Cigar-Smoking Icons: Winston Churchill
STATESMAN. AUTHOR. SOLDIER
Politician, army officer and writer – Winston Churchill is undoubtedly, one of the most iconic cigar-smoking statesmen in the world. It would be an understatement to say that he just ‘liked’ smoking Cuban cigars – because he absolutely loved it. Cigars were an important part of his life, all-throughout his time as a soldier, a prime minister and his final waking moments. Whether its leading Great Britain throughout the Second World War or perhaps negotiation with world leaders – Sir Churchill never failed to bring a stogie as his sidekick. In this article, we will discuss his role in British history, as well as his passion for smoking.
“GREAT BRITAIN’S MOST FAMOUS PRIME MINISTER”
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was born on the 30th of November 1874 in Oxfordshire, England. His family was extremely wealthy and aristocratic. His father descended from the First Duke of Marlborough and was well-known in Tory politics. As for his mother, she was an American heiress whose father was the part-owner of the New York Times. In 1895, he joined the British Army and travelled around the British Empire as a soldier and journalist. He flew to many countries, including Cuba, British India, Sudan, South Africa and much more. While being a soldier, he also wrote his own books, publishing about five books by the time he returned to England in 1900.
That same year, Sir Churchill began his journey into British Politics. He spent many years bouncing back and forth from the Conservative party to the Liberal Party – but finally settled with Conservative after Hitler soon came to power in Germany. Churchill was known for spending a great deal of time warning his countrymen about the perils of German nationalism, but Britons were weary of war and reluctant to get involved in international affairs again. It wasn't until Hitler broke their peace promise that Britain declared war on them, and immediately, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister. In the end, Churchill led Britain into victory from the years 1940 to 1945.
Winston Churchill with a Cuban Cigar in his mouth.
“825 CIGARS BOUGHT IN THE SPAN OF 6-MONTHS.”
Churchill first encountered a cigar while on his first travels as part of the British Army. They flew over to Cuba, and there, he tasted his very first Cuban cigar. Since then, he had developed a love for Cuban tobacco. Out of all the brands, Churchill was known to love Romeo y Julieta Cigars. His favourites were notably the RyJ Piramides and the Romeo Epicure Grandes, which, unfortunately, aren’t longer part of the main line today. However, to commemorate the Statesman, Romeo y Julieta released a Churchill line, including some incredible smokes such as the Romeo y Julieta Wide Churchills. But, just because he loved RyJ, that doesn’t mean it stopped him from smoking other stogies! During his time, other cigar-enthusiasts usually stuck to one size from one brand; on the other hand, Winston Churchill wasn’t scared of trying a range of brands and sizes. He demonstrated a true love for smoking, a love that lasted until his final days.
You can find countless images of Sir Churchill smoking just about anywhere – while promenading through the streets, on his travels abroad or relaxing inside his office. But, did you know, he was more-than-once caught smoking a fine stogie while being escorted by the ambulance? The statesmen were no stranger to accidents, but despite his injuries, that didn’t stop him from enjoying the one hobby he loved doing the most – that is smoking cigars.
So, how much did Churchill smoke? Definitely a hefty amount. He would often purchase his beloved tobacco from cigar shops in London, with his favourite supplier being James J. Fox. According to Cigar Aficionado, before his death in January 1965, Churchill bought 825 cigars in the span of six months – from April to September 1964. Yes, it does sound a lot, but his humidor definitely permitted him to purchase such large amounts of smokes. The capacity of his humidor was reported to have been about 4,000 cigars!
"CIGARS BECAME HIS PUBLIC PERSONA"
Churchill was often spotted wearing a bowler hat with a stick of tobacco in one hand. It wasn't long before the British public began associating those elements to the statesman. While he was Prime Minister, he would often be depicted on commercial items such as mugs or miniature statues. Churchill even had a customised oxygen mask made that enabled him to smoke while he was on high-altitude flights in World War II! But, fast forward to today, Churchill and his cigars remain as enduring symbols for smoking cigars, with countless brands like Romeo y Julieta incorporating his image to their products.
Some may call Churchill's smoking habits quite incessant, and a hobby that could prove detrimental to his health. However, Churchill believed otherwise. In his 1932 collection of essays, “Thoughts and Adventures,” he recalls a time when his parents disapproved of his smoking habit, it cites "How can I tell that the soothing influence of tobacco upon my nervous system may not have enabled me to comport myself with calm and courtesy in some awkward personal encounter or negotiation, or carried me serenely through some critical hours of anxious waiting? How can I tell that my temper would have been as sweet or my companionship as agreeable if I had abjured from my youth the goddess Nicotine?" But despite his unhealthy smoking habit, he miraculously lived up until the tender age of 90.
For avid cigar collectors today, nothing is more valuable than getting your hands on a cigar smoked by the famous statesman himself. With the thousands of cigars, he has smoked in his lifetime, one would assume that his cigar collection lives on today. But that’s actually not true. Majority of the cigar he purchases was consumed by him, as there are only a few boxes that are being kept as museum pieces in London. But only a few years ago, a half-smoked cigar, hastily discarded by Churchill in 2941 was sold for £4,500 at an auction house.
For more interesting articles about all-things Cuban cigars, then head over to our Cigar Blog:
- A LOOK INTO CUBAN RESERVA AND GRAN RESERVA CIGARS
- THE ART OF TURNING CIGAR BOXES INTO GUITARS
- CIGAR SOMMELIERS 101: THE BLIND TASTE TEST