The original Joya de Nicaragua Antaño 1970 is something of an enigma. It is branded as “Antaño,” meaning “yesteryear,” with the “1970” denoting the brand’s halcyon days—when Joya was the official cigar of choice in the White House. And yet, the 1970 was created to address a growing demand during the great cigar boom of the ’90s—an appreciation for stronger cigars. In fact, when it made its debut in 2001, it won an award for “strongest cigar.” This tends to read a bit contradictory, in my opinion, being simultaneously a nod to the past, while seemingly not representative of such cigars. Regardless, cigar enthusiasts know and love the blend today as one of the premier powerhouse Nicaraguan puro cigars.
And then there’s the Gran Reserva line, originally developed in 2005 as a limited edition, using some of the richest and oiliest wrapper leaves in Joya’s arsenal, accompanied by extra-aged (up to five years) fillers. Billed as a refined and matured version of the big boy 1970, this was re-released in 2017 as a regular production brand (likely due to the FDA regulations regarding new blends, as this was grandfathered in, having been released before 2007). This brings us to the Presidente. The story goes, way back in 2005, when the cigar was first being developed (prior to it’s limited release), the blending team gave “Boss Man” Dr. Alejandro Martínez Cuenca a short-ish, fat-ish, box-pressed Churchill cigar, which he never forgot and subsequently dubbed his personal favorite.
This short-ish, fat-ish, box-pressed Churchill shares the same blend as the other sizes in the line—Belicoso (6″ x 54, $10.75), Robusto Grande (5½” x 52, $9.50), and Gran Cónsul (4¾” x 60, $10.00)—only the Presidente is being offered exclusively to TAA-authorized retailers across the country. For 2018, 1,000 boxes of 20 cigars (20,000 cigars) have been made available. This special release coincides with Joya de Nicaragua’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2018.
Antaño Gran Reserva Presidente Breakdown
- Wrapper: Nicaraguan Corojo Oscuro
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua (Jalapa, Condega, Estelí)
- Factory: Fábrica de Tabacos Joya de Nicaragua, S.A. (Nicaragua)
- Production: Limited (1,000 boxes of 20 cigars for 2018)
- Vitola: 6¾” x 50 (Presidente – box-pressed)
- Price: $12.50 (MSRP)
I really like the look of this cigar. The wrapper is satin smooth, with minimal veins and super flat seams, visible only due to color variance in the Colorado red/brown wrapper. There isn’t a spot of variation in the bunch, it’s uniformly dense without seeming hard or brittle. The cap, on more than one sample, is wrinkled, due to the extreme box press, causing construction issues on one of the smoking samples; though this one has no issues. The cigar seems, somehow, both longer and thinner than it really is… some optical illusion brought about from the extreme box press, perhaps. The red and gold band is fine, not overly ornate, but with nice embossing on the main band. It’s pleasant to see a secondary band that actually matches the main band, which this one does. Although, the gold isn’t embossed on the secondary band, so it appears glossier, and the paper is thinner, so it feels a little different as well.
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The cigar features a rich and bready-sweet cold draw, and there’s a hint of a vegetal smell to the cigar that reminds me of olive oil cake. The foot smells like tobacco-caramel sweet goodness. Due to a super flat press, it’s a little awkward to light in my preferred method, that being to slowly rotate the cigar over a soft flame. I like to go slow, take my time, enjoy the scents as the cigar begins to warm up, like cigar foreplay. The experience is a little weird, as instead of rotating the cigar I’m flipping it over, again and again, making the act more mechanical than sensual. Ok, that’s weird. Sorry. Moving on!
