Spotlight: The History Behind H. Upmann Cigars
MARVELLOUS INNOVATION. WAR BANKRUPTCY. A PRESIDENT'S FAVOURITE
Among the countless Cuban Cigar brands in the tobacco industry, there are a few brands that stand out. Perhaps, it’s their historical significance? The production of innovative cigars? Or could it be solely for their tasting notes and flavours? Today, we are putting a spotlight on the world-famous H. Upmann Cigars. Undoubtedly, many of you aficionados have definitely tried this brand before. H. Upmann is highly renowned for the quality of production, its history and their well-loved cigars like the Magnum 46 and Magnum 50. But did you know H. Upmann is one of the oldest established cigar brands in the world? Or did you know that it got involved in espionage? If you're curious to find out more, continue reading below.
HISTORY OF H. UPMANN
GERMAN IMMIGRANT - 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 manufacturers and traders. At the same time, he worked for import/export company Gravenhorst & Co. So, as would any good businessman would do, he needed to think of ways to market and expand the outreach of the business. He found that there was an opportunity to cater the business to tobacco dealers and manufacturers. Therefore, he created and distributed promotional cigar boxes. He just bought a local cigar factory, and the brand was born in 1844.
EARLY SUCCESS AND INNOVATION - Through this combination of finance and cigar-blending, the brand quickly climbed up the ladder to be known as one of the top cigar brands in Havana. Many would even say that Hermann was better in making cigars than in finance. Between 1862 and 1893, Upmann’s cigar business became even more successful after winning 7 medals from international cigar competitions - earning a renowned name for the company. 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.
Herman Dietrich Upmann.
“INVOLVED IN ESPIONAGE”
WORLD WAR I - What you probably didn’t know about H. Upmann, is that it was involved in espionage during World War I. The cigar business was highly committed to concealing the German Intelligence Network in both America and Cuba. It is claimed that these particular agents were highly involved in supporting revolts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. This meant that many of the H. Upmann banks hosted undercover German agents all across Latin America and Europe. Unfortunately for the brand, it took a turn for the worst. In 1917, Cuba declared war on Germany and all the Upmann banks were closed for 30-months straight. Then in December 1917, the U.S. placed the company in the ‘Enemy Trading List’, with the name of the two Upmann brothers subsequently added in the year after. Eventually, in 1918, the brothers were put under house arrest and were placed in the La Cabañas prison. Unfortunately, even when the brothers were released. They encountered further problems, such as being charged for bank fraud and further arrests. The bail amounted to one million dollars which dove the brand into bankruptcy.
RECOVERY - But since every cloud has a silver lining, it wasn’t over for the cigar brand - 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 Habanos 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.
John F. Kennedy
LEGACY - 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. Today, H. Upmann is still going strong with its extensive, diverse range of cigars, and shows no sign of slowing down. The cigars are currently being manufactured in the Jose Marti Factory in Cuba, where it is expertly handled by expert farmers and highly-skilled rollers, to provide the utmost quality to all Habanos fans. The leaves for the brand is collected in the renowned Pinar Del Rio, Vuelta Abajo region of Cuba. So you can expect flawless flavours and tastes, thanks to the special leaves cultivated in the area. Any aficionado who tries the H. Upmann will immediately recognise the hay-like and earthy flavours of Cuban cigars in this stick. The brand is known not to be super strong nor super mild; therefore it creates the perfect smoke for the novice cigar enthusiast.
TOP 3 CIGARS WE RECOMMEND
In our Cuban Cigar Shop, we sell a variety of H. Upmann cigars. The great thing about H. Upmann is that it provides a great smoke, while not being overpriced. Below are our top three recommendations for someone interested in trying one:
UPMANN ROYAL ROBUSTO
Rated as the #6 on Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25 Cigars in 2012 list, the H. Upmann Royal Robusto has a lot under its sleeve. Measured at 135 mm by a whopping 52 ring gauge, this cigar is a thick, yet flavourful smoke to try. H. Upmann cigars have a reputation for being relatively mind, but don’t let that fool you because this cigar packs some strength. Smooth with notes of coffee and earth, it is a wonderful cigar to smoke.
UPMANN NO. 2
As coined by Cigar Aficionado, the H. Upmann No. 2 is known as Cuba's “Best kept secret”, and we certainly couldn't agree more. The No. 2 is a fantastic cigar within a Piramides vitola, expect beautiful flavours, as well as a wonderful draw that will keep any aficionado happy.
UPMANN MAGNUM 46 CIGAR
Presented at the 2008 Festival Del Habano, the H. Upmann Magnum 46 features a ring-gauge of 46, while measuring at 160mm length. It has a beautifully smooth draw, as well as plenty of flavours to enjoy, like gingerbread, toffee and brown sugar. This is the perfect cigar to enjoy on a daily basis thanks to its reasonable price and gorgeous mild body.
Ever tried an H. Upmann cigar before? What do you think of the brand? Feel free to leave a comment below. Otherwise, check out our Cuban Cigar Blog for more interesting articles about all-things Cuban cigars:
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- NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS FOR CUBAN CIGAR SMOKERS
- BECOMING A CIGAR EXPERT: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW