Nicaraguan Cigars: A True Cuban Cigar Competitor

As history would tell us, Cuba is the center of the tobacco industry in the New World. After five centuries of tobacco cultivation and industry, Cuba has developed a tradition that brings out the best tobacco leaves from their plantations.

Cuban plantations are already rich in natural elements such as temperate weather, fertile soil, and an ideal climate region, which allows them to grow high-quality seeds.

In fact, before Communist rule, there were no clear rivals for the Cuban tobacco industry. With communism coming to take over the country, its industry fledged as it also struggled under trade embargo rules from the US.

In recent decades, the growth of cigar industries from other countries has been a global phenomenon, too. In the US alone, Nicaragua exports around a hundred million tobaccos annually.

There is no clear choice between the two in terms of taste. That would be subjective. But you can decide whether to buy a Cubano or Nicaraguan based on an overall assessment.

Tale of Two Tobacco Countries: Cuba & Nicaragua

For tobacco enthusiasts who have enjoyed smoking for a long time, you would remember the ‘dark period’ of Cuban cigars. The years 1998 – 2003 were dubbed the worst time for Cuban cigars after the cigar boom of the early 90s.

As it was trying to catapult itself back into the rapid boom and demand for cigars worldwide in the 1990s, the Cuban tobacco industry experimented on methods that ended up hurting product quality. This moment also timed with the end of Soviet Union subsidies as the USSR fell apart.

For Cuba, this might be ancient history. Still, there was a time that Cigar Aficionado founder Marvin Shanken lamented that “Over the last couple of years, I have smoked some cigars that I couldn’t believe were Cubans.” That was in 2001.

Somehow, this gave other tobaccos the edge in bringing their products to market. Nicaragua was the one that was in the best position to carry their excellent products on the top of the cigar world.

Esteli, Nicaragua, has received many families, growers, and blenders who fled from Communist rule in Cuba. They brought with them precious seeds and the heritage of growing tobacco. Most of them settled in Esteli, the best place to grow tobacco.

The best brands to come out of Nicaragua are some of the most loved, too. Brands such as Padron, Oliva, Rocky Patel, Montecristo, and Don Pepin are some of the brands that have become staples in Nicaragua.

In 2012, Cuba got back to the top with Cigar Aficionado editors confirming the return of Cuban cigars to its excellent reputation. This time, their focus on quality has become more stringent. Their industry continues to remain under government regulation and supervision.

Table Comparison of Nicaraguan vs. Cuban Cigars

Cuban CigarsNicaraguan Cigars







Both countries have excellent land and climate for growing tobacco. They produce some of the best tobacco around the world. So, it boils down to a subjective assessment when it comes to the taste—as with wine, art, and the finer things in life.

Cuban cigars range from mild to strong cigars when it comes to taste. They are known for smooth yet strong cigars, and their strong cigars are well-known brands, especially amongst enthusiasts.

For Nicaraguan tobaccos, versatility is one of their strengths. Nicaraguan tobaccos often have a range of notes with a lot of depth and complexity. It is also more full-bodied and hardier than most tobaccos. Nicaraguan tobaccos are also produced in small batches, focusing on quality.

However, there is an opinion among many cigar enthusiasts that the construction of the best Nicaraguan cigars is much better than Cubanos. This standard results from the Nicaraguans’ focus on quality and small batches.

Whichever you prefer, we should acknowledge the Cuban roots of Nicaraguan cigars. Cuba is the birth of the tobacco industry as we know it. Its rich tradition had been passed on to many other countries both in the Caribbean and beyond. It’s just that if you prefer strong smokes, you can rely on a Cuban with a smooth, rich taste of history.