Cinco de Mayo, an annual celebration of the Mexican army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, is held on May 5 every year. In modern times, it’s a holiday that for many has been watered down to gorging on Mexican cuisines and spirits but for cigar smokers, it can be a day where Mexican culture is celebrated and in particular, a day where cigar enthusiasts can turn their attention to San Andres wrappers.
San Andres wrappers are becoming more popular but do you actually know the history behind this popular tobacco leaf that wraps some of your favorite cigars? Picture it–the year is 1880 and Alberto Turrent has just left his native land of Cuba with his sights set on Mexico’s San Andrés Valley, located in Veracruz. With him, Turrent has brought a handful of Cuban tobacco seeds that he fatefully plants, creating a new wrapper that future cigar makers would embrace and use to create some of the industry’s most highly-rated cigars ever rolled. Just as a matter of trivia, wild tobacco has grown in the San Andrés well before the arrival of Turrent. Archaeologists believe some stone monuments in the area depict ancient Mayans smoking long tubes of tobacco, meaning there’s an established history of tobacco being part of the region and culture of San Andrés.
Anyone who knows anything about tobacco knows how important the soil is to the overall complexity of the tobacco that’s grown in it so you should know that the soil in the San Andrés Valley is fertile and dense and the overall weather in this area is humid, conditions that help the tobacco grown here take on a very distinct–and unique–flavor profile. Mexican San Andrés tobacco is naturally sweet and only blends well with certain filler and binder tobaccos, making it a bit of a challenge for blenders to work with. This type of tobacco has an earthy taste to it with notes of coffee and chocolate and a bit of spice. It’s a type of tobacco that goes better with bolder, stronger blends and can grow in different shades, which can affect how sweet or spicy it is on the plate.
Today, the Turrent family continues to grow tobacco on 2,000 acres of farmland in the San Andrés Valley. For those wanting to celebrate this great tobacco leaf, here are some cigars with Mexican San Andrés for you to light up:
Kristoff San Andrés – Kristoff Cigars
As the name of the cigar implies, the Kristoff San Andrés is another cigar wrapped in a San Andrés leaf. This is a rich, medium to full-bodied cigar with the expected spice of a Mexican San Andrés smoke but with a sweet, smooth finish. This cigar features an Ecuadorian Habano Seed binder, triple Nicaraguan Habano Seed filler and is available in three sizes: 6 x 60, Robusto (5 1/2 x 54), and Churchill (7 x 50).
La Historia – E.P. Carrillo
Ernesto Perez-Carrillo is a name every cigar smoker should know as he’s the cigar maker behind one of Cigar Aficionado’s 2019 No. 1 cigar of the year, Encore, but there’s another gem in the E.P. Carrillo portfolio that features a San Andrés wrapper–La History. This cigar was made to honor the Perez-Carrillo family. In addition to a Mexican San Andrés wrapper, the cigar features an Ecuadorian Sumatra binder and Dominican and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos. La Historia has subtle notes of espresso, pepper, dark chocolate and roasted nuts with a hint of sweetness thanks to the wrapper.
La Volcada – La Flor Dominicana
This is another top rated cigar from a company that’s claimed the top position on several end-of-year lists. La Flor Dominicana’s La Volcada is a full-bodied Dominican cigar that also uses a Mexican San Andrés to give it a spicy flavor profile along with some earthy notes and slight molasses-like sweetness. This cigar was released back in 2017 and features an Ecuadorian Corojo binder and filler from the Dominican Republic.
Oliva Serie V Melania Maduro – Oliva Cigar Co.
After finding success with the release of the Oliva Serie V Melanio, Oliva Cigar Co. struck gold again with the Oliva Serie V Melania Maduro. The Oliva family decided to shake things up by using a Mexican San Andrés wrapper. This cigar has notes of black pepper, cocoa, espresso beans and chestnuts and makes for a medium to full-bodied smoke.
Tatuaje Mexican Experiment II – Tatuaje Cigars
Tatuaje isn’t typically a brand you’ll find using Mexican-grown tobacco in but this is an exception and one you’ll definitely want to find and light up. This is a limited release that’s generated a lot of buzz. It features a Mexican San Andrés wrapper and Nicaraguan binder and filler tobaccos. Expect earth and chocolate notes along with pepper, coffee and cedar on the palate to create a rich and complex smoke.