Cigar manufacturer VILLIGER now also has its own production in Nicaragua
Europe’s relationship with Latin America and the Caribbean is more than 500 years old. Since Christopher Columbus discovered the subcontinent for Europeans in 1492, it has provided them with a blank canvas for longing and a thirst for adventure. It was also a source of inspiration and destination for emigration and a refuge from economic oppression, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Nicaragua, also called the “land of thousand volcanoes,” has suffered from political instability, civil war, poverty, foreign intervention, and natural disasters since colonial times. Today, it joins Cuba and the Dominican Republic as the ultimate cigar-producing country.
The country borders Honduras and San Salvador to the north and Costa Rica to the south. Furthermore, the Pacific Ocean is to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east.The climate is consistently tropical, humid, and hot. Average humidity is 70 %, and annual temperatures average 27 °C.
About 6,5 million people live in an area of approximately 130'000 km². The official language is Spanish. However, on the Caribbean coast, Creole and English are also spoken to a lesser extent.
This Central American country is located around 9'300 km, or 12 hours via plane, from Germany. It is now one of the world’s most significant cigar manufacturers.It is not for nothing that Nicaragua speaks of the golden cigar generation.
The country exports to over 90 countries, the lion’s share goes to the USA. It is the world’s most important cigar market. In 2020, Nicaragua overtook the Dominican Republic in total import volume and became the leading cigar importer. Nowadays, Nicaragua’s most important exports are raw tobacco, manufactured cigars, coffee, rum, gold, and textiles. Thus, the tobacco industry is an essential economic factor that secures tens of thousands of jobs.
Vuelta Abajo Nicaragua
Cigars from Nicaragua are similar in taste to those from Cuba. One reason for this is the climatic and geological conditions of the region, and the other is the imported Cuban cigar tradition.
A rocky road to the top of premium cigar manufacturers
The country needed to overcome historical and climatic adversities before the region could, once again, become one of the best on the premium cigar market. In the late 1970s and 1980s, the Nicaraguan people were affected by a bloody civil war that also struck the cigar industry, which had just grown stronger. Towards the end of the 1990s, the country was devastated by a hurricane. Tobacco plantations lay fallow once again. However, by the early 2000s, the cigar industry was recovering slowly but steadily. This trend seems to continue, as the country has seen a 10% annual growth in cigar exports over the past decade and a 16% growth in 2020.
The cigar industry
The cigar industry certainly benefits from the tobacco-growing areas around Esteli, the Mecca of the Nicaraguan cigar industry. All major premium cigar manufacturers concentrate their factories in Esteli. It was originally an agricultural town on the Pan American Highway, about 150 km north of Managua, its capital.
One hundred years ago, around 8'000 people lived and worked there. Today, more than 40'000 people live from tobacco and directly related productions, such as tobacco boxes, tobacco rings, and the wood industry.
Each year, around 450 million handmade cigars are produced in over 50 manufacturing companies.
The Esteli region is also one of Nicaragua’s three most crucial tobacco-growing areas.This tobacco is valued for its strength. Tobacco from nearby Condega is medium-bodied, while tobacco grown in northern Jalapa is great for wrappers.
The Nicaraguan tobacco's excellent properties are also very suitable for the production of Puros, i.e., cigars in which the fully processed tobacco comes from a single country. Tobacco from Nicaragua tastes hearty and robust. The taste of wood and earth dominates. Spicy nuances, coffee, and almost sweet nutty aromas also form the characteristic bouquet of a traditional Nicaraguan cigar.
Villiger and Nicaragua
Heinrich Villiger has a long relationship – one might almost say a friendship – with Nicaragua, its people, and Joya de Nicaragua, the now oldest cigar manufacturer in the country.
As early as the 1970s, he made at times dangerous trips to Nicaragua to buy tobacco, as the conditions in that country were similar to the civil war at the time.
In the late 1990s, at the time Villiger subsidiary El Mundo Del Tabaco was founded, one of the first brands from the Joya de Nicaragua production for the German market was the VILLIGER LA MERIDIANA.
A long-standing and trustworthy partner
The company’s flagship brand, VILLIGER SAN’DORO, the CORRIDA, and several other well-known brands successfully occupy the Nicaragua lines in the Villiger range. All of them are produced in the Joya de Nicaragua factory in Nicaragua’s Esteli.
With the founding of his factory in 1968, which Dr. Alejandro Martinez acquired in 1994, he laid the foundation for a 53-year success story. In all that time, the family business has managed to grow even in difficult times while not forgetting its social responsibility and staying true to its roots.
Producing premium cigars for more than 50 years and successfully selling them in more than 70 countries worldwide also requires a high level of expertise in maintaining consistent quality without sacrificing innovation while successfully competing in the market.
The right step
When Villiger decided to set up a second production site for Handmade Cigars alongside its first own cigar factory in Brazil, it selected Estelí in Nicaragua.
Local conditions, the proximity to first-class cigar tobacco, the existing expertise of local specialists, and, of course, economic considerations regarding the huge market potential in the USA and the rest of the Villiger world were ultimately decisive in the deliberations.
Realizing a project of this kind requires a trustworthy, reliable, and competent partner. This partner turned out to be Esteli-based Joya de Nicaragua.
VILLIGER DE NICARAGUA
In little more than 12 months, the most modern, approx. 3'000 square-meter cigar factory in Nicaragua was built near the Panamericana Highway, carrying the name “VILLIGER DE NICARAGUA”. The factory employs around 150 trained specialists who produce about 16 brands in a wide variety of formats.
It mainly processes tobaccos produced in Esteli, Jalapa, and Condega, since we are focused on the typical character of Nicaraguan cigars. Having control from the very beginning is an invaluable advantage. Our tobacco experts purchase the raw tobacco we need for our tobacco blends. Our skilled in-house torcedoras and torcerdores roll the cigars to our specifications, making sure they meet the quality standards smokers expect. We then customize according to international standards.
Experienced staff “monitor” the entire process from production through to cigar packaging and finally shipping, including all the necessary quality checks.
Villiger will then offer and market these brands in Europe and worldwide. Miami-based Villiger Cigars, North America, will handle distribution in what is probably the world's most important and largest market for hand-rolled cigars in the USA.
But these cigars are also distributed in the Far East, Arab countries, Southern and Eastern Europe, Switzerland, and Germany.
Some 133 years after Jean Villiger established the Villiger company in Pfeffikon in the canton of Lucerne in Switzerland in 1888, another cigar factory in Central America will bear the Villiger name for the first time in 2021.