这是Cigar Aficionado杂志社的编辑Gregory Mottola参加尼加拉瓜雪茄节的一篇日记。
很多行业人士出席了晚上的派对。J.C纽曼公司的埃里克·纽曼（Eric Newman），尼加拉瓜乔亚雪茄（Joya de Nicaragua）公司的亚历杭德罗·马丁内斯·昆卡（Alejandro Martínez-Cuenca）博士和他的儿子胡安，乔亚雪茄公司是从桑迪诺战争中幸存下来的一家老公司。
There’s a dusty patina on my boots from the tobacco fields, which are only now approaching mid-season on account of a late start. Mountains are on the horizon everywhere you look, but you’d probably figure that anyway just by taking a deep breath of the clean air. It might remind you of Napa on the sunnier days. You don’t need an alarm clock, as the roosters take care of that. And even in the most modest of coffee shacks—with their cinderblock walls and rusty, corrugated roofs—the coffee is still good. This is Estelí, Nicaragua, and it’s good to be back.
It’s been awhile since I’ve set foot in this part of the world, and I’m amazed at how busy the city has become and how many tobacco fields have sprouted along the Pan-American Highway. I’m here for Puro Sabor, Nicaragua’s cigar festival, the first one after a two-year hiatus thanks to the pandemic. This is the tenth festival, and like other cigar festivals, it’s arranged in much the same way: factory tours and field trips during the day, a party by night and more cigars than you can carry the entire time. There’s an itinerary to it all, but sometimes I go off script, like yesterday, when I visited A.J. Fernandez at his factory.
One of the best ways to assess tobacco is to smoke it in fuma. That means you unpack a bale of aged tobacco, roll some up, light it the best you can and smoke it. A.J. has some really tasty wrapper hybrids that he wanted me to try, so he pulled them out of inventory. The wrapper is being set aside for a limited-edition project he has planned for the future. First, we smoked the tobacco on its own—sweet, spicy and quite strong. Then, he retrieved some different tobacco out of separate bales and rolled an actual cigar. This was an approximation of a blend he’s working on and it was surprisingly refined.
You have to be careful when smoking fumas though. The tobacco can still be unexpectedly strong and it’s easy to lose track of how much you’re sampling. I admit, these made me a little dizzy, even though I had a good breakfast of eggs, plantains, beans and cubed cheese, referred to as a desayuno norteño or northerner breakfast. If you ever have the opportunity to smoke a fuma out of a bale, be sure you’re hydrated and fully fed. We headed out to his farms afterward (there’ll be a larger article on that later).
Last night, there was a welcome party for the festival held on the grounds of STG Estelí, the factory known for making CAO cigars. Puro Sabor started in Granada, but this was the first evening in Estelí (where most Nicaraguan cigars are rolled) and Flor de Caña Nicaraguan rum was a major sponsor. The branding was hard to miss, illuminated in big letters nearly everywhere you looked. The rum bar kept things spirited, especially the cask pourer, who brought some theater by dipping a long ladle into a rum barrel, extracting a few ounces of rum and holding it high as he poured it into a glass.
It should be of no surprise that many people from the cigar industry were in attendance, everyone from Eric Newman of J.C Newman Cigar Co. to Dr. Alejandro Martínez-Cuenca and his son, Juan, both of Joya de Nicaragua, the battle-scarred operation that survived the Sandinista wars. That’s always been the beauty of these festivals. If you don’t get to meet the cigarmakers on one of their factory or field tours, you can often see them at one of the evening parties, which don’t get too crowded. Because the city of Estelí is very limited in hotel capacity, Puro Sabor can only invite so many guests. The show isn’t as large as the others, but it sells out fast. As for the parties, if dancing all night isn’t your thing, there’s an early bus to take you back to your hotel where you can turn in early and rest up for the next morning’s tour. It’s better for a good night’s sleep, and it’s certainly no fun going on a tour with a hangover. Then again, if you duck out early, you never know what you might miss.