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Cigars: “Jewel of Nicaragua” – First Brand Manufactured in the Country

While tobacco farming in Nicaragua begun in 1964, the first brand manufactured in the country was Joya de Nicaragua — a company launched in 1968.

The Spanish word joya is a false friend with the English word “joy.” The actual meaning of the word is “jewel” — thus the brand name “Joya de Nicaragua” correctly translates as “Jewel of Nicaragua.”

During the Reagan administration’s embargo of Nicaraguan goods, production of Joya de Nicaragua was moved across the border to Honduras, where production was handled in the facilities of Nestor Plasencia. There was additionally difficulty with the trademark, which had been sold prior to the downfall of the Somoza regime. The company was in disarray and was sold via a public auction.


In 1994, Joya de Nicaragua was purchased by Dr. Alejandro Ernesto Martínez Cuenca (born 1947 in Managua). As a young man Martínez Cuenca studied English language in England before attending McGill University, from which he obtained a Bachelor’s degree, the University of South Carolina, from which he obtained a Masters degree, and Vanderbilt University, where he earned a PhD in Economics.

During the Sandinista Revolution, Martínez Cuenca, a member of the Sandinista Party, served as Minister of Foreign Trade for the Sandinista government.

Having purchased the company in the aftermath of the revolution, Martínez Cuenca set about reviving the brand, which had fallen in quality and esteem. As one observer put it, the deterioration of Joya de Nicaragua had been the unfortunate result of a “failed social experiment in which company operations were managed by factory workers.” Ol d rollers and blenders were rehired and the company released what would become its signature cigar, the Joya de Nicaragua Antaño 1970, a spicy stick that recaptured the flavor of the brand’s storied past.

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Joya de Nicaragua was buoyed by the cigar boom of the 1990s in the United States, a period in which demand for handrolled cigars far outpaced available supply. Solid sales enabled the struggling company to bank reserve funds and to survive the downturn which followed.

Funds accumulated during the cigar boom enabled Martínez Cuenca to repurchase the Joya de Nicaragua trademark for the American market from tobacco giant Altadis, which had obtained it in one of its many acquisitions. Joya de Nicaragua is known for making Nicaraguan puros — cigars which make use of binders, fillers, and wrappers from that country only. The brand is distributed in the United States by Drew Estate, a country which in 2009 accounted for approximately 45% of the company’s global sales.

Joya de Nicaragua Brands

Antano 1970
Antaño, in Spanish, literally means “yesteryear”, a word that perfectly expresses the soul of Joya de Nicaragua Antaño 1970. It was crafted as a tribute to the power and essence of the “Puro” that helped make our legendary brand, the most sought after cigar in the United States during the 1970’s, after the Cuban embargo was established.

Antano Dark Corojo
Antaño Dark Corojo is the embodiment of the Nicaraguan “power” cigar. The dark, oily seal brown wrapper serves as foreshadow for the extra full-bodied flavors of its complex, pungent blend of mature, locally cultivated leafs.

Cabinetta Serie combines the best flavors of two different wrappers in one cigar. It’s expressly blended with mellower, medium bodied Nicaraguan fillers that deliver a smoother, more refined smoking experience.

Departing from Joya’s tradition of crafting mainly Nicaraguan leaf “Puros”, C y B has been intricately blended to be a smoke comprised of the finest tobaccos from four independent countries of origin. C y B is the first joint cigar creation of Joya de Nicaragua Factory with the collaboration of famed cigar expert José Blanco.

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