Cigars from Costa Rica

A Journey to the Home of the "Zechbauer Royales"

A guest at the "Vegas de Santiago" manufactory

Puriscal / Costa Rica – up to 500,000 cigars can be stored in the walk-in humidor of the Vegas de Santiago manufactory, plus an ever-growing number of premium cigars, adorned with the black-red-silver Zechbauer emblem. This – the province of San José in the mountainous region of Costa Rica – is where the "Zechbauer Royales" come into being.

Tobacco has been cultivated on these mountain slopes at an elevation exceeding 1,100 metres for more than 80 years. A special climate, plus fertile volcanic soil, make for an outstanding tobacco crop. This method of growing tobacco was adopted by the Huetar, an indigenous nation for whom Costa Rica was home, in the mid-16th century. They were a people who venerated the tobacco plant in particular.

Up to 500,000 cigars mature in the humidor before being shipped to all corners of the globe. This is also where the premium cigars of the "Zechbauer Royales" line are stored.

The tobacco variety spawning the "Royales" grows in the mountainous region of Costa Rica, at around 1,100 metres, in nutrient-rich volcanic soils and under optimal climatic conditions.

The same rule applies to cigars as to wine: The best things come to those who wait!

Making world-class cigars is contingent on drying and maturing the tobacco leaves properly – there is no rush. "As with fine wine, you have to wait at least three years for the tobacco to get its full aroma and colour," says Olman Leon Guzman, Head of the Vegas de Santiago manufactory.

To ensure the cigar burns down regularly once lit, the artisans of Vegas de Santiago harness a tube technique for the cigar filler. For hand-rolled cigars, the wrapper has the consistency of damp suede.

Then the cigars have to mature in the cedar room for at least another quarter, before being shipped to aficionados worldwide.

About the art of making first-class cigars

The raw tobacco comes exclusively from Cuban seeds grown on the Puriscal plantation. The filler is made from the company's own three-year-old tobacco, while the wrapper leaf comes from selected Esteli leaves in Nicaragua. The veins are stripped off by hand and the tobacco leaves are packed into 50-kilo bales, where they continue maturing until they reach the quality that Senor Guzman requires for his cigars. At this stage, the leaves are also frozen for 48 hours to destroy any tobacco beetles and their eggs.

One of the key steps to producing fine cigars is carefully unfolding the leaves and selecting those with the right colour and quality. At this stage, the moistened wrapper leaf has the quality and consistency of fine suede. Once the wrapper leaf has been cut, the cigar can be carefully hand-rolled. The wrapper leaf at the mouthpiece is glued with a natural vegetable adhesive. Finally, the finished cigars are stored for at least three more months to set.

Learning from the Cuban master cigar roller

Right up to the time of his passing a few years ago, Don Luis Santana Lamas , originally of Cuba, passed on his invaluable cigar making expertise as production manager at Vegas de Santiago. Don Luis was one of the top ten famous Cuban masters and had previously worked with H. Upmann for over 25 years.

Olman Leon Guzman, manufactory head, sums it up: "Our modus operandi isn't copying Cuban cigars. We try instead to break new ground and raise the bar higher for aroma, quality and lightness."
Have you ever tried cigars from Costa Rica?