Steve Saka was not a household name twenty years ago. When a cigar aficionado hears the name Padron or Fuente, ears perk up and the mind’s eye conjures forth images of tobacco and cigars, built upon generations of customer service and tobacco excellence. Steve Saka, on the other hand, seeks to make himself a legend in a single generation. Like Napoleon Bonaparte or Andrew Jackson, Saka surged forth from relative obscurity and took the industry by storm, hoping to make a name for himself in a single generation. Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust, Saka’s own firm, has amassed a huge following since its inception in the mid-2010’s. The brand enjoys so much recognition that its cultural ephemera, tchotchke items like the SakaSquatch statue, have a cult following. Indeed, every new allocated size or blend of Sobremesa or Sin Compromiso is snatched up by rabid fans akin to Drewbies (Drew Estate enjoyers). Saka’s children, such as Stillwell Star or Umbagog, are household names in the modern cigar shop. The Dunbarton website proclaims the quality of Saka, alongside his refusal to compromise:
“Cigars without compromise: This is an expression of our closely held ethos and states in just three simple words everything we wish to accomplish here at DTT. Cigars are more than just a passion for us; they are our life.
We want to create puros that pay respectful tribute to the long, vaulted history of handmade vitolas, honor the dedicated works of all the vegueros, torcedors and artists who dedicate their labors to this timeless craft. Our goal is to always offer the connoisseur an unparalleled smoking experience bar none.
Our ligador and catador de puros, Steve Saka, demands the most exact standards be honored at all times.
Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust’s cigars have all been rated exceptionally high including at the very top of hundreds of annual lists and we are the only maker to have been named the “Company of the Year” for 4 Consecutive Years by the Halfwheel™ Consensus.”
Steve Saka infiltrated the cigar industry way back in the 1980’s. Initially a cigar blogger and consultant for cigar retailer and distributor JR Cigars, Saka has been a noticeable presence in the cigar industry for more than twenty years. His prolific knowledge of cigars came from the careful tutelage of JR’s Lew Rothman. In the early 2000’s, Saka directed his energies towards making some of the finest Nicaraguan cigars in the world. Working alongside Jonathan Drew and Marvin Samel, later adding Willy Herrera to the blend, Saka forged Liga Privada and Hererra Esteli into instantly recognizable Nicaraguan brands. Within a couple of years of each brand’s respective origin, these cigars were seen in virtually every humidor and cigar shop across America.
When Drew Estate was bought out by the juggernaut that is Swisher International in 2014, Saka decided to strike out on his own. A Nicaraguan tobacco farmer once offhandedly mentioned to Saka, “It is better to keep the head of a rat than the tail of a lion.” This inspired him to begin again with cigars that were unfiltered, uncompromised Saka. From 2015 to the present, Saka has focused all his might into the myriad blends of Dunbarton. Long lauded for his tobacco knowledge, Saka put his money where his mouth was by releasing successive brands which ranked among the best cigars in the world. They say that success has many fathers, and that failure is an orphan. Dunbarton’s only father, however, is Steve Saka. Like their peppery, burly progenitor, each Dunbarton cigar bristles with the piquant flavor of Nicaragua’s volcanic soil.
Nicaraguan tobacco began as an inexpensive alternative to Cuban tobacco in a cigar industry reeling from the Cuban Embargo. Even in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Nicaraguan tobacco and cigar production was a convenient secondary source of leaf but, overall, an inferior grade to the Dominican and Cuban brands of the world. Now, however, Nicaragua is the king of the tobacco world. Many of the world’s most prestigious cigar manufacturers, such as Padron or Plasencia, rule over massive cigar factories and even larger tobacco fields. The brands of Nicaragua are known the world over for quality and quantity. As Honduran and Dominican imported cigars diminish, Nicaraguan imported cigars continue to grow in volume, variety, and quality. No finer Nicaraguan cigars are made than those from the Jalapa and Condega regional tobaccos grown and aged by the Perez family (A.S.P.). No finer Nicaraguan cigars are made than those hand-rolled at the Joya de Nicaragua, S.A. and Nicaragua American Cigar, S.A. factories in the heart of Esteli. To his delight, Steve Saka’s cigars are hand-rolled at these two factories with tobacco from the Perez family.
A US Navy veteran, it should not come as a shock when Saka’s brand names ooze with a bit of sailor humor and sex appeal. Named after the pet name Nicaraguan men often use to refer to their mistress, Mi Querida is a dark and alluring cigar. Exploding with the flavor of a forbidden love affair, Mi Querida is one of the more popular cigars in Saka’s portfolio. Saka comments on the brand,
“Cigar wise, it represents my personal maduro desires: a robust, extremely flavorful liga (blend) comprised of rich Nicaraguan leaf hand rolled in a 100% naturally fermented, heavy Broadleaf capa (wrapper). Earthy and dense with a long teasing, slightly dirty finish, Mi Querida is delightfully lush and full bodied on the palate offering an extremely satisfying experience for the most passionate of cigar smokers.”
Mi Querida is handcrafted at the recently renovated NACSA cigar factory under the stewardship of their new Master Cigarmaker Raul Disla. The cigar is fairly allocated with only select retailers receiving the cigar as a box of twenty.
Mi Querida Cigar Review
The cigar speaks for itself. Not to distract the cigar aficionado with bells and whistles, the band is a slender red and gold paper ring. It delicately enshrines the luscious Broadleaf Maduro wrapper. The color of an oily and inviting dark chocolate, the cigar causes the mouth the water at a mere glance. Its smell is beyond words, to boot. The cigar smells of dark fruits and barnyard hay and gives a cold draw reminiscent of cocoa, charred hickory, and graham crackers. Being a rich and oily maduro, the cigar takes a good toasting but lights beautifully and burns evenly throughout the hour and a half smoking experience. The cigar builds in intensity towards the back half and finishes with the powerful taste of earth and spices, such as anise and black pepper. The cigar is the kind which leaves you smelling your hand and face in fond remembrance of its smoky flavor.
Besides providing Mi Querida as one of the finest Broadleaf Maduro cigars in the world, Dunbarton also offers the Triqui Traca (a kind of long-fused firecracker in Nicaragua) as the Mi Querida’s more flavorful and full-bodied cousin. If a smoother, more balanced Broadleaf Maduro is your pace, Dunbarton also offers the Sobremesa Maduro. Finally, the Sobremesa Brulee is a sweet, grassy Shade-wrapper cigar for those just trying to start their day instead of rushing to the explosive or earthy finish. Steve Saka stands as one of the grandmasters of the modern cigar industry. It is for this reason that Luis Martinez is proud to offer a good portion of his company’s selection for purchase online.