Welcome to Cigar History, a series of blogs that the team at Havana House are creating about the background of each cigar brand! Today is the initial instalment of the series, we’re talking about Cohiba cigars
Hailing from El Laguito, Cuba, Cohiba is one of the largest manufacturers of cigars in the entire world. Furthermore, Cohiba cigars are some of the finest aficionados have ever seen with collections such as Comador, Nicaragua and more as well as the famous Cohiba Club mini cigarillos.
Cohiba Cigars History
Cohiba began as a national company of Cuba, unlike the majority of other brands of Cuban cigars, which were nationalised from private owners during Fidel Castro’s Guerilla revolution. The first Cohiba cigars were the product of Che Guevara, a man you have likely heard of as a cigar enthusiast. In case you have not, Che Guevara was the right hand man of Fidel Castro – The man who ruled Cuba with an iron fist for nearly half a century.
The story of the first Cohiba Cigars, or how Castro tells it, is that one day a bodyguard of his was smoking a strong aromatic cigar. Castro asked him simply what he was smoking, to which the man replied that it was a gift from a friend, not a branded cigar. Castro took one drag from the cigar and immediately said ‘Let us find this friend!’ and so they did. They made contact with the creator of the cigar, who explained the blend of tobacco which he used as well as the wrapping method among other details which are of vital importance to creating a quality cigar.
Not long after, Castro assigned Che Guevara with one of his initial tasks as Minister of Industries for the newly formed Cuban Government. Che began by selecting the most outstanding specialists in terms of agronomists, master rollers and factory managers. Che’s idea behind Cohiba was to produce the finest quality cigars for top Cuban officials. This meant that all manufacturing had to be done under tight security measures and using only the finest tobacco and the best rollers. Nowadays, Cohiba cigars are no longer made under such strict security measures but the tradition of only employing the best Cuba has to offer is still as strong as it ever was.
The first three Cohiba models were dispatched from El Liguito in 1968. Unfortunately for Che Guevara, he never has the chance to see the great success that would become of Cohiba cigars nor did he ever get to sample the finished product as he was executed a year earlier in 1967. The first three cigars were The Lanceros (great panatella), The Special Coronas (Corona) and the Panatellas (Cigarettes).
The Cuban state tobacco marketing bureau came up with the idea for the name Cohiba, in 1968. The word Cohiba is the name the indigenous people of Cuba gave to the roll they prepared with tobacco leaves. The Cuban people already knew about the uses for tobacco and made use for it before the arrival of the Spanish.
The great success of Cohiba cigars did not come until much later than the original formation, in 1982, with the commercialisation of the brand. Cohiba was launched as a premium cigar brand into markets outside of the US, because of JFK’s embargo. The initial three styles of cigar were launched in conjunction with the World Cup hosted by Spain. This made Cohiba an almost overnight success!
Cohiba Cigars Tobacco
The tobacco used for Cohiba cigars was, and still is from, Cuba’s Vegas Finas de Primera (first-class fields). The location of which was a closely guarded secret for many years, something of a genuine miracle as the Che managed to hide over 700 acres of tobacco fields in total! This was certainly a necessary measure as the American CIA was aware of Che’s attempt to revolutionise Cuba’s industries and had plans of sabotage and subterfuge. As well as design briefs for an exploding cigar which could be used to assassin Cuban higher-ups.
Only ten selected fields are used to make tobacco for Cohiba cigars. It is estimated that only the output of five fields are utilised by the end of the cigar making process, due to strict quality control measures. The tobacco used as filler is unique to Cohiba cigars owing to a special third fermentation process in wooden barrels. This method is aimed at producing a smoother flavour than other cigars.
The Introduction of new Cohiba Cigars
After the international success in 1982, with sales figures off the chance and plenty of room for expansion the managing team at Cohiba decided that it was time to add three more cigars, the Robusto, the Exquisito and the Esplendido. The classic branch of cigars was launched introduced in 1989, which included the Esplendid (Churchill), the Robustos and the Exquisite (Panatella). Three years later, in 1992, the next addition to Cohiba cigars was introduced. There were five models in the 1492 branch, named so to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of Cuba. The set of cigars included the 1st Century (Tiny Corona), the 2nd Century (Petit Corona), the 3rd Century (Corona), 4th Century (Large Corona) and the 5th century (Lonsdale). These were later re-branded at the Siglo range when they were released, with a special Siglo VI being added in 2002.
Cohiba also produces machine made cigars and mini cigarillos such as the Cohiba clubs. Non-cigar products have also been branded under Cohiba such as Cohiba Cigarettes and Cohiba Cognac. Cohiba Cigars are without a doubt some of the finest coming out of Cuba. What are your thoughts on the Cohiba brand and their range? Let us know in the comment section below, we love to read your thoughts and interact with the community!