Puro Sabor Celebrates 10th Nicaraguan Cigar Festival
For many attending Puro Sabor, Nicaragua’s annual cigar festival, this was their first time experiencing the sights and sounds of Nicaragua, a country that provides more handmade cigars to the United States than any other nation. The streets of Estelí, the epicenter of Nicaragua’s handmade cigar industry, are busier now than anyone can remember. At least, anyone in the cigar business. Plodding trucks weighed down by cabs full of day workers slow down traffic while swarms of small motor bikes buzz their way in and out of cars, careful not to hit any of the stray dogs or roosters trying to cross the road. Estelí is truly a town of cinderblock shacks and tobacco fields. And when the late-afternoon sun hits one of these fields just right, you understand why so many cigarmakers call this part of the world home.
Puro Sabor wrapped up its tenth festival on Friday, finishing a five-day event that started in the colonial city of Granada and ended in Estelí. Like other cigar festivals, the event is attended by consumers, tobacconists, international distributors and brand owners. The days are made up of field trips and factory tours and evenings end with festive galas where industry professionals and attendees celebrate the art and craft of fine Nicaraguan cigars.
The last Puro Sabor festival was held in 2020, right before the pandemic caused a global lockdown. Judging by the numbers, the world was eager to return. According to the organization, Puro Sabor was sold to maximum capacity, which amounted to 200 people flying in from all over the world just to get a closer, deeper understanding of how Nicaraguan cigars are produced.
Nearly every major manufacturer of Nicaraguan cigars participates in this festival, opening up their factories, farms and tobacco-processing facilities for an experience that is highly educational yet casual and informal. Everything from planting tobacco and leaf sorting to fermentation and rolling is shown and explained in clear, uncomplicated terms despite the complexity of the cigarmaking process.
If you smoke handmade cigars, there are probably Nicaraguans in your rotation. And chances are that the makers of your preferred Nicaraguan brands were represented at the festival. The list of companies offering tours was quite impressive: Aganorsa Leaf, A.J. Fernandez, Drew Estate, Joya de Nicaragua, My Father Cigars, Nicaraguan America Cigars (NACSA), Nica Sueño, Oliva Cigar Co., Padrón Cigars, Pensa (J.C. Newman), Perdomo, Plasencia Cigars, Rocky Patel Cigar Co., Scandinavian Tobacco Group, TRC Cigars, Villiger de Nicaragua and Victor Calvo Cigars.
Also participating were A.S.P. Nicaragua S.A. and ProceNicsa, growers and processors of premium tobacco. The production of boxes and bands was also on display with tours to Cigar Box Factory Estelí and Cigar Rings.
Nicaragua exported 241 million handmade cigars to the United States in 2021, making it the leading country by volume, accounting for nearly 53 percent of total shipments. Though export numbers for 2022 have yet to be finalized, Nicaragua continues to be the leader, according to the latest available data from the Cigar Association of America, and by a commanding margin. Moving into 2023, the industry faces the inconvenience of finding the labor to make all of these cigars and grow all of this tobacco, as Nicaragua’s major cigar companies have expanded in order to meet high demand while the country’s mass immigration of workers to the U.S. has made it harder to fully staff in both factories and fields.
But any worries about production seemed to be temporarily forgotten during the festival, as everyone focused on education, enjoyment and the celebration of what is perhaps Nicaragua’s finest export.