Cuban Cigars

The History of Cigars

Cigars have a long and interesting history. They have been around for well over a thousand years, although not in their present form. Wikipedia defines a cigar as being a tightly wound bundle of tobacco that is ignited so that the smoke can be drawn into the mouth. This was, in fact, all that cigars were for many years. They are thought to have been invented by the ancient Mayans, who wrapped the tobacco in either palm or plantain leaves. In fact, an ancient Mayan pot from the 10th century depicts a Mayan man smoking one of these primitive cigars. While this clearly demonstrates that smoking was common at this time, it is not known just when the Mayans discovered the tobacco plant and its ability to be used for smoking purposes.

Christopher Columbus and his men were the first Westerners to encounter tobacco in recorded history. Local Indians introduced the tobacco plant to Columbus’ men through trade. One of Columbus’ lieutenants was particularly drawn to primitive cigar smoking and smoked every single day on the long journey back home.

Smoking caught on and became quite popular in Spain and Portugal. The French ambassador to Portugal, Jean Nicot, made cig popular back in his home country; in fact, the word nicotine is derived from this man’s name. Cigar smoking then spread to Italy and other European nations. By this time, Spanish manufacturers had developed the art of wrapping dried tobacco in specialized papers instead of leaves, thus making smoking a refined art. While some rulers such as King Phillip II of Spain and King James I of England denounced smoking as being evil, the cigar grew in popularity as companies started growing tobacco for commercial consumption.

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Bolivar

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spacerSimon Bolívar was one of the great historic figures of the 19th Century who liberated much of South America from Spanish rule.The Bolívar brand was created in 1902 and is based today at the Partagas factory in the heart of Havana.It is perhaps not surprising that a Habano named after such a powerful figure is blended to match his might.Bolívar is among the strongest, most full bodied of all Habanos. It boasts an unrivalled richness of flavour in its blend of Vuelta Abajo region tobaccos that makes it one of the most sought-after marques amongst experienced smokers.

Cohiba

cohiba-banner spacerCohiba is the flagship brand of Habanos.It was created in 1966 for President Fidel Castro himself and was made at the then top secret but now world famous El Laguito factory. At first, it was only seen outside Cuba as gifts for heads of state and visiting diplomats.Since 1982 Cohiba has been available in limited quantities to the open market.The name is an ancient Taino Indian word for the bunches of tobacco leaves that Columbus first saw being smoked by the original inhabitants of Cuba — the earliest known form of the cigar.The leaves for Cohiba are the “selection of the selection” from the five finest Vegas Finas de Primera in the San Juan y Martinez and San Luis zones of the Vuelta Abajo region.Uniquely amongst Habanos two of Cohiba’s filler leaves, the seco and ligero, undergo a third fermentation in barrels, which adds smoothness to the blend.

Cuaba

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Every Cuaba is made in the distinctive shape known as double figurado. This was the style that at the end of the 19th Century was all the rage for Habanos.A century later, in 1996, this rich tradition was revived at the Romeo y Julieta factory where Cuabas are made.Double figurados are at the pinnacle of the cigar maker’s art and for this alone they merit a place in every cigar enthusiast’s collection.Cuaba, like Cohiba, is a Taino Indian word dating back to the time of Columbus. It was the word for a highly combustible bush, which the Indians used to light their “cohibas”.

Diplomaticos

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Diplomaticos is a comparatively recent brand dating from the 1960s. It bears a marked resemblance to Montecristo, using numbers not names to describe its sizes.All sizes are “Totalmente a mano, tripa larga” – totally hand made, long filler using tobaccos from the Vuelta Abajo region.
Flavour Ranking: Medium to Full.

