To us, it’s everything! When visiting Granada one’s time is not complete without paying a visit to the majestic Volcano Mombacho.
Last active in 1570, Mombacho first erupted roughly 20,000 years ago, creating the hundreds of islets that dot the surrounding waters below its peak. It is this event that inspired the volcano’s name, which means “Mother of our land” in the local indigenous tongue.
Mombacho has almost doubled in size every year since, a wave of demand among aficionados for Nicaraguan blends.
Mombacho is on pace to sell 200,000 cigars in 2014 and sales should reach about 400,000 in 2015, said Heaps, the company’s chair. (Raty serves as president.)
While backpacking through Central America in 2005, Cameron Heaps, co-owner of Steam Whistle Brewing, discovered a family cigar factory next door to the school where he was taking Spanish lessons.
He and backpacking partner Markus Raty made regular visits to the factory in Granada, Nicaragua, during their stay and the owner regaled them with stories about the country’s history, culture and tobacco.
“We just fell in love with the country and the spirit of the people,” said Heaps. “We thought, ‘Man, we have to share Nicaragua with the world.’ ”
In 2006, the family agreed to let Heaps and Raty use its recipe. They opened their own factory in 2010 in Granada and Mombacho Cigars was born. Its name was taken from a prominent volcano overlooking the 500-year-old colonial city.
Mombacho relocated to a new factory in one of Granada’s grand historical mansions in September of 2014.
The mansion was once the home of Mario Favilli, an Italian architect who built many notable structures throughout Granada in the early 20th Century, combining colonial and art deco styles. Because of the city’s heat and humidity, workers hand roll cigars in climate-controlled chambers surrounding the building’s fountain courtyard.
“For us, being in Granada was really important because it was our first home in Nicaragua and it was a big part of why we fell in love with the country,” said Heaps.
While many brands use Nicaraguan tobacco, it is often blended with foreign leaves. Mombacho sells a puro, a cigar that’s 100-per-cent Nicaraguan.
“If you hear about the excitement around Nicaragua and its tobacco . . . then a Mombacho is a natural product for you to try,” said Heaps.
Nicaragua is a new heavyweight in the cigar industry, with its first factories opening in the 1990s. Before then, tobacco was shipped abroad for processing.
In the last decade, the country has overtaken Honduras and Cuba to become the world’s second largest cigar producer.
Nicaragua is on track to export 125 million handmade cigars in 2016, about double what Nicaragua exported in 2005, said Mombacho master blender Claudio Sgroi.