Breaking New Ground: Inside Villiger de Nicaragua

Quality and consistency—these are the two factors necessary for any successful product. When speaking about premium cigars, these two things are even more critical. Some of the most successful cigar manufacturers have realized the only way to come close to achieving quality and consistency is to control the production process as much as possible. Companies reach these two goals by starting and operating their own cigar factory, which requires a substantial investment of time, resources and money.

Villiger Cigars | Villiger de Nicaragua factory

One company that has pursued the factory ownership route is Villiger Cigars. Villiger has owned numerous cigar factories since its inception in 1888. When he was just 28 years old, Jean Villiger opened a cigar factory in Pfeffikon, Switzerland. When he died unexpectantly in 1902, his wife, Louise Villiger, took over and led the factory and company. It was under Louise’s tenure as leader that the Villiger brand began to flourish and grow. The company launched Villiger Kiel in 1907, the first Villiger cigar to feature a quill mouthpiece. By 1910, the company had grown to the point of needing to expand. Louise saw the Villiger brand enter the German market with the launch of Villiger Söhne GmbH in Waldshut-Tiengen, Germany.

In 1918, brothers Max and Hans Villiger took over the company and renamed it Villiger Söhne. The company knew how important it was to control the production process. It built factories in Schönaich and Munich, paving the way for new products like the Villiger Export. Villiger and its cigar products continued to spread into new markets outside of Switzerland. Yet, the company faced production obstacles during World War II from 1939 through 1945. In 1943, an American bombing raid destroyed both of Villiger’s factories in Munich. The factory in Waldshut-Tiegen closed for an entire year in 1945 during the French occupation, disrupting the growth and business of Villiger for several years.

In the 1950s Henrich Villiger, the eldest son of Max Villiger, joined the company. Like previous generations of the Villiger family, Henrich ushered in a new era of the company and changes that would once again take the Villiger name and its products in new directions. At the start of his long career in the family’s business, Henrich oversaw the purchase of raw tobacco until he became manager of Villiger Söhne GmbH in 1954 after Hans Villiger retired from the company. When Henrich’s siblings, Kasper and Monika, joined the company in the 1960s, they opened a factory in Berlin together. When this factory and others owned by Villiger later closed, they were replaced by a new factory that became its center of production in Bünde, Germany.

Much of the 1990s and early 2000s saw Villiger focusing on distribution and growth. It opened new distribution companies in both the U.S. and France as it focused on making Villiger a brand with a worldwide presence. Production continues to serve as a centerpiece of the Villiger brand. In 2021, the company took another significant step in its evolution by opening a new factory in one of the top premium cigar-producing countries in the world.

An Evolving Partnership
Villiger de Nicaragua is the newest factory owned and operated by Villiger. It first opened in 2021 and began to produce several premium cigar brands like La Meridiana, La Vencedora, and the Villiger San’Doro that Joya de Nicaragua was manufacturing. It was this longstanding relationship with Joya de Nicaragua that helped Villiger establish itself in Nicaragua as a factory owner.

Rene Castaneda with Corina and Lucien Villiger at Villiger de Nicaragua factory opening ceremony

“We have really started to focus on our handmade [cigar] business. Ten years ago, we began this with a little production in Brazil with a very good partner. The handmade cigar market is growing in the United States and in Europe. We are very fond of Nicaraguan cigars and wanted to offer them in our portfolio. My father started this initiative and our family’s longstanding friendship with Dr. Alejandro Martínez made that possible,” explains Corina Villiger, head of the board at Villiger Söhne Holding AG and daughter of Heinrich Villiger.

During the 1970s, Henrich Villiger frequently visited Nicaragua in search of tobacco that he could purchase for his company. Through these many trips, he developed a love and affection for Nicaragua, its culture and its people. In search of great tobacco, Henrich made many friends in Nicaragua, one of them being Dr. Martínez, founder of Joya de Nicaragua. Villiger and Joya de Nicaragua have worked together for years and established a manufacturing partnership, so it was only natural that Villiger sought the input of Dr. Martínez and others to help guide them through building and launching a cigar factory within Nicaragua.

Rolling cigars in Villiger de Nicaragua

It took nearly two years to build this new factory in Estelí next door to Joya de Nicaragua’s factory. Villiger had an idea of what it wanted in a cigar factory. This facility needed to be modern, and the factory’s focus would be on premium hand-rolled cigars, which Villiger has produced in the past but without a dedicated facility. The new factory is an evolution of Villiger’s longstanding focus on creating consistency and quality products through a focus on production.

“We knew that if we had our own factory, the control of the quality would be much better than if we were dependent on different suppliers. With this factory, we can develop our own brands, and the wait time will be much shorter,” states Lucien Villiger, grandson of Henrich Villiger.

Joya de Nicaragua’s Dr. Martínez and Juan Martinez oversee this new factory. With these two men involved, Villiger benefits from their years of experience with manufacturing and their knowledge of tobacco. As Villiger built the 33,000-square-foot facility, it relied heavily on Joya to help shape each area of the factory and help it recruit the best rollers and employees that Estelí had to offer. With much of the construction taking place during the pandemic, it was crucial to have an excellent partner to rely on during the building and launch of this new factory.

Lucien and Corina Villiger at Villiger de Nicaragua | Villiger Cigars

“It’s a very, very good partnership, and as we work together, we are learning from each other,” Corina Villiger says.

Villiger de Nicaragua is much more than a factory. It’s a statement that Villiger remains dedicated to the handmade premium cigar market and is willing to make the necessary investments to produce a quality premium cigar for smokers worldwide.

“We have a long tradition, and we are also capable of innovations,” says Corina.

Villiger de Nicaragua | Villiger Cigars

“We’re always willing to take on and meet new challenges as a producer of cigars.”

“Our aim is to grow, especially in the U.S. market. We have a lot of exciting and good cigars, and we’re looking forward to producing and adding new cigars to our portfolio,” says Lucien.

In addition to its new facility in Nicaragua, Villiger has a factory based in Brazil and is a contractor of the Dominican-based ABAM factory. Villiger’s premium cigars are distributed in the U.S. by its subsidiary, Villiger North America, led by Rene Castañeda.

This story first appeared in PCA The Magazine, Volume 2, 2023. To receive a copy of this magazine you must be a current member of PCA. Join or renew today at

– Photography courtesy of Villiger Cigars and Antoine Reid. Story by Antoine Reid, content director at Premium Cigar Association (PCA). You can reach him at