New tastes when burning dead leaves are difficult to come by. There are dozens of varieties of cigar tobacco grown all over the world, but how these unique strains are blended together can create an exponential variety of strengths and flavors. Blenders must be masters of their craft, which is part horticultural science, part intuition and experience, and part a touch of magic and serendipity, leading to truly a unique finished product.
Here are five exceptional cigars that are the result of growers and blenders taking chances and bucking more predictable paths.
ARTURO FUENTE OPUSX
It was always assumed that the soil characteristics of the Dominican Republic made it an unsuitable place to grow cigar-wrapper tobacco. That is, until the Arturo Fuente brand put their horticultural expertise to work and proved the common wisdom wrong. The Fuentes not only grew the first useable Dominican wrapper tobacco but the world’s first Dominican puro cigar, the OpusX, which revolutionized the industry and created one of the most iconic cigars ever produced.
In contrast to the mild, smooth reputation of most Dominican-grown tobacco, the Opus is full bodied, with a moderate spice not usually found in cigars grown and produced in the famed island nation. Bold strength tempered with a rich, complex sweetness makes for a truly unique blend that has become one of the industry’s benchmarks of innovation.
LFD 2020 SPECIAL FOOTBALL EDITION
La Flor Dominicana is one of the few companies that offers spicier fare from the Dominican Republic. And in celebration of America’s most famous sports contest, the NFL Super Bowl, LFD wanted to create something unique. With a massive 58-ring gauge, what makes this cigar truly special is an “inlay” of a football on the cigar, created from lighter Dominican shade tobacco contrasting the darker Ecuadoran Habano that makes up the bulk of the wrapper. A single leaf of wrapper tobacco can be very delicate and difficult to work with just to create a normal cigar, so it’s truly an innovation to weave an artistic design into the wrapper using different tones.
Most cigars have a relative amount of consistency of flavor as you smoke. One of the most interesting and successful innovations in the cigar business is the blending of different tobaccos to create a cigar more complex than just the sum of its parts. Blending smoother, milder tobacco from the Dominican Republic, sweeter, richer flavors from Brazil, and a bolder, spicier Habano wrapper from Ecuador, the Escurio offers a complex, rich mix of flavors that is both spicy and sweet, similar to the fairly recent trend of lacing chocolate with hints of cayenne pepper.
Most cigar tobacco is cultivated in the Caribbean and Central and South America. The rich, tropical climate and soils provide the perfect blend of consistency and mineral content for the finished product. In the United States, tobacco is grown in the South, mostly for pipes and cigarettes, while Florida is the mecca for cigar production and distribution. Yet no cigar tobacco was grown in the state until recently, with an experiment on a small farm in Clermont. Davidoff combines this product with their Nicaraguan leaves, creating a blend that adds a special flavor, complexity, and sweetness to its line.
Until the mid-’90s, most cigars were relatively smooth and mild affairs, with Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Honduras being the most popular choices for tobacco sources. The Padrón family had been making cigars from Nicaraguan tobacco since the 1960s, with a spicy, bold flavor profile. In 1994, to celebrate the company’s 30th anniversary, the Padron family created an iconic cigar that revolutionized the cigar world. The 1964 Anniversario was as bold and spicy as you’d expect from Nicaragua, but had a unique, unexpected complex richness with chocolatey sweet undertones. In addition, it was presented in a box-pressed, squared-off shape. When the Anniversario started competing with the best of the Dominican and Cuban cigars in trade-magazine ratings, the industry took notice, scrambling to follow suit. Soon bold, spicier Nicaraguan fare was all the rage, a trend that continues to this day, but no one truly surpassed Padrón’s benchmark, which continues to be one the most sought after and highly rated cigars available.