Cigar rolling at the Plasencia factory

Reserva Orgánica – The World’s first Organic Cigar

Néstor Andrés Plasencia’s passion for sustainable farming took hold while he was studying agriculture. In 1998, when he began working in his father’s company, he was already planning what would become a labor of love: Reserva Orgánica, the world’s first completely organically grown cigar.

In 2002, his project became reality. “We tried and tried different ways in the beginning and it was a challenge,” Plasencia says. “Tobacco is a very violent plant that grows fast and can be affected by many diseases. So if it’s hard to grow tobacco, it’s even harder to grow organic tobacco. But it’s fascinating. We’re using traditional methods with new knowledge, and some of it we implement in our normal production as well – any way we can be more sustainable. We’ve also started using organic tobacco in other cigars.”

Photo: Simon Lundh

From start to finish, the cigar has absolutely no contact with any chemicals. Earthworm castings or humus, propagated on the company earthworm farms, are used for fertilizing. “We use horse and cow manure, tobacco leaf remains from the deveining, plants and we feed that to the worms. This all works as fertilizer in itself, but when it goes through the worms it makes the nutrients more accessible to the plants.”

After this, everything, from a certain type of fungus to garlic, is used to fight different forms of pests. “You can do a lot before you start spraying,” Plasencia explains. “We use a fungus called trichoderma on the root system to prevent diseases like black shank. In between crops we grow frijoles terciopelo (velvet bean) because it extracts nitrogen from the air. When it blooms you cut it down and put it back in the soil. By rotating crops and using these plants, black shank and blue mold can’t survive, so it’s gone next time you grow tobacco. We use garlic because the bad insects don’t like the smell; an organic insecticide called Neem; and sunflowers, which attract beneficial insects that eat the bad ones. Also, the more organic material you use, the less water you need.”

The result, according to Plasencia himself, is a full-flavored cigar without any trace of chemicals.
“It’s got a clean taste. It’s mild, full-flavored and the aftertaste is very clean. It’s not for all smokers, but if you do your own brand, why not be different? We wanted to make a cigar with meaning. If you like strong cigars, this might not be for you, but we’re actually working on a stronger variant for those who prefer that. We realize there’s a demand for it.”

Photo: Simon Lundh

Now, Plasencia Cigars is taking it to a new level. Since they started manufacturing cigars in 1985, the company’s main focus has been on private labels, producing cigars for others. Plasencia’s own lines, which also include Clásico and Reserva 1898, have been side projects. “ The Reserva Orgánica is nothing we make a lot of money on … but we’re not doing it for money. We need and want to be more sustainable. It’s better for the soil and the environment in general.” As of this year, however, the company’s own brands have become part of the main focus. “The time is right, [with] the way that social media works now. If we do well with our own brands, it benefits the private labels, and vice versa.”

For the Reserva Orgánica that not only means an addition to the line, but an overhaul of its appearance as well. “We’re developing new packaging,” explains Plasencia. “I like the old one but it’s traditional and we want something that stands out, like the cigar. It has to be eye-catching.”

The company is also expanding locally and globally.
 “At the moment, we’re growing organic tobacco in Estelí and Jalapa, but this year we’ll also try growing in Condega. A section of the factory will be set aside just for the Reserva Orgánica. We’ve got a guy in Europe to get the brand out over there, as well as in Asia and the Middle East. We probably have to inform people about what we’re trying to accomplish, but we want to see if there’s support for it.”

The new packaging and maybe even a new cigar could be presented at this year’s InterTabac in Dortmund this fall. Now Plasencia is hoping for others to follow their sustainable example. “I know some companies use earthworms and some use beans, but not all the way, like us. I’d love for others to get into this. Our industry grows together. We’ve been around for five generations, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. But the way I see it, we’ve just got started. This is the future.”

This article was published in the Cigar Journal Autumn Edition 2016. Read more

Since graduating with an engineering degree in surveying in 2005, Simon Lundh has preferred to follow a profession in journalism. He stumbled upon the cigar world while working for a non-governmental organization in Estelí, Nicaragua, and is now mainly making a living writing about cigars, metal music, tattoos, and travel.


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