El Rey del Mundo

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In 1882 the Antonio Allones factory, which had been making Habanos for over 30 years, decided to launch a new brand of premium quality and price. With great confidence but little modesty it was named “El Rey del Mundo” – The King of the World. It proved a winner.This success lives on to this day in a selected range of Habanos renowned for its light to medium flavour and consistency.
All sizes are made with tobacco from the Vuelta Abajo region using the “totalmente a mano, tripa larga” – totally hand made, long filler method.
Flavour Ranking: Light to Medium.

Fonseca

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Don Francisco Fonseca founded his brand in the 1890s.A handsome man, who cared deeply for appearances, he passed his artorial precision on to his cigars, which he dressed in silky tissue paper – a tradition that continues to this day on the four Habanos sizes that bear his name.Fonseca’s light blend of tobaccos from the Vuelta Abajo region makes it the ideal cigar to follow a light meal.
All sizes of Fonseca are “totalmente a mano” — totally hand made with three being “tripa larga’”or long filler and one ‘tripa corta’ or short filler.
Flavour Ranking: Light.

Hoyo de Monterrey

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Hoyo de Monterrey owes its origin to the town of San Luis y Martinez, which lies at the heart of theVuelta Abajo tobacco region. Here the Hoyo de Monterrey plantation, can be reached through a gate on the town’s main square inscribed “Hoyo de Monterrey. José Gener. 1860’.”Hoyo” literally means a “hole’ and in this case describes the low-lying position of the plantation on the fertile banks of San Juan y Martinez river.José Gener, a Catalan, first used the name of his vega on a brand of Habanos in 1865.The flavour of Hoyo de Monterrey’s blend makes it an attractive choice for those who seek a delicate yet aromatic Habano that is lighter to the taste but with great elegance and complexity.The best-known sizes are the Double Corona and the Epicure Nos. 1 and 2 but there is also a range of standard and slender gauge vitolas known as the Le Hoyo Series.

H Upmann

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Herman Upmann was a banker from Germany who so loved Cuban cigars that he moved to Havana in 1844 and set up as both banker and cigar maker. His bank closed in the early 1920s but his cigars live on as a fine example of an elegant light to medium-flavoured Habano.All the leaf in H. Upmann is from the Vuelta Abajo tobacco region.Gold medals in no less than eleven international exhibitions during the 19th Century adorn the box — as does Herman Upmann’s personal signature.
The brand today comprises a wide range of “totalmente a mano, tripa larga” – totally hand made, long filler.
Flavour Ranking: Light to Medium.

La Flor de Cano

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At a medium price level, Flor de Cano cigars offer a good balance between flavour and aroma.
Today the Flor de Cano range consists of two “totalmente a mano, tripa corta” – totally hand made, short filler cigars made from Vuelta Abajo and Semi Vuelta.
Flavour Ranking: Medium.

La Gloria Cubana

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La Gloria Cubana is a little known jewel amongst Habano brands.Nevertheless it enjoys a long history. Founded in 1885, its name alone clearly defines its origin. For over a century it has attracted a small but loyal following amongst the most knowledgeable smokers.The brand is characterized by its elegant presentation, especially in the Medaille d’Or Series.All the cigars are “totalmente a mano, tripa larga” — totally hand made, long filler cigars. The blend, made from tobaccos grown in the Vuelta Abajo region, is classified as medium and offers well-balanced nuances of taste and aroma.
Flavour Ranking: Medium.

Montecristo

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Montecristo is the best known and probably the most appreciated brand of Habanos throughout the world. It forms the benchmark for many Habanos smokers against which other brands are judged.The name comes from the hero of Alexandre Dumas’ famous novel “The Count of Montecristo”, which was a firm favourite amongst the Torcedores ( Cigar Makers) at the factory in Havana where it was founded in 1935.Today the range, which was originally composed of a narrow assortment strictly numbered from 1 to 5, covers every level of the cigar enthusiasts’ needs from the majestic Montecristo A to the tiny Joyita.In 2009, for the first time, born in Montecristo a new line: Montecristo Open, which incorporates 4 new vitolas on the brand: Eagle (54 x 150 mm), Regata (46 x 135mm), Master (50 x 124 mm) and Junior (38 x 110mm), designed to satisfy all Montecristo lovers as well as to welcome the new generations who enjoy the pleasures of living “alfresco”.Montecristo’s perfectly balanced blend is created exclusively with selected leaves from the Vuelta Abajo region, home of the finest tobaccos in the world. Its distinctive medium to full flavour and distinguished aroma appeal equally to both new and experienced smokers.
All Montecristo sizes are now and always have been “totalmente a mano, tripa larga” —totally hand made, long filler.
Flavour Ranking: Medium to Full.

