“Jewel of Nicaragua” (not “joy”) is Nicaragua’s oldest cigar company, and it’s been through some hard times. But all along the way, whether they were one of the...
“Jewel of Nicaragua” (not “joy”) is Nicaragua’s oldest cigar company, and it’s been through some hard times. But all along the way, whether they were one of the most popular brands in America or teetering on the brink of shutting their doors, the team has continued to roll up potent Nicaraguan puros and give smokers a premium product to enjoy. Some highlights include the Joya Black and Antaño Gran Reserva, both of which hit Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25 lists. If you’re not into strong cigars, the Joya Red keeps the flavor at maximum, but dials back the strength a bit.
The company is charting a new course in the modern era, but if you turn back the clock, you’ll see a small team just getting started cultivating Nicaraguan tobacco in the wake of the Cuban revolution. Castro seized a number of the best cigar companies on the island, and cigar makers left home in search of a place where they could start again in the business. For many, that new home was Nicaragua.
In 1968, Joya was the first cigar company to be founded in Nicaragua, and it had a strong start. In fact, it quickly became popular in the United States due to the Cuban embargo creating a situation where American demand for cigars was largely unmet. It was a huge opportunity, and one that Joya de Nicaragua jumped on. Before long, Joya was one of the best-selling brands, and was even designated as the White House’s official cigar.
The high times wouldn’t last long, unfortunately.
Former Nicaraguan President Anastastio Somoza was a principal shareholder in Joya de Nicaragua, but tobacco smoke would soon give way to gunpowder smoke during the Sandinista revolution. Suspected guerillas were killed right on factory property by the regime. To strike back at President Somoza and his brutal crackdowns, the Joya factory was raided and burned to the ground.
That could have been the end of the story right there, but in the cigar industry, in countries across Latin America, stories of perseverance through times of war are common. Joya de Nicaragua was rebuilt by workers and kept alive. The team was still great at making cigars, but had a hard time selling them to the right markets and keeping the business strong. The brand faltered and faded quite a bit. By the 1990s, it was a shell of its former self, but still refused to disappear.
Alejandro Martinez-Cuenca acquired it in 1994, rehiring many of its old rollers and blenders. He revived some of the company’s most nostalgic blends, and the team created new ones as well. For example, they released the Joya de Nicaragua Antaño 1970, a full-bodied cigar that recaptured the taste of the brand's glory days. Since then, the brand has spawned many lines and rolled its way back into humidors around the world.
If you visit Joya de Nicaragua’s main factory today, you’ll still see some of the bomb and bullet damage preserved to remind everyone of what the company and country has gone through. When you smoke a Joya, you’re getting a real taste of the soil of Nicaragua with all its history included.
Maybe that’s why some of the blends are so dang spicy.
Please browse our selection of Joya de Nicaragua cigars at your leisure.