For whatever reason, I never got around to trying a Casa Cuevas cigar until very recently. I am not really sure why this is, but suffice to say that with so many excellent brands on the market today a few very good candidates are bound to go overlooked for a time. Casa Cuevas Cigars is one such candidate. With their factory based in Santiago, Dominican Republic, Casa Cuevas is somewhat new as a brand on the market. Like the Plasencia family, the Fernandez family behind Aganorsa Leaf, and other cigar families, Casa Cuevas had been producing cigars for other companies for decades before launching a brand of their own.
Mere weeks ago, I lit up my first cigar from the storied brand, the Sangre Nueva – which translates to “new blood” in Spanish. It is a reference to the cigar’s blender, Alec Cuevas. Son of Luis Cuevas, Jr., Alec represents the family’s 5th generation of cigar makers. The Sangre Nueva is his initial foray into the world of cigar blending. Despite his youth, Alec demonstrates definitive blending acumen with this new cigar, and I found the experience to be solidly impressive.
The Sangre Nueva is a truly interesting blend, featuring long fillers from Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and the USA, with a Honduran Corojo binder, and an Ecuadorian-grown Cameroon wrapper leaf. The coloring of the wrapper was very uniform, with minimal veins, very tight seams, and an even medium pack. Even before lighting there was a smoky quality on the aroma that was reminiscent of smoked teas and campfire, making me think of fire-cured tobaccos. As I would find out later, this was absolutely the case.
After this I was determined to do two things. First, get some more Casa Cuevas cigars, and secondly try to get in touch with Alec Cuevas to get his story. Thankfully both were rather easy to accomplish and I was soon interviewing the man behind the Sangre Nueva to get a fuller picture. Alec Cuevas is an immediately winning personality, full of energy, humility, and undeniable drive. As he would explain in our conversation, a career in the cigar industry was not always his intention. “The idea of getting into the cigar industry was intimidating as all hell, because I just didn’t see anyone of my age group at the time doing it. It was my father who would eventually be the one to encourage me to try out blending”.
His father Luis recognized how well tuned his son’s palate was and since he had been around helping in the family’s factory from a very young age, he was clearly confident in his abilities. “I didn’t at the time recognize or appreciate how important those early days were, but my father and grandfather were always very appreciative of my work in the factory. Then fast forward to 2016 and I got a job working at a retailer, Neptune Cigars, and there is where I really got to expand my palate, and I got to smoking just about everything that they had on the shelves!” He would go on to express his sincere gratitude for the love he continually finds throughout the industry, not just from his father and grandfather, but also from the big players in the business, and even the consumers who show their appreciation for his work.
When asked about his new blend, he smiled excitedly and went through his journey in the creation of the Sangre Nueva. “I was doing a lot of podcasts and shows in the cigar world, and because I was so young, I sort of developed a constant nickname in the process, like hey you’re a young blood. That name has always stuck with me.” He recalled talking to his father after one such podcast about possibly creating a new blend. His father was, of course, completely behind the idea. Alec’s father and grandfather then introduced him to the library of tobaccos that were on hand for him to begin working with.
“I have always had a thing for Cameroon wrapper, so I knew that I wanted to use that”, Alec explained. “I had a number of blends that I had narrowed down, and there was this one that stood out for me that had just a little bit of Pennsylvania broadleaf in the filler. I kept coming back to it but it just didn’t have that extra little umph of complexity that I was looking for. Eventually I remembered that we had some Kentucky fire cured tobaccos in stock, and with just the tiniest sliver of that tobacco I finally got that extra layer of flavor it was missing.”
To be honest, it was one of the best interviews I had ever experienced and I could have easily smoked and talked with this young gentleman for hours. Seeing the light of enthusiasm in Alec’s manner was both genuine and encouraging. It is an added bonus for me to know that this is the result of family encouragement that Alec found his spot in this incredible industry. Having experienced the result of his innovation with the Sangre Nueva, this new young talent promises great things for the future of Casa Cuevas.