In the mountains of Costa Rica, hand-rolled cigars are created using tobacco grown from pre-Castro Cuban tobacco seeds.

Tabacos de la Cordillera prides itself on growing its tobacco from this seed bank, unique in the world, and making its cigars only from tobacco grown on its farm in the verdant Puriscal hills.

Costa Rica Cigars – Company Background

John Vogel, Tabacos de la Cordillera’s director, has spent more than 40 years in the tobacco and cigar industry. Born and raised in Nicaragua to German and Spanish parents, Vogel holds a degree in agronomical engineering, and worked for 20 years as a Research and Development project leader for Consolidated Cigar, one of the world’s largest cigar manufacturers.

Later, Vogel acquired his seed bank of 47 genetically pure Cuban tobacco seed varieties during his time as an industry consultant, through lifelong contacts in Cuba’s agricultural research institution, Cuban Land, which was disbanded by Fidel Castro in the 1960s.

Vogel was eventually hired on as a consultant to Tabacos de la Cordillera. In an interview with, he says that he found “an ideal soil and microclimate,” including soil of “the same iron-rich red color as that in Cuba’s legendary Vuelta Abajo.

Further laboratory testing confirmed it was an ideal environment for the cultivation of top-quality tobacco.” He considers the farm’s location in Puriscal “a true Shangri-La”: views of both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, a climate at 2,200 feet perfect for tobacco and people, and a view of an emerald-green valley floor.

In 2002, Vogel was appointed Tabacos de la Cordillera’s director of operations, bringing his expertise in plant breeding, soils testing, fertilizer selection, curing and fermenting studies, plant disease and insect identification and control to all areas of operations.

A Special Breed of Seed

Skeptics may have a hard time believing the company’s claim that their cigars contain “tobacco from the world’s only existing pre-embargo Cuban seeds.” However, in the same interview with, Vogel emphasizes, “I do not claim to have pre-Castro tobacco. I have the reproduction units … seeds … of several dozen pre-Castro varieties.

These seeds, which I have maintained and improved with the proper plant selection, genetic breeding, plant pathology and agronomy practices, demonstrate the success of our production theory. Each one of our ancestral Cuban seed strains is genetically mapped for its properties and characteristics, and we have the genetic finger print of it.”

Additionally, Tabacos de la Cordillera’s cigars contain tobacco not only grown entirely in Costa Rica or Puriscal, but only from their own farm. In this way, the buyer can be assured that they are receiving cigars made 100% from the company’s own tobacco.

Tabacos de la Cordillera uses a variety of integrated pest management techniques to grow their tobacco as free of chemicals as possible, including natural fertilizers, resistant plant varieties, and biological controls. After all, Vogel says, “We know we’ll be smoking it, too!”

Seed strains are carefully selected to match both the soil and the climate. After harvesting, leaves are fermented in a curing barn and rested for several months. Leaves are prepared for manufacturing, and selected for use as wrapper, binder or filler depending on a variety of factors (such as appearance, veining, elasticity and feel). Skilled workers then hand-roll each cigar, which are aged an additional month before being packaged.

Types of Cigars

Tabacos de la Cordillera’s cigars come in sizes ranging from large Churchills to Mini Torpedoes. The main cigar families are as follows:

  1. Cumbres de Puriscal: a premium cigar in gold, silver, and emerald. Cigars are rolled in light and dark wrappers that complement the different flavors, from medium to strong.
  2. Purisco: excellent quality cigars in blue and red presentations, strong bouquet, rolled in light and dark wrappers.
  3. Colinas: a short filler cigar, with surprisingly high quality and reasonable price. They come in light and dark wrappers, and their secret mixture of tobaccos have a light flavor and intense personality.
  4. Mini Cigars and Picos Mini-Torpedoes: designed for the pleasure of cigar aficionados, and for ladies that know and appreciate good tobacco.

For those who would like to get a taste of what Tabacos de la Cordillera has to offer, the company offers several types of samplers on their website.

Costa Rica Cigar Reviews

Tabacos de la Cordillera’s slogan is “Ancestral Cuban seeds grow the world’s finest cigars.” Apparently, quite a few loyal followers agree with them, as reviews on their website can attest. The cigars have also generally been well received by the press. Kevin Goodbee, writing a review of the Purisco Azul Corona Maduro in says: “It was very good right from the start and got even better.”

The review panel from Smoke Magazine Online gave the Cumbres de Puriscal Silver Toro an 8.6 rating, with comments such as “A cigar that’s ideally suited to accompany an early-evening bottle of wine. I’d recommend it to friends (8.6-very good),” and “A nice, meaty smoke to save for a cool evening with friends (9.5-excellent).”

A review of the Colinas Robusto on summarized the cigar: “These are the cigars you don’t have to think about to enjoy. You don’t have to worry about the burn. You don’t have to try to detect the subtle flavor nuances. You light it, you smoke it, and you enjoy the hell out of it.”

Though the company has only been producing cigars since 2002, Tabacos de la Cordillera is generating a buzz in the cigar-smoking world. As John Vogel himself says, “I doubt many smokers have experienced cigars like these.”

For more information and to purchase cigars, visit Tabacos de la Cordillera’s website here.

Money $aving Tip For Costa Rica Residents

If you are a cigar lover who lives in Costa Rica and want to save a fortune when you buy cigars, look at their website first, choose your cigars then telephone the company on 2416-3384 (Spanish only) and order them, you then deposit the amount necessary in the company’s Banco Nacional account and they will deliver your cigars to your apartado a few days later.

Written by Wendi Patrick, a California transplant currently living in Ciudad Colón with her husband, son and ever-growing menagerie of animals. She is the editor of Costa Rica Outdoors magazine, and a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in The Tico Times.

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