In our short time in the cigar space, the industry has afforded me many privileges; none more so than being able to smoke premium cigars for a living. So it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to the Nicaraguan Cigar Festival, to which I had the pleasure of being invited.
And what a wonderful festival it was. Called “Sensations of my land”, cigars were handed out like sweets, the food was sumptuous and the parties raucous. Here I am early on in an evening, in a suitable state of inebriation, complete with a guayabera shirt:
However it would have been easy to miss the point of the festival, shrouded in the deep velvet blue smoke permeating the evening sky. Whilst the parties and the dinners were extremely enjoyable, they had a serious element.
Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in Central America. It is also very beautiful and is now the largest producer of cigars in the world. It is easy to see why – I did not smoke a poor quality cigar in the entire evening. The tobacco industry provides direct employment to 75% of the local population. The economic benefit is simply astounding, and with the quality of the product as high as it is, this will continue to grow.
The charity auction raised much needed funds for local charities which shows an incredible commitment to the people of this great country. There was no obligation to do this. However, whilst this is welcome, I cant help but feel that the real way forward is to stand up for a product and a lifestyle we believe in. This will ensure sustained development. (I bid on a Grahams 1985 vintage Port but the bottle finally sold for $700. The buyer told me afterwards he would have gone to $1000, so I didn´t feel too bad).
The tobacco industry comes in for a lot of bad press, but there was a level of generosity that I have not seen before. It is so clear that this industry has a real amazing effect on the lives of many, many ordinary people, not just once a year but every single day – workers are paid fair wages to make something there is a genuine demand for. It is no coincidence that the level of crime has fallen dramatically as the cigar industry has grown.
So once again, enjoy your cigar. Not only because they taste great, burn evenly and have incredible consistency, but also because you are helping those less fortunate to escape circumstance and build better lives.