Joya de Nicaragua is famous for being the oldest cigar manufacturer in Nicaragua. The company was founded in 1968 by J.F. Bermejo and Simón Camacho and has experienced its fair share of ownership changes and rebuilding phases, including multiple wars (resulting in the destruction and rebuilding of the factory), a temporary move to Honduras, government ownership (and the eventual return to privatization), a U.S. embargo on Nicaraguan trade (1985 – 1990), and the eventual sale of ownership to Doctor Alejandro Martínez Cuenca and his Tabacos Puros de Nicaragua S.A. company in 1994.
Martínez ushered in a new era for the company, bringing back original factory workers, regaining the Joya de Nicaragua trademark, and assembling a team of ligadores/torcedores to recreate the original Joya blend. In the ’70s, Joya de Nicaragua had become the cigar of choice in the White House, and Martínez sought to regain these “glory days” by bringing the very same blend back to market. After an exhaustive series of trial and error, the winning combination was eventually found in an unorthodox, experimental blend that would officially be dubbed “Antaño 1970,” translating to mean “yesteryear.” Joya de Nicaragua Antaño 1970 was released in 2001, setting a new milestone for the premium cigar market in terms of strength and body—a trend that is now commonplace, but was quite revolutionary at the time of the cigar’s launch.
In celebration of Antaño 1970’s fifteenth anniversary (technically sixteenth, as the release was delayed one year), Joya de Nicaragua (JDN) introduced Antaño Gran Reserva at the 2017 IPCPR trade show in Las Vegas, NV. Antaño Gran Reserva is a resurrected cigar from a limited edition release in 2005, where the traditional Antaño 1970 blend makeup is tweaked to incorporate more select tobaccos with greater vintages.
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Antaño Gran Reserva Robusto Grande Breakdown
- Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo Oscuro
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua (Jalapa, Condega, Estelí)
- Factory: Fábrica de Tabacos Joya de Nicaragua, S.A. (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 5½” x 52 “Robusto Grande” (Box Pressed)
- Price: $9.50 (MSRP)
Due to imposed FDA regulations, historic companies like JDN are at an advantage, having retired cigars within their portfolio that meet the FDA’s arbitrary date for grandfathered cigars—where brands released before February 15, 2007 may be exempt from the newly imposed regulations. As JDN’s Antaño Gran Reserva first hit the market in 2005, these cigars are presumably safe, and have been hinted as a sign of more to come from Joya.
Antaño Gran Reserva has been launched in three sizes: Belicoso (6″ x 54, $10.75), Robusto Grande (5½” x 52, $9.50), and Gran Cónsul (4¾” x 60, $10.00). These sizes are identical to the original three vitolas from the Antaño 1970 release in 2001. The blending makeup is virtually the same as well, where the two-to-three-year-aged tobaccos from the Antaño 1970 have been swapped for more select, five-to-six-year-aged leaves throughout the entire Antaño Gran Reserva blend. The resulting combination is said to bring down the strength from the original cigar (leaves mellow with age), catering towards complexity and offering a more luxurious smoking experience.
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Packaging is heavily borrowed from Antaño 1970, using similarly shaped boxes of twenty cigars and trading the original’s brown paint for an upgraded gold appearance. The bands are virtually identical as well, with slight changes such as larger text for “Antaño,” added gold texture, the removal of “1970” on the left and right sides, and a few other minor tweaks to some of the ornate designs. The most obvious change is the addition of a sub-band, which carries over the same gold/red/black appearance and reads “GRAN RESERVA.” It’s a safe design but feels very familiar and logical.
The cigar itself has a dark chocolate appearance and light oils across the surface. The wrapper has slight marbling of color variations, with undertones of dark reds and purples. The wrapper’s veins are fairly small, giving a flush, slightly fuzzy feel; and the seams varied from sample to sample, often being slightly more loose than desired. This, the Robusto Grande, is the only box-pressed size in the lineup, having a standard shape with slightly rounded corners. The bunch appears dense, giving a sturdy feel in the hand. It’s an overall nice appearance—predictable and safe, as it should be.
On the nose there are notes of cedar and leather on the wrapper. The foot is more aromatic, showing corn chips, manure, and prune fruit. The pre-light draw is on the firm side, offering hints of manure, animal hide, barnyard hay, and black pepper. And with the raw tobacco pressed against the tongue, there is a pleasant zest of savory and salty meats.
The cigar takes noticeably longer to light than average, which could be a sign of heavy tobaccos (such as ligero), a dense bunching process (most likely, in this case), or wet tobaccos. Once lit, the flavors are robust and heavy, with a medium spice in the retrohale and cinnamon and molasses on the palate. Black pepper is counterbalanced by a dark and sweet concoction of brown sugar, stone fruit, cinnamon, and molasses. There is also a touch of the manure note found in the pre-light, as well as a creamy custard sweetness developing on the finish.
As indicated by the bunch and pre-light draw, Antaño Gran Reserva showed a draw on the firm side, producing light to medium smoke output on most samples. Because of this, double puffs are typically needed to draw enough smoke and flavor. The ash grows in solid chunks, roughly two inches in length. And, while the burn line remains straight, one or two re-lights seem to be required throughout the smoking experience.
Passing through the first third, the overall experience ranks as medium-plus in flavor, medium in strength, and medium-plus in body. Flavors are robust, savory, and salty, with notes of charred meat and sweet meat drippings. Into the mid-section of the cigar, flavor developments come with notes of anise in the retrohale (on the finish) and black peppercorns on the palate. Some samples seemed to open up the draw around this portion, providing more smoke and only needing single puffs.
Antaño Gran Reserva has a heavy, dense, soupy smoking texture, showing a mixture of red peppers, chili powder, raw tobacco, and a touch of remaining cinnamon. This is a satisfying profile that carries well into the cigar’s nub—with enough pleasing flavors and a lack of harshness that allows the cigar to be enjoyed much longer than average.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
Easy answer—yes. Antaño Gran Reserva doesn’t pull any punches and it doesn’t try to be something it’s not. The cigar smokes as advertised, being familiar to the classic Antaño 1970 that most smokers know and love, only dialing down the fiery kick and cranking up the underlying complexities. Joya pulls this off without compromising on the inherent profile of sheer Nicaragua that has made the brand a household name. Given the choice between this and the original 1970 cigar, I’d choose Antaño Gran Reserva just about every time. The difference in price is about $2, and I feel that this cigar offers at least that much in added depth to the smoking profile. This is still a nighttime smoke, in my opinion, just one that gives you more to chew on.
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: barleywine, cognac, zinfandel, dark-roast coffee
- Purchase Recommendation: box-split
Images without Cigar Dojo watermark were provided by Joya de Nicaragua
- Deep, robust profile
- Solid ash and straight burn
- Great balance of body and complexity
- Draw on the firm side
- Double puffer