend of Criollo and Corojo tobacco, all grown by Aganorsa, of course. But it’s rolled with an uncut foot, giving you an up-front taste of pure wrapper leaf before the other tobaccos come into play, so the maduro Corojo ‘99 sets the tone, and isn’t that the point here? I think of Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign slogan: It’s the wrapper, stupid.