Partagas

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If there is one particularly famous cigar factory in Havana, it is Partagas. You can find it at No. 520 Industria Street, just behind the Capitol building, in the heart of the city.The factory was opened in 1845 by Don Jaime Partagas and it has been making the cigars that bear his name ever since.A Partagas is immediately recognisable by its deep, earthy flavour
Partagas come in a wide array of shapes and sizes. The best known are the Serie D No. 4, the Lusitania and the 8-9-8, a cigar that is named after the way it is arranged in its box.In 2005, it was launched a new vitola in the brand, which came to enlarge the Partagás Line Series: Serie P No.2. This vitola quickly has become in a preference Habano among the faithful admirers of the brand, characterized by its character and strength
All sizes are “totalmente a mano, tripa larga” —totally hand made, long filler, except two, which are “mecanizado” or made by machines.
Flavour Ranking: Full.

Por Larranaga

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Por Larrañaga is a brand with a long history. Founded in 1834 it enjoys well-earned reputation for its quality and the attractiveness of its presentation.
All the tobacco in the Por Larrañaga range comes from the Vuelta Abajo region and the cigars are made using methods of production — “totalmente a mano, tripa larga” — totally hand made, long filler, “totalmente a mano, tripa corta” — totally hand made, short filler.
Flavour Ranking: Light to Medium.

 

Punch

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Punch is one of the very oldest Habano brands. Don Manuel Lopez of Juan Valle & Co founded it in the mid 19th Century with an eye to the booming British market where a humorous magazine of the same name was much in vogue.A contented Mr Punch, the clown who personified the magazine, is still featured in every box, cigar in hand, and surrounded by 19th Century images of cigar making that remain virtually unchanged over a century and a half later.In 1925 the Punch moved to the factory where Hoyo de Monterrey was made and this long association continues to the present day.
Punch’s distinct medium flavour created with a blend of tobaccos from the Vuelta Abajo region is available in a wide variety of sizes “totalmente a mano, tripa larga” – totally hand made, long filler.
Flavour Ranking: Medium

Trinidad

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Trinidad is named after the beautiful 16th Century city of La Santísima Trinidad (The Holy Trinity), listed by UNESCO as a historical monument, which is situated on Cuba’s south coast.Trinidad, as a Habano, dates back to 1969 but for many years, like Cohiba, it was made only for gifts to foreign diplomats. Not until 1998 was it released for general sale and then only in small quantities.There is only one size of Trinidad, the Fundador or Founder. Although it resembles the Cohiba Lanceros in length and the finish of its cap, it is unique because of two extra ring gauge points added to its girth. It is made at El Laguito, the home of Cohiba, to its own particular recipe of tobaccos selected from the Vuelta Abajo region.
On 2003 the Trinidad’s vitolario is extended with new sizes and it were introduced changes in its corporate image more appropriate to the extraordinary quality of Trinidad. Three new formats:  Reyes (40 ring gauge, 110 mm in the length), Coloniales (44 ring gauge, 132 mm in the length) and Robustos Extra (50 ring gauge, 155 in the length) are presented to the market in varnished wooden boxes of 12 and 24 units. Reyes and Coloniales are also available in 5-unit carton packs and Robustos Extra in 3-unit carton packs.
Trinidad is “totalmente a mano, tripa larga” — totally hand made, long filler.

