I remember randomly spotting an announcement about a Drew Estate event in mid-2018 and seeing something about a special Joya de Nicaragua that was being used as a promotional item. That cigar was called—at least at that point—the Joya de Nicaragua. No.1.
At the time, Joya de Nicaragua was celebrating its 50th anniversary and was planning on giving away a special event-only cigar for each quarter during 2018. I’m pretty sure that the No.1 ended up being the only one that was actually handed out, though I’m honestly not sure just how many actually were.
The good news is Patrick Lagreid reviewed the cigar and rated it very highly. Then, the rest of the halfwheel staff rated it and ended up finishing as halfwheel’s #1 cigar in 2018.
In 2019, Joya de Nicaragua decided that the cigar would return, though with updated packaging, a slightly new name and now as an item for sale. The No.1 became Joya de Nicaragua Número Uno L’Ambassadeur, an homage to the origins of the cigar, which had previously been used as a diplomatic gift by Nicaraguan ambassadors and government officials.
Joya de Nicaragua also opted to expand the line, first late last year with a smaller cigar called L’Attaché and now again with the Le Premier. All three names are references to positions in an embassy.
Image via Joya de Nicaragua
All three cigars use an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper over a Nicaraguan binder and Nicaraguan fillers. Joya de Nicaragua says the blend is based on the company’s Clasico line, though it’s never really discussed the differences between the two. The cigars are finished with a fantail cap and each vitola is rolled by a single pair. Número Uno is part of Joya de Nicaragua’s Obras Maestras Series, Spanish for masterpieces, meaning that these cigars are some of its most limited and higher-end offerings.
- Joya de Nicaragua Número Uno L’Ambassadeur (6 5/8 x 44) — $15 (Box of 25, $375)
- Joya de Nicaragua Número Uno L’Attaché (5 1/2 x 42) — $11.50 (Bundle of 25, $287.50)
- Joya de Nicaragua Número Uno Le Premier (6 7/8 x 48) — $16.60 (Box of 25, $414.93)
- Cigar Reviewed: Joya de Nicaragua Número Uno Le Premier
- Country of Origin: Nicaragua
- Factory: Fabrica de Tabacos Joya de Nicaragua S.A.
- Wrapper: Ecuador (Connecticut)
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Nicaragua
- Length: 6 7/8 Inches
- Ring Gauge: 48
- Vitola: Churchill
- MSRP: $16.60 (Box of 25, $414.93)
- Release Date: July 2020
- Number of Cigars Released: Regular Production
- Number of Cigars Smoked For Review: 3
In just about every way, this is an uncommon vitola. At 6 7/8 x 48, it’s not that far off from the 7 x 47 classic Churchill dimensions, but it’s also not going to be confused as being that. Add in a half-inch long fantail cap and the whole package ends up being something that I don’t think I’ve ever encountered before. Because of the light and vibrant color of the wrapper, the few veins that are present on the wrapper are rather obvious. It feels incredibly supple to the touch, like broken-in leather. Aroma from the wrapper is a mixture of nuts, acidity and saltiness. On one cigar, the acidity and saltiness really takes on a scent that, for lack of a more pleasant description, smells like urine. The foot retains some of the acidity and saltiness, but there’s a sweet chocolate that sits on top of the profile. Compared to the wrapper, the foot’s aroma is both stronger and sweeter. The cold draw is also not the most pleasant of sensations. There’s manure, some indeterminate sweetness, creaminess and chocolate. To be honest, it reminds me of something I would have expected to come out of a box of Harry Potter jelly beans.
Given how unpleasant I found the flavors of the pre-light aroma process, I’m quickly looking forward to getting the Número Uno lit. Fortunately, it starts with sweet creaminess, some citrus, a bit of grain and a touch of saltiness. There seems to be a pepper sensation that is ready to add itself to the profile, but it never arrives. After about an inch, the profile has settled on a mixture of nuttiness and creaminess over leather, apple, some raspberry and a touch of harshness. Retrohaling increases that roughness and delivers a sharper mixture of nuts and nutmeg, though the finish ends up being rather sweet with some breads, toastiness and white pepper. Without a retrohale, the finish is also sharper than the main profile, though it’s led by some earthiness and lacks the white pepper. Flavor is full, body is full and strength is mild. Construction is awesome with no hints of imperfections, let alone anything that actually needs addressing.
