Following my cigar trips to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Ecuador this time I was going to Peru’. Amazon adventure was the catchphrase, and I had no idea what to expect there. A side trip to Ecuador was planned for the first few weeks. We had placed a large order with a small factory in Guayaquil in 2020. Eduardo, the owner, had told me that he had prepared the new blends. But when I tried to contact him, his wife tearfully told me Eduardo had died from COVID-19 a few days previously.
If you want to discover cigars from Peru’, you have to travel to the Amazon basin. This is where the country’s biggest factories are located. I continued on my way towards Iquitos with the first sample cigars from the factory. The journey promised pure adventure. Inquietos can only be reached via plane or boat. The chaotic city is in the middle of the rainforest and is surrounded by water. Travelling there, you can not only discover the largest river in the world and find primaeval tobacco from the Amazon, but perhaps even take part in an Ayahuasca ceremony.
These things were running through my head as I was sitting in the car on the way to Yurimaguas. Chugging along the Amazon sitting in a rocking chair on the deck of an old passenger steamer for three days. This is how I had imagined the boat trip. Instead, I found myself crammed into a long tin can. “Rapidos” is what they call these long speedboats here. There was only one exit and it was barricaded with cardboard boxes. It made the boat look like a prison. If the ship sank, there would be no escape.
As a precaution, the Peruviuans put on life jackets. I preferred to fight my way out and spend half the night at the bow of the narrow speedboat. The captain tolerated this. A young crewman shone a powerful flashlight down the Rio Huallaga.
When a tree trunk headed towards the boat, the brakes were quickly applied, and the impact was minimised. Otherwise, it was all about discovering sand banks in the ever-growing river.
These constantly change their course and have been on a downward spiral since the end of the rubber boom.
Tarapoto was expected to produce the best cigars in Peru over the next few months. I braced myself for a tough time. Covid-19, rising crime and the political chaos were constant daily media companions in the country. Fortunately, this affected us relatively little in terms of the cigar business.
That is why we were able to work undisturbed on tobacco blends in Tarapoto for almost half a year and keep trying new cigars. From time to time, life seemed quite grotesque. While you had to wear a mask on the street, in December, you could go to a nightclub without one. Meanwhile, I discovered Peru’s first top cigar. This outstanding stick was an old long filler with tobaccos from the year 2007. Unfortunately, what remained of this old production was only a stock of 100 boxes. So we had to secure this series for the European Market.
There were leftover stocks of even older cigars. I tried these again and again over some months. Several revealed a sensational taste at times. But apparently the extremely long storage time had made each cigar unique. The same formats never tasted identical. Since the formats were all small and very mild, I remained undecided. More and more, I realised how time-consuming the development for a new cigar can be.
Months can go by until you come across a good cigar. In the first weeks after production, the blend tasted different every day. Sometimes, the same cigar tasted good, sometimes outstanding, and sometimes boring. How can you know if it is a good blend that will endure in Europe?
In retrospect, one of the nicest developments was the Texas Maduro. This cigar was always good. The creation of the “FAT LADY” was crazy. This dragged on for months, and when the production was finished, in the factory they asked me, did you actually want the thick cigar with a light or dark wrapper?
Along the way, we were able to develop a bundle series that ultimately tastes different in Europe that it did in Peru. That being said, it took a lot more nerves to create cigar rings. We almost gave up with the “FAT LADY”.