San Cristobal de la Habana

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San Cristóbal de la Habana was the original name of Havana, Cuba’s capital city, when it was founded in 1519; San Cristóbal (St Christopher) in honour of Columbus and La Habana after an Indian name for the site.San Cristóbal de la Habana cigars were introduced in 1999 as a tribute to the city’s long history on the threshold of the new Millennium.Its range is composed of four vitolas with a light to medium flavour using tobaccos from the Vuelta Abajo region. Each is named after one of the fortresses that defended the city in the days when it was the hub of Spain’s Latin American Empire.
All are “totalmente a mano, tripa larga”—totally hand made, long filler and two sizes, El Morro and La Fuerza, are not found in any other Habano brand.
Mercaderes, Oficios and Muralla are vitolas available in exclusive at La Casa del Habano.
Flavour Ranking: Light to Medium.

Quintero

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Quintero’s smooth, medium bodied taste makes it ideal for those seeking to experience the taste of Habanos at an affordable price.It is one of the few Habanos brands not born in Cuba’s capital city, Havana. Instead its founder Agustin Quintero with his four brothers set up shop in the south coast city of Cienfuegos, known as the “Pearl of the South”. Then as now all the tobaccos selected for Quintero came from the Vuelta Abajo region, home of the finest tobaccos in the world.
Quintero is made by the “totalmente a mano, tripa corta” -totally hand made, short filler.
Flavour Ranking: Medium

Vegas Robaina

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The Robaina family have farmed tobacco continuously since 1845 on their precious vegas (fields) at Cuchillas de Barbacoa situated in the San Luis zone of the Vuelta Abajo tobacco region.
All five Vegas Robaina vitolas are dressed with wrappers from the Robaina family’s farm and are totalmente a mano, tripa larga — totally hand made, long filler.
Flavour Ranking: Medium to Full.

Vegueros

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It is a tradition in the Vuelta Abajo region for the vegueros (farmers) to make their own cigars. Visitors to this part of Pinar del Rio province often want to try these cigars made in the land where the best tobacco in the world is grown.As a result, in 1996, the brand called Vegueros was introduced to the market as a tribute to the countless generations that have cultivated tobacco in Pinar del Rio. It has a special intensity in its blend that reflects the tastes of the local people.It is made at the “Francisco Donatien” factory in a sturdy building located in the centre of Pinar del Rio city that was built in 1868 and converted into a cigar factory in 1961.
All sizes are “totalmente a mano, tripa larga” – totally hand made, long filler.

Rafael Gonzales

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Rafael Gonzalez was created in the 1930’s.It was in this brand that the 6 ½ inch(165mm) by 42 gauge cigar, which has the factory name of Cervantes, was first called a Lonsdale after Lord Lonsdale, the famous English sporting Earl and cigar aficionado of that period. Now many other brands use the name as well.On its lid label each box carries a curious inscription written in English to the effect that the cigars should be smoked within one month of the date of shipment from Havana or otherwise they should be carefully matured for about one year.
Rafael Gonzalez cigars contain a light tasting blend of leaves from the Vuelta Abajo region. All sizes are made by the “totalmente a mano, tripa larga” — totally by hand, long filler technique bar one, which is “totalmente a mano, tripa corta” — totally hand made, short filler.
Flavour Ranking: Light.

Quai D'Orsay

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This brand owes its origin to the refined taste of the French market. Created in the 1970’s, the name is taken from a well-known street in Paris beside the River Seine.All Quai d’Orsay sizes are made with a light tasting blend of leaves from the Vuelta Abajo region and its wrappers are mainly distinguished by their Claro (light brown) and Colorado Claro (mid brown) colours.
All sizes are “totalmente a mano, tripa larga” – totally hand made long filler.
Flavour Ranking: Light.

