Welcome back to Cigar Coop’s coverage of Puro Sabor 2023, the Nicaraguan Cigar Festival. This is taking place in Nicaragua from January 23-27, 2023. The Nicaraguan Cigar Festival is split between two cities: Granada (Jan 23-24), and Estelí (Jan 25-27). Today we take a look at day three of Puro Sabor.
Day three saw the festival move out of Granada and into the city of Estelí. If you are an active reader of Cigar Coop, you know that Estelí is the epicenter of the Nicaraguan cigar industry from a production standpoint. It was an early morning departure from Granada, and a 105-mile drive via bus up the Pan American Highway to Estelí.
About 20 miles south of Estelí, we stopped in the town of San Isidro at a farm owned by Victor Calvo for lunch. Over the next three days, lunch and dinner would be hosted on the grounds of a different factory or farm. What was really cool about this lunch was that it took place in a massive tobacco barn – complete with hanging tobacco. The food was good too!
The next stop was the first of the factory visits to Estelí which would comprise the lion’s share of the activities over the next 2 1/2 days. Stop number one was at one of my favorite factories to go visit, Joya de Nicaragua.
Joya de Nicaragua is the oldest cigar factory in Nicaragua. If you have followed Joya de Nicaragua on this website, you know that this is a company that ties its own history very closely to the history of Nicaragua. In a lot of ways, this was a very fitting first stop for this festival. As I’ve mentioned in previous installments, part of the purpose of Puro Sabor is to showcase the rich culture of Nicaragua. The tour of the factory was given by Joya de Nicaragua President Juan Martinez, who did a great job of explaining this tie between his company and Nicaragua.
Juan also then gave us a tour of the factory. By no means is Joya de Nicaragua a small operation. It’s a factory that employs over 400 people and has 80 pairs. The tour provided a great opportunity to see Joya’s processes in action – including wrapper sorting, bunching and rolling, quality inspection, packing, and shipping.
The afternoon concluded with a blending seminar. Basically, this was a chance to blend your own cigar. We were given a library of tobaccos to choose a wrapper, binder, and a selection of fillers from to include in the blend. We were also given some background on the leaf origins and primings that were available. We were allowed to taste the tobaccos prior to selecting our tobaccos.
In case you are interested, here is what I picked for my blend.
One other note is Puro Sabor has partnered with companies outside the cigar industry. One major sponsor has been Flor de Caña, a company world renowned for its rum. They have been participating in several activities here – and were on-site at Joya de Nicaragua blending seminar providing samples.
The evening dinner was hosted at STG Estelí, the factory owned by Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG). One thing I can tell you about STG is that they know how to throw a party – and the evening gala for day three was no exception. The evening featured food, spirits, music, and even fireworks.
I usually don’t talk in-depth too much about the evening events, but one thing Puro Sabor has done extremely well is have open seating. This is not the case with every festival as I have seen some where the manufacturers all have private tables. Not only does this make it difficult for folks like me to find seating, but I think it deprives consumers of the opportunity to interact with the major players in the cigar industry.
During the evening, the Nicaraguan Chamber of Tobacco and STG paid homage to the late Hector Vanegas, the Manufacturing Manager at STG Estelí. Vanegas passed away in 2020, but given this was the first time Puro Sabor has been held since then, he was honored on this evening at STG Estelí.
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop