Historic Cigar brands and their story
All Strats from the Discovery of Tobacco
The Cigar’s origin is unknown, but there are shreds of evidence about the Mayans smoking rolled bunches of tobacco leaves. The word Cigar originated from the Mayan word ‘Sikar,’ which means the process of smoking rolled tobacco leaves. Tobacco was unknown to the
world but only to the natives of the Americas. Tobacco started spreading out into the rest of the world through the European sailors in the fifteenth century and slowly became popular, and at that time, people used to smoke tobacco in clay pipes.
That’s a bit of a history of tobacco. Let us come back to Cigar. The first cigar factory was established in Cuba around the sixteenth century. Although cigar-smoking existed, it came into prominence in the eighteenth century. Slowly the commercial production started to meet the demand, and the Cigar industry began shaping up in the nineteenth century.
Emerging of Cigar Brands
Brands are supplementary to an emerging industry and its market. That designates quality and consistency. From the beginning, Cuba was the epicenter of tobacco farming and Cigar making, and no doubt the first-ever cigar brand emerged in Cuba.
“The end of the monarchic monopoly on tobacco in 1817 allowed the private companies to farm tobacco and make tobacco products, and that brought more companies into the business.”
Hija de Cabañas
This brand was registered in 1810 by Francisco Cabanas. So Cabanas is the first and the oldest brand in cigar history with active production. It won’t be wrong to say that Francisco is the father of branded cigars. The brand was discontinued in 1962. Though there were references to registering a brand “Bernardino Rencurrel” in Cuba before Cabanas, there is no clarity on whether they ever produced cigars.
Ignacio Larrañaga, a Spanish settler in Cuba, started a cigar factory in 1834. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Por Larranaga brand became popular and positioned itself in premium as well as affordable categories. They had their ups and downs, faced employee ire for introducing machines production, hit operational roadblocks, changed hands, and finally got nationalized in 1960. Habanos SA is running the brand and is still in production.
The Allone brothers Ramon and Antonio Allone started this brand in 1837. Ramon Allones is the first brand to use box packaging and lithographic art color printed boxes in the cigar
industry. They began production in the Partagas factory. This cigar brand is still in production and owned by Habanos SA.
Brand Punch came into the market in 1840 and was registered by a German national named Stockman. The name “Punch” was inspired by a puppet show character Mr.Punch which was popular in Europe. It was an instant success in the market, especially the European
market. Stockman sold the company in 1874, and the ownership changed many hands thereafter. It is still in production and is a trendy brand.
In 1943 A German banker named Hermann Dietrich Upmann reached Havana as business manager for a German firm. He saw the opportunity in the Cigar business and purchased a running cigar factory, and started H Upmann cigars. Upmann also started a banking business alongside to finance the tobacco companies. After Hermann Upmann’s retirement in 1890, his relatives continued the business.
During world war II, Upmanns supported the German dictator, and their buildings were an undercover center for the German spies and the war operations. This accusation led the Cuban government to close their business in Cuba, and the subsequent criminal charges and litigation process resulted in their bankruptcy. In 1922 Upmanns sold the brand.
Don Jaime Partagas started the Partagas brand in 1845. He owned many cigar farms and was a master in cigar grading, selecting, and fermenting the best tobacco leaves. This skill helped him blend some of the best cigars, and the brand shot into fame and success. Partagas family sold the brand in 1899. The brand is still in production.
El Rey Del Mundo and Sancho Panza
In 1848 a German businessman Emilio Ohmstedt started two cigar brands. The meaning of El Rey del Mundo is “king of the world,” and the brand El Rey Del Mundo was once the most prestigious cigar brand in the world. The brand name Sancho Panza was inspired by the character “Sancho Panza” in the novel “Don Quixote.” In 1882 Antonio Allones of the Allones cigars bought both El Rey Del Mundo and Sancho Panza brands.
Romeo Y Julieta
Inocencio Alvarez and Manin García established the brand Romeo Y Julieta in 1875 brand name inspired by Shakespearean Novel, and the brand logo depicted the same characters. Romeo Y Julieta was famous and won many accolades in tasting exhibitions. The brand’s
phenomenal growth took place after Rodriguez Fernández took over the company in 1903.
Don Francisco E. Fonseca started cigar production in 1892, but the brand was formally registered as Fonseca in 1907. It was a quick success, and cigars were famous for their pocket-friendly pricing. Francisco introduced an innovative method of tin tube packaging with paper wrapping, which helped in longer shelflife. After Don Franciso’s untimely death, his wife continued the business and later merged the brand to a new company. Quesada cigars revived the brand in 1974, and in 2019, My Father Cigars bought the brand from Quesada.
The Cuban revolution in 1960 changed the course of the industry. The Cuban government nationalized all private cigar companies under state-owned company Cubatabaco (Empresa Cubana del Tabaco). Starting at the bleak future, many Cigar Company owners fled to the neighboring countries.
The government also nationalized a US-owned refinery without paying compensation to the United States Government; thus, the US imposed a trade embargo on Cuba that banned the sale of Cuban cigars in one of its largest markets.
Sensing the opportunity, the Cigar makers who fled the country reintroduced their brands in the market and started making cigars from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua & other countries. So Many old brands have two versions, Cuban and Non-Cuban ( also called competition brands).
The Cuban government, later in the ’90s set up a company Habano SA in partnership with Altadis to fast-track the commercialization of their brands all over the world.