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Postcards from Cigar Safari in Nicaragua (2013)

7 May 2013

As you’ve no doubt seen if you’ve been following on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram over the past week, I was fortunate enough to participate in Drew Estate’s Cigar Safari in Estelí for the second straight year.

Like last year, I want to thank all the fine folks at Drew Estate and Joya de Nicaragua for showing us an amazing time on the incredible trip, especially Jonathan Drew, Steve Saka, Willy Herrera, Juan Martínez, José Blanco, Mario Perez, Pedro Gomez, and Johnny Brooke.

I’ll share my specific thoughts on some exciting new developments from Drew Estate and Joya in the coming days but, first, I wanted to share some photos from my trip.


Drew Estate recently finished a new mural that greets visitors on Cigar Safari. You can see the old mural here.


We visited La Finca de Joya, a tobacco farm owned by Oliva Tobacco that supplies tobacco to Drew Estate and others. This field, with tobacco as far as the eye can see, is actually on the small size. One acre produces anywhere from 1,800 to 2,400 pounds of filler tobacco.


Steve Saka discusses the process of curing tobacco inside a curing barn. The process removes moisture from the leaves as the color changes from green to brown by controlling temperature and humidity. While the technique may vary, it usually takes around six weeks. Even the relatively small curing barn we visited can hold $150,000 worth of tobacco when full.


Joya de Nicaragua is making some changes. In addition to a new roof, and a new paint job, they have built a special room to document the historic roots of the brand, including a box of Joya cigars from 1972. Richard Nixon, the president at the time, gave out Joya de Nicaragua as the official cigar of the White House.


Joya recently replaced the roof on its factory. The factory was built in 1978 just before the Sandinista Revolution, during which the company was nationalized. The company was put back in private hands in 1995 when a group led by Dr. Cuenca Martínez became owner.


When people think of making cigars they think of rooms with buncheros and rolleros bunching and rolling cigars, but that’s just one step in the process. Before the tobacco is ready to be turned into a cigar there is a tremendous amount of work that must be done to ferment and sort tobacco. To handle this, Drew Estate is building an enormous 74,000-square-foot facility at the cost of almost $4 million. It replaces nearly a half dozen facilities currently spread around Estelí.


Here, Jonathan Drew is looking at the new “Pre-Industry” building from inside. Amazingly, Drew Estate projects that the facility, which also includes a “tobacco laboratory,” will be at 100% capacity before the end of 2015.

Check the rest of the photos in this slideshow. And feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions about any of the pics. I’ll have more to share about the trip in coming days.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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