In October 2014, Nat Sherman announced that a new brand was being added to its list of Nat Sherman Townhouse exclusives, the Panamericana.
Made at Plasencia Cigars in Nicaragua, the cigar was hailed as being “sensationally complex in flavor, achieving great balance by tempering the Costa Rican tobacco’s unique attributes with three different Nicaraguan tobaccos,” by Michael Herklots, vice president of retail and brand development for the company. He added that it had been a project two years in the making and that the final product was “well worth the time and effort.” It debuted in four sizes:
- Nat Sherman Panamericana Secretos (4 x 40) — 8.50 (Boxes of 10, $85)
- Nat Sherman Panamericana Epicure (5 x 50) — $10.50 (Boxes of 10, $105)
- Nat Sherman Panamericana Cervantes (6 x 43) — $9.25 (Boxes of 10, $92.50)
- Nat Sherman Panamericana Julieta (7 x 48) — $12 (Boxes of 10, $120)
While it appeared that this would be the end of the story for Panamericana, in March 2015 the company announced that Panamericana would be made available to a fairly small group of influential cigar retailers, a group known as the Tobacconists’ Association of America, or TAA, as part of the exclusives released at the group’s annual meeting and trade show. It was the second full line made available to the group as part of the TAA Exclusive Series Product program, joining the Asylum Nyctophilia, while a number of other manufacturers released exclusive sizes or blends at the event.
If you’ve traveled to Nicaragua or any number of countries in Central and South America, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with the origins of this cigar’s name, the Pan-American highway. It traces its roots back to 1889 and the First Pan-American Conference, when the idea for a railroad stretching from one tip of the Americas to the other was proposed. Nothing came of that, however, until the Fifth International Conference of American States in 1923, where the idea of it being a road was introduced. On July 29, 1937, twelve countries signed the Convention of the Pan-American Highway, with Mexico the first Latin American to complete its portion in 1950. Since that time, the road has grown to some 30,000 miles in total length, with only a 60 mile span known as the Darién Gap preventing it from being totally connected; this is due to a rainforest that spans Panama and Colombia.
Currently, the road crosses through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Suriname, Guyana, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina, with an unofficial but somewhat de facto extension into Canada, with the United States’ interstate system connecting Mexico and Canada. As you’ll notice, the road crosses all three of the countries from which the tobacco for this cigar originates: Ecuador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, as well as the country where the cigar was made.
- Cigar Reviewed: Nat Sherman Panamericana Julieta
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Plasencia Cigars S.A.
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Costa Rica and Nicaragua
- Size: 7 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 48
- Vitola: Churchill
- MSRP: $12 (Boxes of 10, $120)
- Release Date: October 2014
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked for Review: 3
I’m a little disappointed that there isn’t something on the band that indicates this as being a Panamericana; the name seems ripe with opportunity for creativity, but instead a generic Nat Sherman brand will have to suffice, though Michael Herklots told me that this is the norm for Nat Sherman as the majority of their cigars don’t feature the line name. The wrapper has just a bit of sheen but a smooth and lightly oiled feel in the fingers; while there is a bit of tooth and some noticeable veins they are small the the fingers glide right over them. The cap is fairly well-applied, though it’s not perfectly flat. There’s a bit of give to the cigar, a bit less spongy than what regular smokers of Cubans might be used to but far from firm. From the foot I get notes of cherry and sweet wood as well as a profile that I would equate to a fruit-forward Pinot Noir, with one sample showing a bit more pepper than the others. The cold draw is almost exactly what I look for in terms of firmness and has a profile that skews more towards wood and earth with a bit of sneaky pepper, though also holding on to a bit of the sweetness.
