Until recent years, it has been the common convention—perhaps written in stone and delivered as a sort of “cigar bible” to the first consumers of hand-rolled tobacco—that all respectable manufacturers be direct descendants of the “promised land of black tobacco,” preferably having said-manufacturer’s patriarch born in (and escape from) this “island south of Miami.”
While this is no longer the case, with the fan-favorite Drew Estate leading the charge against this age-old tradition, the Plasencia family has certainly checked all the necessary boxes. In their case, it is the revered Nestor Plasencia, Sr. that fills the role of patriarch and Cuban émigré, leaving the Plasencia’s four-generation heritage (now in its fifth generation) of Cuban tobacco agronomy for new opportunities in Central America.
Since departing Cuba, the family has become well-known for their operations in Central America; including farms throughout Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama; as well as cigar factories in Honduras and Nicaragua. This has led to the Plasencia’s domination of Central American cigars—regarded as the top grower, or often named one of the two largest producers of Nicaraguan leaf (the other being AGANORSA).
But the Plasencias have been content remaining a tobacco juggernaut behind the scenes—with most cigar hobbyists being more familiar with the products the Plasencias produce for other brands, such as Rocky Patel, Crux Cigars, Quesada Cigars (for their Nicaraguan blends), Global Premium Cigars (1502 Cigars), and Alec Bradley, among others. This is set to change with the introduction of Plasencia 1865—the family’s most recent attempt to establish their esteemed name as a cigar brand. Plasencia 1865 launched in October, 2016, setting their sites straight for the top; debuting the ultra-premium Alma Fuerte as their first of five blends in a collection known as the Alma Series.
Plasencia Alma Fuerte Nestor IV Breakdown
- Wrapper: Nicaraguan Shade-Grown (Jalapa)
- Binder: Nicaraguan
- Filler: Nicaraguan
- Factory: Plasencia Cigars, S.A. (Nicaragua)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 6¼” × 54 “Nestor IV” (Toro Grande)
- Price: $20.00 (SRP)
The new Plasencia 1865 is owned by Nestor Plasencia, Sr. and Jr. and not only acts as the new face of the family’s self-branded cigars, but a means for the family to distribute their own cigars as well, with the business now operating out of Miami.
Plasencia 1865 enters the market with six blends: five are categorized under the ultra-premium “Alma Series,” and the final being the Plasencia Cosecha 144. The Alma Series is led by Alma
Fuerte (translating to “Strong Soul”), which is indeed the strongest cigar in the series. The remaining blends are: Alma del Campo (“Soul of the Countryside”), Alma del Rio (“Soul of the River”), Alma del Fuego (“Soul of the Fire”) and Alma del Cielo (“Soul of the Heavens”). Alma Fuerte is clearly the headliner though, offering the boldest appearance, strongest smoking experience, and priced at the top of the line—$20 to $22, compared to the $15 to $19 of the other four.
For the Alma Fuerte, a team of five blenders, including Plasencia, Sr. and Jr., worked to create the cigar from 100% Nicaraguan tobaccos. The blend focuses around the family’s Criollo ’98 seed, using tobaccos from each of the major growing regions of Nicaragua (Condega, Estelí, Jalapa, and Ometepe). In addition, the Plasencias are using some of their rarest and most premium-grade leaves from their vast tobacco inventories.
Alma Fuerte debuts in three, large and/or unique vitolas. The first is Nestor IV (named for Nestor, Sr.), showcasing the most traditional size of the bunch (6¼” × 54 toro grande); the second is Generacion V (representing Nestor, Jr.), offering a 7″ x 58 box-pressed salomon; and the final vitola is Sixto II (named for Nestor, Sr.’s father), using a uniquely-shaped, six-sided, hexagon-press 6″ x 60 gordo.
The cigars have caught a fair amount of attention from connoisseurs since their launch; which may be due, in part, to the high price tag and extravagant packaging used. Alma Fuerte cigars come ten to a box, with a traditional dress-box resting inside a thick, black, wooden display box. This outer shell uses a bottom piece that rests inside the top section that, when separated, works as a fully-functioning ashtray, capable of accommodating four cigars.
Inside the ashtray outer casing is a more traditional-style dress box, housing ten Alma Fuerte cigars. The boxes are matte black with intricately-woven, gloss-black highlights on the lid and gold ink accents on the interior; as well as a quote from Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío that reads:
Dichoso el árbol, que es apenas sensitivo, y más la piedra dura porque esa ya no siente, pues no hay dolor más grande que el dolor de ser vivo, ni mayor pesadumbre que la vida consciente.
The quote is from Darío’s poem “Lo Fatal” (The Fatal), and translates roughly to mean:
Blessed is the tree, which is barely sensitive,
and the stone is harder because it no longer feels,
for there is no pain greater than the pain of being alive,
nor greater sorrow than conscious life.
