Mexican San Andrés: The Industry’s “Dirty Little Secret”
Let’s face it. Mexican tobacco hasn’t always been in vogue or super popular. Not even the fact that Mexican tobacco has seeds that predate some of the most popular Cuban seeds does much to really capture people’s imaginations. But get ready, because we’re about to blow your mind—and we’re also going to blow the doors off the industry’s best-kept secret.
It’s called San Andrés tobacco, and it’s controlled almost exclusively by the Turrent family, which just so happens to be the largest grower of cigar tobacco in all of Mexico. And just in case you haven’t looked at Google Earth lately, Mexico is one big country. San Andrés tobacco has also been around for a very long time, dating back six generations to 1880, when Alberto Turrent immigrated to the San Andrés Valley from Cuba and launched the Turret family’s involvement in the tobacco growing industry.
Mexican San Andrés tobacco is grown along the Gulf of Mexico in the southeastern section of the country. This is an area known for cooler climates, high humidity, and soil showered with volcanic ash. The result of this unique combination is a thick tobacco that’s earthy, sweet, and spicy. Adding to the tobacco’s quality is the fact that the heartiness of the leaf allows for a longer fermenting process. This makes the tobacco ideal for a natural Maduro wrapper.
So why was such a wonderful tobacco hiding in the shadows for so long? Well, there are actually two reasons for this.
First: cost. Up until the late 1990s when NAFTA was signed, tariffs made it extremely cost prohibitive to import Mexican tobacco to other cigar-making countries. This effectively made Mexican tobacco highly unaffordable.
Second: stigma. Apparently, inaccurate perceptions led many people to believe that Mexican-grown tobaccos lacked flavor and had a dirty or muddy taste. Mostly, this assessment was based on an association with Mexican Puros of yesteryear. As a result of this, a lot of companies simply didn’t disclose that they were using tobacco farmed in Mexico, and can we really blame them? Thankfully, things would eventually change.
How did San Andrés tobacco finally gain popularity? The answer is pretty simple, actually. It was just old-fashioned hard work on the part of the cigar manufacturers, who consistently put out good quality product one year after another. Eventually, in 2014, Ernesto took the number-two slot in Aficionado’s Top 25 Cigars list with the La Historia. Suddenly, it became a whole lot safer for cigar companies to take Mexican tobacco “public” and start marketing their use of the tobacco.
Next, Nick Melillo stepped up and began helping bridge the gap between small farmers in Mexico and a growing Nicaraguan cigar market. This allowed two things to take place that were critical to the increased popularity of Mexican tobaccos. It allowed for Mexican tobaccos to be brought into Nicaragua to be fermented in a more modern way, and it gave up-and-coming cigar makers access to a new tobacco that seemed to pair well with stronger and spicier Nicaraguan tobaccos.
While there may still be one or two companies that don’t disclose their use of Mexican San Andrés tobacco, many of the top-rated cigars in the world now proudly promote their use of this tobacco.
But don’t take our word for it. The next time you’re in, let us show you a few of our favorites. Or better yet, you can get your hands on one (or all) of the cigars we have listed below, each of which are fine examples of the quality of cigars coming to market using tobaccos grown in Mexico.