H. Upmann Cigars: Intriguing History Behind the Brand

H. Upmann Cigars: Intriguing History Behind the Brand

A box of Vintage H. Upmann Magnum 50 Cigar (PBS NOV08)


In our new series Behind the Brand, we explore the fascinating, scandalous and spectacular history from brands who make the greatest Cuban Cigars online. Already in the series, we have uncovered:


For many Germans in the mid-eighteenth century, Havana was a paradise to unearth wealth and prosperity. Considered part of the ‘new world’, a banker named Hermann Dietrich travelled across the seas from Germany, meeting an English passenger who taught him about Cuba’s tobacco industry. In 1843, Dietrich landed on the island and established a bank for tobacco manufactures and traders. At the same time, he worked for import/export company Gravenhorst & Co. Then in 1844, he created H. Upmann Cigars and bought his first factory. One of the oldest brands to craft Cuban cigars, and one of the biggest innovators.

EARLY SUCCESS AND INNOVATION – From the beginning, and similar to Romeo Y Julieta Cigars, success came fast. Various awards and accolades were won, including seven gold medals. Today these medals are proudly adorned on their packaging. The brand is credited with inventing cedar boxes. Using this material helps to keep cigars fresh and in good-condition through transportation. As a gift for bank customers choosing to advertise his bank, Dietrich would offer cedar boxes with the name H. Upmann inscribed, containing a selection of different cigars, until he created his own. Additionally, the innovation of H. Upmann is shown in the brand’s method to utilise their work-force. Tobacco plantation workers were broken down in divisions – something no other cigar brand had structured. H.Upmann’s decision to use tobacco leaves from Cuba’s prominent Vuelta Abajo region, encouraged other cigar brands to follow suit.

H. Upmann Cigars: History Behind the Brand

Top Left: Hermann Dietrich - creator of H. Upmann Cigars, Top Right: H. Upmann Magnum 50 Cigar, Bottom: H. Upmann Sir Winston Gran Reserva Cosecha 2011 Cigar

"arrested for bank fraud and jailed"

WORLD WAR I AND BANKRUPTCY – Hermann Dietrich began working with his brother August, though in 1890, he passed H. Upmann Cigars down to his nephew, who continued to work with August until 1914. Then family members Hermann and Alberto Upmann took over. The two brothers co-operated with German intelligence during the first World War, causing a series of problems. Once Cuba declared war on Germany, the H. Upmann bank was closed for a lengthy period of thirty months. The brothers found themselves on the US Enemy Trading List, with their assets in America seized. Cuba placed them under house arrest and when they were finally free and able to fight for what they had lost in America, they found themselves on the verge of bankruptcy. Adding to their woes, they were arrested for bank fraud and jailed. Upon release, Albert Upmann moved to the US, while Hermann Upmann died in Havana.

NEW OWNERS AND GOVERNMENT CONTROL – J. Frankau & Co purchased H. Upmann cigars along with their factory at an auction. They were preceded by two men called Alonso Menedez and Garcia y Cia – owners of a small cigar company producing Montecristo Cigars (now one of the most well-known). Though they led H. Upmann cigars to triumph, like the majority of habano companies in 1960, they lost control when Fidel Castro came to power. Menedez and Garcia moved H. Upmann to the Dominican Republic, where they are still made today. The Cuban H. Upmann cigars however, continue to be owned by the government and crafted in Cuba. Due to the perfect climate, terrain and environment in Cuba’s tobacco regions, only the Cuban H. Upmann cigars are full of the same delectable flavours and craftsmanship from the pre-Castro era. 

H. Upmann Cigars: History Behind the Brand

Top Left: H. Upmann Connoisseur No. 1 Cigar, Top Right: John F. Kennedy, Bottom Left: Sir Winston Churchill, Bottom Right: H. Upmann Magnum 54 Cigar

"a worldwide favourite"

LEGACY OF H. UPMANN CIGARS TODAY – Infamously, John F. Kennedy was a huge admirer. H. Upmann created his favourite cigar. On our blog post: The Cigar Husbands of Jackie Kennedy, we shared the story of how JFK requested the White House Secretary Pierre Salinger, to source as many Cuban cigars as possible, before he signed the embargo against Cuba. With a typical light to medium flavour, H. Upmann cigars are often recognised by their slightly darker wrapper. The brand’s iconic Magnum Line is a classic to cigar aficionados, and is totally hand made with a long filter. H. Upmann Magnum 50 Cigar is considered a world-wide favourite. Imagine smooth flavours combining in a perfect format of 160mm by a 50 ring gauge. Another beloved cigar to mention, is the H. Upmann Connoisseur A Cigar. Exclusively released in 2013 for Habano specialist and Le Casa Del Habano stores, the cigar is packed full of flavours with a Genios Vitola of 140mm by 52 ring gauge.

From a banker with tobacco ambitions, to Montecristo brand owners at the helm, H. Upmann has passed through many leaders since its humble beginnings in 1844. The cigars have gained legions of devoted fans – a president and even Winston Churchill enjoyed. And while the brand has now split in two, H. Upmann Cuban cigars remain as some of the best cigars for sale online. If you are looking for a H. Upmann collectors item, may we suggest H. Upmann Sir Winston Gran Reserva Cosecha 2011 Cigar. Amazingly rare, the cigar contains tobacco which has been aged for a minimum of 5 years, and is constructed to the popular Churchill Vitola.