It’s the size that J.C. Newman’s cigar rollers hate to make, but Yagua, the oddly-formed, rustic-style smoke produced in Nicaragua, is on its way to retailers. This week saw the first allotment of Yagua for 2022 and only 1,250 boxes were released. The next shipment won’t hit the market until Thanksgiving time.
“Our factory hates rolling Yagua because it is harder and slower to make cigars like they would have been rolled on a farm,” said Drew Newman of J.C. Newman Cigar Co. “No two Yaguas are the same. They are truly one-of-a-kind cigars.”
Introduced last year, Yagua cigars are not made with molds or presses like traditional handmade, premium cigars. Rather, they are put in a bundle and tightly wrapped with a piece of palm bark (known as yagua) as soon as the cigars are rolled when they are still very moist and pliable. This gives each smoke a unique, unspecified shape. Some are flatly pressed while others could be five- or six-sided but the asymmetry is what gives the cigar its rustic charm.
Yagua comes in only one size, a Toro measuring 6 inches by 52 ring gauge. It retails for $8 apiece and comes in a bundle of 20 cigars wrapped in a sheet of palm bark and packaged in a box that resembles a crate.
The Yaguas are made in Nicaragua at J.C. Newman’s PENSA factory, and according to the company, the old tradition comes from a story told by Lazaro Lopez, PENSA’s general manager: “At our family farm, my grandfather would take fresh tobacco leaves from the curing barns and roll cigars without any molds or presses. In an attempt to give his cigars a traditional shape, he would tie a handful of them together using pieces of the Cuban royal palm tree, known as the yagua. When he was ready to enjoy his personal cigars, he untied the bundle.”
Yaguas are not rolled with uncured leaves, as in the story, but they do use “under fermented” Connecticut broadleaf wrappers. Due to the shortened fermentation, J.C. Newman ages the cigar for one year before release. The rest of the tobacco is Nicaraguan.