Made In Cuba: The Origin of Cuban Cigars

Made In Cuba: The Origin of Cuban Cigars
Today, Cuban Cigars are considered to be one of the most sought after cigars in the world. As the famous Cigar Aficionado Marvin Shanken puts it, “There is nothing like a Cuban cigar”. It could be because of the unique qualities of Cuban soil, affecting the overall character of the cigar; just like fine wine. But how did Cuban Cigars acquire such a reputation? And how did it evolve over the centuries? Cuban Cigars have a long history that helped it earn the name it has today, from the Mayans to the Spanish conquistadors.

Above: Mayan man smoking tobacco (Medium)


THE MAYANS AND TOBACCO Prior to the popularity of Cuban Cigars, cigars were being smoked as an ancient practice, most people start with Christopher Columbus’ discovery, however, the existence of tobacco may have dated from about 18,000 years ago. The Mayans were an ancient civilization that existed in South America and was believed to have invented cigars. There are actually many ancient carvings that illustrate ancient Mayans that appear to be smoking tobacco - for instance - there is a 10th-century Mayan pot that illustrates a Mayan man smoking what appears to be a cigar, and actually, many of their ancient Gods were depicted this way. According to speculation, the word 'Cigar' may have originated from the Mayan word 'Sikar'. The Sikars had a plethora of uses for the Mayans, whether it be for leisure or as a ritual for the Gods. The Sikars were often offered to the Gods, burning like incense or as smoke being released by the mouths of worshippers. This practice of smoking tobacco, continued on for centuries, eventually leading to Christopher Columbus' discovery of the Hispaniola islands which helped it spread to a number of nations.

Above: 1758 Bachien Map of Cuba (Old Maps)


INTRODUCTION BY CONQUISTADORS - Cuban Cigars were first pioneered by the Hispaniola islands and in due course, became a worldwide phenomenon by many aficionados all over the world. Beginning in the 15th Century, on the island of Hispaniola - the modern day Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic - Christopher Columbus stepped afoot upon the shores of Cuba and encountered the locals who offered them dry tobacco leaves wrapped in palm or plantain leaves which were then smoked. The conquistadors eventually became accustomed to this practice, using it as an accessory on their worldly travels, and delivered it on the way back to Europe. The smoking of tobacco eventually became widespread thanks to the Spanish conquistadors, becoming a common practice in many different countries of the world such as the Americas and Britain - which was adopted to pipes in the UK. Thanks to Jean Nicot, a notable advocate for tobacco usage, encouraged the practice as a symbol of wealth - this image of "luxury" continues to uphold through generations, and can act as 'status symbols'.

Above: Tobacco Plantation


COMMERCIALISATION - The Spanish first imported the dry tobacco leaves from the islands, but soon after realized the efficiency and value of pre-rolling the Cuban Cigars in factories, which kickstarted the investment of constructing many cigar factories and manufacturing plants in Cuba. By the mid-1700s, tobacco became Cuba's most important export after sugar and by 1859, Cuba had more than 10,000 tobacco plantations and 1,300 cigar factors - becoming the golden age of Cuban cigars. Not only did it become a significant source for cigars, but it also became essential for the livelihood of many Cubans who grow their own plantation. Around the 18th and 19th Centuries, many iconic Cigar brands have emerged, such as La Gloria Cubana cigars, Por Larrañaga cigars, and Punch cigars, some of which, still use the same location and factory where it was established. The popularity of cigars became evident in this era in countries such as the United States, in which cigars began to have regulations about taxes, licenses and even the number of cigars per box. Furthermore, thanks to high profile figures like Fidel Castro, who made the Cohiba brand famous, and Winston Churchill, his favorite being Romeo y Julieta, the popularity and its presence in media flourished and established itself an indication of affluence.

Now today in the 21st century, Cuba resumes being a major producer of premium cigars along with competitors such as the Dominican Republic and Honduras. But undeniably, the quality and the character of the cigar is not like any other. If you're looking too high-quality cigars, check out our Cuban Cigar Shop, and if you're still curious about the world of Cuban Cigars, check out our Cuban Cigar Blog to find out even more interesting information.