Right away this cigar has a tingle of Dr. Pepper syrup, fresh fennel, and rich, sweet tobacco, with a perfectly rounded, accessible-yet-formidable cayenne pepper that is simply wonderful. The flavors are so concentrated and liqueur-like, expanding across the palate. This is raisin cinnamon swirl bread. This is a toasty oatmeal butterscotch cookie. Pepper mellows rather quickly, which brings the fennel, nutmeg, and cinnamon to the top of the spice category. The finish is big and creamy. The bread note becomes like rugelach (kind of like a sour-cream croissant) filled with nuts, raisins, and cinnamon. Then I get walloped with a cherry cola syrup flavor, with plenty of tingle on the retrohale. Smoking this fairly slow, I get to the end of the first third in 40 minutes. I’m really loving the Presidente thus far. It’s medium strength and body, and medium-plus in flavor.
The second third is still giving an ever-present licorice flavor (which started as fennel, but has become anise), nuts, flakey pastry dough and honey sweetness (à la baklava), some orange zest, and a new fatty, pepper-rubbed bacon savory note that puts the whole profile right over the top. Oh, and let’s not forget that lip-smacking cherry cola syrup on the finish. Most of this stays pretty consistent throughout the second third, but sadly, the meaty flavor diminishes.
Now for some notes on the construction. A lot of box-pressed cigars tend to expand and slightly round out at the ember, but not this one—it stays pretty rectangular. Which, sadly, is not great for keeping an even burn. It’s kind of wavy and inconsistent throughout (consistently inconsistent?). Extra puffing is required to keep it going, and a couple of touch-ups as well. There’s also a crack running around the cigar, hiding under the secondary band. The ash is pretty flaky and has been falling on me pretty much the whole time—I’m officially tired of it.
There is a transition into some deeper, darker flavors of coffee and a charred whiskey barrel oakiness. The burn line is officially out of control, as one entire side of the rectangle has ceased combustion. The sweetness becomes Asian BBQ, with ginger, five-spice powder, plums, and umami. The pepper rejoins with the anise and cinnamon to create a sweet tingling Szechuan peppercorn (a spice you’ll recognize from Chinese cuisine) numbness right across the middle of my tongue, closing out the second third at one hour, 20 minutes smoking time. In this section, the strength notched up to medium-plus, with body and flavor ranging into medium/full.
Starting the final third, I peel off the main band to find another crack underneath. It’s odd, considering that both bands peel off effortlessly. Neither crack became a problem at any time, and the wrapper didn’t otherwise appear to be delicate. I gotta say, this is Nicaraguan tobacco at it’s finest. It’s strong, full flavored, syrupy sweet, yet clean, spicy, and not harsh or sharp. It shows maturity and delicacy, as much as can be expected at this level of body, which is heading into solid “full” territory. Sweetness is molasses, there’s more ginger, and the pepper has ceased its in-and-out trysts to stay put. I’m sad to report that a tarry bitterness started building up in the last inch and a half, and I experienced the dreaded “nico-tar” blob, but I clipped another quarter inch off the foot and was able to continue enjoying this wonderful cigar. In the final moments, there is a nasal sting, like eating fresh wasabi. I lay the cigar down to rest after two hours, finishing at medium-plus strength, medium-full flavor, and just a tic below full body.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
Absolutely. While I thought it would be a little too long for me, it didn’t seem that way when smoking, as it was engaging and delicious throughout, though there was a decline in the final third. I typically enjoy box-pressed cigars, but this one did have some issues with proper combustion in all the samples I smoked. One in particular seemed to have a plug, or twist, or something wrong in the bunch which caused the whole thing to be pretty lackluster. But this cigar just worked, and shows how special Nicaraguan tobacco can be with some age on it. This is, by far, the cigar I’ve enjoyed the most from Joya de Nicaragua.
- Flavor: Medium/Full
- Strength: Medium-Plus
- Body: Full
- Cola syrup
- Baking spices
- Smoke Time: 2 hours
- Pairing Recommendation: Lagavulin (neat), Vieux Carré cocktail, Fentimans Cherrytree Cola
- Purchase Recommendation: Box split
- Flavor for days
- Strongly elegant
- One of the best encapsulations of Nicaraguan tobacco available (in my opinion)
- Decline in final third with tar buildup
- Flakey ash
- Burn issues