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Reviews by Joey J.

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A Best Kept Secret

Joey J.
94

Cigar brands come and go. 

Whether it’s due to a lack of quality tobaccos, changes in production requirements, a necessary re-branding, or a blend just being underappreciated, there’s an ebb and flow to the availability of many premium cigars. 

And typically in this tale as old as time, you’ll hear the same marketing refrain – new look, same blend! Or: “the classic you love with a new, contemporary band.” “A phoenix risen from the ashes”, “the prodigal son returns”, etc. Inevitably those cigars will return to the same level of sales they had before, and the “New Coke” vs. “Coca-Cola Classic” cycle will spin on. 

Today, we’ve got something a little different for you. The keen-eyed out there might recognize the Latitude Zero name as one that’s been around these parts before. However, this ain’t no “same blend, new look” story. 

Latitude Zero is all new. New look, new blend, new everything. And it’s good. Scratch that — it’s damn good. 

So what’s the deal? I’m glad you asked. 

Latitude Zero is rolled at NACSA, a little-known factory in Esteli, Nicaragua that has been secretly behind the scenes of some of your favorite cigars for decades. Seriously. You see, NACSA is the manufacturing arm of the Oliva Tobacco Family (not to be confused with Oliva Cigars, a different company that makes the ‘Oliva’ branded items like Serie V or Melanio). And the Oliva Tobacco Family is arguably the most prestigious and important grower of tobacco in the cigar industry today. If you’ve ever had a cigar with Ecuadorian leaf, chances are they grew it. In fact, Oliva Tobacco sells to Drew Estate, Arturo Fuente, Rocky Patel, Nick Perdomo, Don Pepin Garcia, and many more. Long and short: if you’ve tried more than a couple cigars in your day, chances are you’ve enjoyed the fruits of their labor.

Anyway, back to NACSA. Short for “Nicaraguan American Cigars, S.A”, this factory has access to all the premium leaves that Oliva Tobacco grows, and produces cigars for some truly prestigious clientele. Perhaps most famously, they make many of Steve Saka & Dunbarton’s current products, like Mi Querida and the Muestra de Saka Unstolen Valor. In fact, one rumor goes that NACSA was the factory that first figured out the fermentation technique used on Drew Estate’s Liga Privada No. 9 — but that’s neither here nor there. 

Besides the tobacco, NACSA has another secret weapon at their disposal. Raul Disla. Raul is the Production Manager at NACSA, and oversees all 65,000 cigars they roll per day. In addition to his attention to detail and strict quality control, Raul is a master blender in his own right, helping cigar makers who use NACSA pick the perfect tobacco for their products. Keep that name in the back of your head — I guarantee you’re going to hear it more and more in the next few years.

So that’s the pedigree with Latitude Zero. Blended by Raul Disla, at the industry’s best-kept-secret cigar factory, with tobaccos from the most renowned growers in the world. Interested? 

You should be, because this baby delivers in every way imaginable. Before you even get into the cigars themselves, just look at the gorgeous presentation on this brand. Open the simple, yet elegant, box and a detailed, hand drawn world map with beautifully embellished compasses and flourishes greets you. The small touches here are top-notch: the compass on the band is made up of tobacco leaves, and the cloth foot ribbon brings a level of polish to the whole affair. It’s a real looker.

On paper, this blend is not unique. But don’t let that fool you. An Ecuadorian Habano wrapper leaf sits atop Nicaraguan binder and long-filler. What is special about this one though is the quality and hue of that wrapper. I mean, just look at it! Dark, oily, and rich – in a blind test, I’d peg this as Broadleaf before I’d say Habano. That just shows you how masterful NACSA’s fermentation technique is. A lesser factory would never be able to get this color and performance out of their materials.

But now, the piece de resistance – the flavor. Lighting up Latitude Zero, I was instantly reminded of old school Liga Privada. Truly, this blend is reminiscent of the types of cigars that got me into this industry in the first place. It’s full-bodied but the flavor is shockingly smooth. For how dark the wrapper on this cigar is, you barely get any spice. Instead, sweet caramel leads the charge, with rich, dark chocolate joining shortly after. The cigar remains enjoyable to the end, with roasted nuts and a bit of dry cocoa flitting in and out throughout the back half. 

And the price. Come on! I kid you not, this cigar is worth easily double, maybe even triple the price. 

The recommendation here is easy folks — get yourself a box of Latitude Zero, use the money you save to grab a nice bottle of bourbon and a thick steak, and clear your weekend plans. You’re not going to want to leave the house as long as you have a couple of these around to enjoy.