Review: Fonseca Nicaragua
And the crazy Texas “winter” continues. It’s a beautiful, mild day and I’ve just come back from Houston. Still fresh on my mind, I continue boring the crap out of my friends about my Nat Sherman experience. When cigar-thirty rolled around I knew that whatever I chose today was going to have to play gangbusters if it was going to stand in the shadow of a phenomenal cigar. I had a short list for the weekend and it came down to 3-4 smokes I’d been dying to try.
One particular cigar’s reputation and history captivated me and being a huge fan of Manolo Quesada and his cigars made the decision pretty easy. I pulled out the Fonseca Nicaragua. A bargain-priced stick from one of my go-to online retailers, it would be the first Nicaraguan puro I’ve smoked (and reviewed) since the Espada. After a couple of weeks of Dominican dominance, it was time for a little Nicaragua Nasty. So, why not pick out a vintage or premium stick after the Nat Sherman show? A couple of reasons. One, I was craving a little Nicaraguan attitude. Second, I wanted something a little on the unheralded side. A little uncertainty.
Objectivity is difficult if not outright impossible especially after a strong smoke like the Nat Sherman. So rather than light up another premium, I wanted something that was a bit of an unknown quantity. On one hand, my expectations for quality and taste were high because it came from the capable hands of Quesada. Outside of that, I had nada. This was the Fonseca’s best chance of a fair shake. The fact that she’s cheaper than a double-meat Whopper meal also adds some drama. We don’t have to look far for another sub-$10 treat, the Casa Magna Colorado, for a little foreshadowing.
One of the lesser known original Cuban brands, Fonseca was formed in 1891 and named for its founder, Francisco E. Fonseca. One of the more milder Cuban smokes today, it enjoys a fair following especially in Spain and Canada where most of the production is exported. The production consists of only two vitolas, a Lonsdale and a corona. Ironically, the Quesada family, emigrated from Spain to Cuba. Meanwhile, in the Dominican Republic, like other original Cuban brands, the Quesada family relaunched the Dominican version of the Fonseca brand and has taken it from post-revolution to today offering the Fonseca Classic, the Vintage Series, The Cubano Series and now, Fonseca’s first all-Nicaraguan puro, the Nicaragua.
Did you know: In 1929, the Quesadas were one of the first Cuban families to explore the use of Dominican tobaccos.
- Profile: Full
- Vitola: Toro
- Length / Ring Gauge: 6.0″/ 50
- Purchased: Online
- Origin: Nicaragua
- Wrapper: Nicaragua Oscuro Criollo ‘98
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Cutter: Colibri V-cut
- Lighter: Colibri Firebird
- Price Paid: $6.00
The Fonseca Nicaragua, like Quesada’s Casa Magna, is rolled at the Plasencia factory in Esteli´. The blend, focused on full Nicaragua flavor and complexity, features tobaccos from Ometepe, Jalapa and Esteli´. Last year in 2017, Cigar Aficionado gave this little lady a solid ’90’ rating for the toro and a 91 for the robusto. This firecracker comes in only 3 vitolas and is packaged in boxes of 20.
The firmness of the stick wasn’t bad, but the foot felt very spongy comparatively speaking. The labeling is very “today” with a boutiquey flare and a neon-sign like logo. The oily, rye-colored Oscuro wrapper shows a lot of veins but the seams are barely visible. The wrapper aromas are a savory malt and peat mixed with hay. From the foot wafts chocolate and baked bread. The draw is superb and there is a healthy mix of chocolate, hay and malt.
The first thing you notice after lighting up, is this firecracker has some sweetness and a nice-kick-in-the-pants spice With notes of leather, red pepper and salted caramel the finish begins with warm baked bread. Very tasty. Not super smooth, but very rich nonetheless. There is a bit of harshness after the finish, but not a deal-killer. Something worth watching. She becomes more earthy as I make my way through the first third and a transition is marked with a definite uptick in strength from medium-full to full. Not a ton of complexity, but the balance is great. The combustion is superb with a nice even char line.
Now into the penultimate third, the harshness after the finish has disappeared and the earthy profile continues. Lots of chocolate, toasted almonds and caramel notes especially on the retro, and the finish has a nice rich espresso-like quality. Another transition is marked by the slight tang of some cedar. The combustion and char line are still perfect, but the ash is noticeably flaky. I’ve also noticed the Nicaragua has trouble holding a 1″ ash.
I’m really enjoying this cigar. I was ready for a little less strength, and she read my mind. She begins to mellow a bit with a nice round of caramel and coffee. There is some savory hints of hay and cedar which makes for a very pleasant ending. Combustion is still pretty good, but the char line got a little wonky requiring a single touch up. One of my biggest pet peeves is constantly adjusting the burn which sucks all the enjoyment out of smoking, but this was only one touch-up in the final third. No biggie.
The Nicaragua is a firecracker. Spicy. Flavorfull. Rich. “Unboring.” I admit I am pleasantly suprised by not only its depth of flavor, but its balance, solid construction and combustion properties. Aspects you come to expect from a Quesada cigar. They were all there on full display. Now, for six bucks and change, I challenge anyone to find something with this level of quality. Is the flavor palette and complexity on par with $10-$15 premiums? Yes and no.
There’s a lot to love about the Nicaragua and while I would expect some harshness in the last third, getting a dose in the first 20 minutes was atypical. The flavors and complexity were solid if not a bit muted and narrow to my palate. Certainly not a bad thing nor a reason to not to give her a testdrive. There’s no question we’ve all smoked $10+ cigars and stumbled away with skunk face. Would I pay $10 for the Nicaragua? Yes, but personally, its not a fit for what I would classify as a go-to smoke. Any other smoker? Sure. For me, the Nicaragua will serve as a great 5-packer for days when I need a solid fix without having to worry about anything else. – In Fumo Pax!