There’s a good bit of pepper and gruffness out of the gate, ranging from a general rich earthiness to a more pepper-laden profile that brings in a bit of sharp leather and rock to intensify the flavor. The smoke is equally as strong, unleashing itself as soon as the foot is approached by the flame; while it’s far from a smoke machine, with temperatures in Phoenix finally meriting that my swamp cooler be turned on, what little smoke tends to get blown away pretty quickly. Retrohales are driven by pepper and fairly substantial, and can be overpowering depending on the particular sample and portion of the cigar. While I wouldn’t call it a construction issue, I begin to have some problems keeping the Panamericana lit after the first chunk of ash breaks off, and on one cigar the ash produced one of the most interesting splits I can recall seeing before it finally broke off, almost as if a wedge had been stuck in the side and the primary chunk was curving some 20-30 degrees off center. With that first chunk gone, the smoke production picks up markedly, and starts delivering notes of chalk with the pepper decreasing in intensity. I find myself trying to process the duality of the smoke, as it is robust, peppery and punchy in the nose, while being almost oily smooth on the palate and showing subtle wood and berry sweetness.
The intensity of the Panamericana has certainly dialed itself back from where it started, but with the more powerful pepper dialed back there are times when the cigar becomes a bit bitey, almost sharp in the back of the throat in small but noticeable amounts. The draw through the first half has been very smooth and the burn has stayed even, and the smoke production has stayed more than sufficient. Heading into the final third, the cigar begins showing its best profile yet, with more leather coming out and a rich pepper in the nose than what was picked up earlier, still plenty full but without the sharpness of the first third.
I find myself struggling to pin down the flavors of the Nat Sherman Panamericana at any one point because there seems to be another change waiting for me as soon as I process what I’ve just tasted. Sometimes it’s subtle, other times much more pronounced, but the cigar bounces back and forth in terms of intensity and earthiness, showing smooth puffs one moment and a return to the more robust, earthy and occasionally metallic notes it showed in the first third. Touches of tangy sweetness begin to emerge in the nose, mainly from the aroma as retrohales are still a bit more pepper forward, though they too evolve and have sharpened up just a bit but with less overall intensity, making them much more manageable than they were earlier. Given the changes, I find myself wanting to get the cigar down as far as possible, which brings a bit more heat and pepper to the flavor but also a very good wood flavor, staying pretty enjoyable all the way until I’d either have to use a draw poker or worry about burning my fingers.
- Given Nat Sherman’s most recent releases, it almost seemed like a foregone conclusion to assume that these came out of The Quesada Factory, but as noted above, they did not.
- The first chunk of ash was consistently curving or breaking, something I can’t recall seeing with this sort of consistency.
- This is the second TAA exclusive from the 2015 meeting that I have reviewed, joining the La Flor Dominicana TAA 47.
- In 2010, a documentary titled Panamericana was released about the road the cigar shares its name with.
- In 2003, a long-distance motorcycle rider named Kevin Sanders set the Guinness World Record for the fastest traversal of the highway by motorcycle, making the journey in 34 days.
- Michael Herklots noted that the shield in the center of the Panamericana band is similar to that found on the Sterling band, an icon used for decades in the company’s marketing and branding.
- There really are just a handful of cigars from Nat Sherman where the brand name is featured; Sterling is the first one that comes to mind, while the Joel Sherman 75th Celebration features a secondary band as well.
- If you want proof, take a look at Nat Sherman’s website and you’ll see what I mean.
- Brooks Whittington took a visit to the Nat Sherman Townhouse in 2013 and you can see photos from that visit here.
- You can find your nearest TAA member here.
- The 2015 TAA meeting was held April 12-16 at Casa de Campo in La Romana, Dominican Republic. The 2016 TAA meeting is scheduled for March 6-10 at the Westin Resort & Spa in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
- Final smoking time was just over two hours on average.
- Nat Sherman advertises on halfwheel.
- The cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Site sponsors Elite Cigar Cafe, Emerson’s Cigars and Serious Cigars are all TAA members.
If you like your flavors a bit more robust and peppery, there are a number of things to like about the Nat Sherman Panamericana, but for my palate I struggled to find anything to truly love about it, which makes me wonder if I'm evolving or if this blend simply didn't match up with my palate. A few burn issues with the first cigar didn't help the overall score, and after about two-thirds of each cigar I found myself getting a bit fatigued by the flavor. Panamericana is a good blend, but one that just falls a bit short for me.