Saint Luis Rey

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Saint Luis Rey was founded just before the Second World War.Some say that its name was taken from a Thornton Wilder play “The Bridge of San Luis Rey”, which was popular at the time. However it is more likely that it refers to the town of San Luis in the heart of the Vuelta Abajo tobacco region, which is particularly famous for the superb wrapper leaves produced there.Whatever the truth may be Saint Luis Rey cigars enjoy a reputation among cigars lovers for the intensity of their flavour throughout the range. They are made with leaves from the Vuelta Abajo and Semi Vuelta regions.
All sizes are “Totalmente a mano, tripa larga” – totally hand made long filler.

Ramon Allones

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Ramón Allones is one of the big names in the history of Habanos. Founded in 1837, it is also one of the oldest brands in production.A Galician by birth Ramón Allones was the first cigar manufacturer to pack his cigars in boxes decoreted with labels and stamped with his brand´s emblem. He was the pioneer of the packaging we know today.
All Ramon Allones cigars are filled with a blend of tobaccos from the Vuelta Abajo region, characterised by their intense and complex taste.The range includes “tripa larga, totalmente a mano”-long filler, totally hand made cigars such as the famous Gigantes and Specially Selected.
Flavour Ranking: Full.

Sancho Panza

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Like other great Habano brands such as Montecristo and Romeo y Julieta, Sancho Panza takes it name from a masterpiece of world literature.In Don Quixote, the famous 17th Century Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes, it was Sancho Panza who served the errant knight as his faithful squire.His name was first used for a Habano in 1848 and since then it has enjoyed a reputation for quality amongst discerning smokers.The range today includes an example of the largest size of Habano available, a 235mm (9 ¼ inch) Gran Corona, which bears the simple name of Sancho.
Using a medium-bodied blend of tobaccos from the Vuelta Abajo region, all sizes are “totalmente a mano, tripa larga” – totally hand made, long filler.
Flavour Ranking: Medium.

Juan Lopez

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Here is one of the few Havana brands which is offered only in handmade styles, started in 1876 by Juan Lopez Diaz. The range of sizes is limited, but the workmanship is first-rate and the flavour is considered to be medium to strong, with light and almost aromatic overtones. A sampling of this cigar may develop into a long term love for it.

Romeo y Julieta

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Named after William Shakespeare’s tragic lovers, the origins of Romeo y Julieta as a Habano date back to 1875.The brand rose to international fame during the early years of the 20th Century under the direction of Don “Pepin” Fernandez, a talented promoter, who was amongst the first to recognise the power of the cigar band. During his hey day no less than 20,000 different bands were used in production.Winston Churchill became a devotee of Romeo y Julieta. Since his visit to Havana in 1946, his name has not only been commemorated on a band but it has also served to describe the marque’s most famous size measuring 7 inches (178 mm) by 47 ring gauge — the Churchill.Romeo y Julieta’s balanced and aromatic blend of selected leaves from the Vuelta Abajo region make it the classic medium bodied Habano.Today Romeo y Julieta is as well known around the world as ever and offers the widest range of totalmente a mano, tripa larga – totally hand made, long filler – sizes available in any Habano brand.On 2006 was launched to the market a new vitola Shorts Churchills of Romeo y Julieta: it name is Robustos, the size that was missed in the brand. The VIII Habanos Festivals was the devised moment for its launch and the ideal opportunity of Habanos, S.A. to present the new image of the brand Romeo y Julieta  with a new  band and tube design.
Presentations : Wooden boxes with 10 and 25 units and carton packs  of 5 units.

Jose L. Piedra

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Jose L. Piedra is a popular brand for domestic consumption in Cuba. Apart from the original six smaller Jose L. Piedra cigars which are machine-made, this Jose L. Piedra brand started producing a new full range of hand-made sizes (which have recently become unavailable). Made in the regional factory in Santa Clara, Cuba, this Jose L. Piedra brand continues to have very competitive pricing. Jose L. Piedra brand cigars are considered to have a mild-to-medium body with strong flavours.