Around the Globe in 6 Weeks - Part 2: Asia
As vast as the continent of Asia is, the majority of its landscape is outside of the earth's tropical zone. Cigar tobacco production is pretty limited to Indonesia, another one of the world's best regions for cigars, and the Philippine islands.
Sumatra and Java, the tropical islands of Indonesia in the Indian Ocean, have a longstanding tradition of growing cigar tobacco, dating back to the 1700s. Sumatra is the largest of the Indonesian islands and is the most western geographically. Java, separated from Sumatra by a narrow 15-mile wide strait, is the most populated island in the world, and is Indonesia's 5th largest island. The seed varietal grown on these islands is distinctly characteristic and is typically referred to as simply Samatran - the rich volcanic soil produces tobacco that is richly dark brown in color. Samatra has an excellent reputation for wrapper leaves, which are full of aroma and flavor; although not very complex, flavorful nonetheless. These wrapper leaves also emphasize the flavor of the cigar filler.
The majority of cigars are cultivated from Besuki TBN (an abbreviation for tabaco bawah naungan, translated as "tobacco under sheet," or shade-grown tobacco) - utilizing muslin netting for shade as opposed to cheesecloth. Sumatran tobacco is also grown extensively in Mexico (producing Mexican-Sumatra leaves) and Ecuador (producing Ecuadorian-Sumatra leaves) - both with awesome flavors. Recently, special hybrids of Java and Connecticut tobacco has been grown with special attention to fermentation in efforts to produce very rich flavors. Sumatra does not produce enough quality wrapper leaves for premium cigars, and much of it is used for machine-made cigars. However, Java is the most significant island for premium cigar manufacturers due to ready availability of the tobacco.
The following are some well-known Sumatran-wrapped premium cigars on the market:
Carlos Torano Loyal (Ecuadorian-Sumatra)
Cohiba XV (Ecuadorian-Sumatra)
Cuesta Rey Centro Fino
Hoyo de Monterrey (Ecuadorian-Sumatra)
Hoyo de Monterrey Reposado en Cedros (Ecuadorian-Sumatra)
Isla del Sol
Kristoff Sumatra (Ecuadorian-Sumatra)
La Flor Dominicana Ligero (Ecuadorian-Sumatra)
La Gloria Cubana Natural (Ecuadorian-Sumatra)
La Gloria Cubana Serie N Natural (Ecuadorian-Sumatra)
Rocky Patel Decade (Ecuadorian-Sumatra)
Rocky Patel Java (Java-Connecticut)
Rocky Patel Renaissance (Ecuadorian-Sumatra)
Rocky Patel Sun Grown (Ecuadorian-Sumatra)
Rocky Patel Vintage 1992 (Ecuadorian-Sumatra)
Romeo y Julieta 1875
Romeo y Julieta 1875 Aniversario
The Philippines, an archipelago (cluster of islands) located in southeastern Asia just east of Vietnam, are mountainous and covered by rain forest. They are not recognized for their premium cigar tobacco production; however, they grow mild, but rich, tobacco primarily used for filler for small and machine-made cigars.
Next week, we will review one of my personal favorite regions of the world - The Caribbean. Cuba (the birthplace of premium cigar tobacco) and the Dominican Republic (with their family of tobaccos varietals) comprise of the most exquisite tobacco growing regions of the world!