The Joya de Nicaragua Número Uno Le Premier shifts to a very interesting mixture of breads and brown mustard in the second third. The roughness that has been present from the first puff now tastes similar to a tequila-like burn, though I can’t figure out if its increasing or decreasing in intensity. It seems ready to either disappear or explode at any moment, but ultimately does neither. In addition, two cigars have a hoisin sauce-flavor that adds a bit of depth. The finish has burnt bread, lemon, a bit of charred meat and white pepper, the latter of which is very different from the tequila burn. Retrohaling leads to a lot of burnt toast before finishing with a butter flavor and some raspberry. Flavor and body remain full, strength is mild-medium. Construction on all three cigars is fantastic.
While I found the main flavors of the second third to be rather harmonious, the final third is a bit of everything. There’s earthiness, creaminess, black pepper, dark chocolate, bread and toastiness. It’s not like they are all there at any one time, but from puff to puff, it’s a real buffet of flavors. The finish is equally random with burnt bread on top of lemon, charred meat and white pepper. Retrohaling only adds more to the mixture: butterscotch, acorns and green pepper. And of course, the finish of the retrohale is something different with red pepper, bread and oranges. Flavor and body are still full, while strength is somewhere south of medium. Two samples need a touch up, but the other one goes start to finish without any construction issues.
- Amongst new releases from Joya de Nicaragua in the last three years, this would probably fall in the bottom 50 percent. The fact that this cigar could be considered subpar is a testament to just how good Joya de Nicaragua has been.
- The first shipment of Le Premier was 800 boxes for the U.S., though the item is a regular production release, not a limited edition.
- While I think it’s cool that one pair rolls this cigar, I suspect that’s not entirely that unique.
- Using blue for cigar packaging is becoming a lot more popular. This shade of blue is a favorite of mine and contrasts really well with the white and gold. It also calls to mind the colors of the Nicaraguan flag.
- The use of blue for cigar packaging was so rare in Europe that J. Cortès became noted for its use of blue as a way to stand out from the rest of its competition.
- While these cigars look quite similar, I’d have a hard time telling you this was part of the same line as the No.1/L’Ambassadeur in terms of flavor. Not only are the individual flavors quite different, but the profile is completely different.
- The Partagás Serie C No.1 is pretty close to this size, about 4mm shorter. But that was a rather limited and expensive Colleción Habanos release from 2002 (with a second release in 2011), and I’m guessing most people have never seen pictures of it, let alone actually smoked.
- This is not a cigar that enjoys being smoked quickly. Few cigars have ever gone from great to rancid as much as this blend. Just smoke it at a normal pace and you will be fine. If you think it’s getting warm, give it some time.
- Drew Estate is the U.S. distributor for Joya de Nicaragua.
- Joya de Nicaragua advertises on halfwheel.
- Cigars for this review were purchased by halfwheel.
- Final smoking time was two hours and 40 minutes on average.
- Site sponsors Atlantic Cigar Co., Corona Cigar Co. and STOGIES World Class Cigars carry the Joya de Nicaragua Número Uno Le Premier.
The Joya de Nicaragua Número Uno Le Premier is an example of a well-made cigar with good tobacco, but one that ultimately doesn’t make much sense to my palate. It’s a bit all over the place. And comparing it to the other two cigars in this series, it is completely devoid of the harmony—and at times simplicity—that I’ve found in the rest of the Número Uno line. It reminds me of a child at a buffet: indecisive about what it wants to do and then ending up with a plate that really doesn’t make sense. That’s not to say that it’s bad. Joya de Nicaragua gets the benefit of using what appears to be very good tobacco that has produced results as good as any other new cigar of the last few years. It’s just not as easy to recommend as the other two sizes of Número Uno. I want to be clear—most cigars aren’t as easy to recommend as the other two Número Unos—but the gap between those and the Le Premier is sizable in my mind, even if the scores don't seem that different.