The cigars are presented on a single layer of ten, fitting rather loosely in the box (the cigars can be felt shifting back and forth before opening the box). Most striking is the banding, with the Plasencia’s new logo front and center. The look is bold and modern, but also feels reminiscent of Mayan hieroglyphs. The bands are well-made, with thick paper and textures, as well as vibrant, heavy inks. This is dispersed between a large primary band, a gold foot band, and the interesting use of a meta-band (like you’d normally find with a smaller sub-band, only placed above the primary band). In total, it’s a stunning design—from box to band—that should be expected from a cigar in this price range.
The tobacco itself looks great as well. The cigar is triple capped, has flat and nearly invisible seams, and a muted sheen of oil when held to the light. The shade is around Colorado Maduro, having a subtle maroon hue to it—most would classify it as simply maduro, but I could see this going either way (maduro/natural), depending on the color sorting of each box (but that’s a topic that needs its own article, in my opinion). The construction feels good and springy with a soft squeeze, with the pack being around medium-firm. The toro grande size feels pretty substantial in the hand, and I’m guessing the large sizes used throughout the line were needed to help justify the high prices.
On the nose, there are lots of mineral aromas with lighter notes of chocolate in the background. The foot is much more aromatic, with cedar and a more pungent mineral quality. The pre-light draw gives a medium-plus resistance and notes of Cherry Coke, cedar, and wet paper.
Alma Fuerte kicks off with big bursts of flavor on each puff. Spice is often the most noticeable component on a cigar’s first few puffs, but it’s only a minor player here. There are lots of creams and light, milky chocolate notes, as well as heavily sweetened coffee. The draw is a little tighter than anticipated from the pre-light experience (great, but slightly tighter than perfect—would be nice to have a little more smoke as well).
Interestingly, Alma Fuerte showcases fairly different flavor notes when using small or large puffs. This is due to the cigar heating up more with larger puffs, though the differences aren’t normally so unique. On shorter, smaller puffs, you’ll get smooth flavors of cream, coffee, light mineral, and a long sweetness on the finish. On larger puffs, flavors shift to pine, peppermint, anise, menthol, and white pepper.
The experience hovers around medium strength and medium-plus body, but it is the full flavor that really stands out. Another pleasantry is the freshly cut tobacco against the tongue—giving a bright and citrusy sensation. The construction is good, having a slightly wavy burn but not requiring touchups of any kind. This produces a solid ash, with a dusty texture and light gray shade—holding in two to three-inch chunks.
Throughout the cigar’s midsection, any lingering nuances of spice have disappeared, leaving a retrohale that can be fully exhaled without a touch of nostril-tingling zest. It is smooth as butter, allowing for long, slow, and creamy exhales through the nostrils. Flavors are centered around mineral qualities, reminiscent of rain, the smell of a wet basement, and other musty nuances.
Nearing the band, a slight spice returns, giving a zesty, white pepper that is a welcomed change of pace. The spice balances creamy notes of Nutella, hot cocoa powder, and anise. These flavors manage to stray from the off-putting tendencies of dark, charred, and tarry notes that far too many cigars fall prey to in their final puffs—generally around the band. The profile is uncharacteristic as well, with full flavor, medium-plus strength, and full body. It’s a smoking experience that can be nubbed as far as you’re willing to take it.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
Without question—it is a fantastic smoking experience.
That being said, it also doesn’t hurt that I was able to procure the cigars at a duty-free shop in a Nicaraguan airport—giving a shockingly large discount of 50%! This has me wondering about the cigar’s final MSRP for the U.S. Sure, we all understand how duty-free shops operate, but I don’t think 50% off a $200 item of this caliber is something you’ll find too often (especially considering it has only just been introduced to the public). The extravagant packaging would appear to be the culprit, even as the Plasencias insist otherwise, telling Cigar Aficionado in October, 2016:
It’s not the box, it’s the aged tobacco. I know it’s bold to come out with a cigar in this price range, but I think we need to make a bold statement. Our family has been growing tobacco for over 100 years. And we have excellent tobacco in our inventories that we have been selecting and putting aside for a long time.
Nestor Plasencia, Jr.
There’s just no getting around it, you can’t deliver packaging of this quality without it significantly affecting the cost. However, if I’m buying Alma Fuerte at MSRP, I still think it’s good enough for the occasional smoke—maybe five times per year. Therefore, if you have the money, you certainly won’t regret the box purchase, as the included cigar ashtray will be a nice addition to any enthusiast’s lounge area.
Multiple cigars were smoked for this review, both in the Nestor IV size and the uniquely-shaped Sixto II. We originally intended to review the Sixto II due to the hex-press shape, but found the smoking experience much better on the Nestor IV. Not only did the toro deliver a much bigger flavor blast, but a drastically better burn (multiple touchups and re-lights on the Sixto II) and construction—as some of the Sixto cigar’s wrappers split after lighting. The Sixto’s flavors are much softer and lack the in-your-face punch that caught our attention on the toro. If I were to score the Sixto II, it’d most likely end up around a 90 or 91.
- Smoke Time: 2 hours, 40 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: barrel-aged stout, Mexican Coca-Cola, espresso, bourbon
- Purchase Recommendation: up to the full box, depending on the dollar amount you can justify