Tourism Ireland

A Brief History of Cuban Cigars

by Max Bornstein

Aug 6, 2017

Cuban Cigar © stockcreations | Dreamstime

Trends / History

In 1492, Christopher Columbus arrived in Cuba to find the native Taino Indians lighting rolled leaves called cohiba, which they smoked after a ritual. Cohiba became adopted as the name for tobacco. Flash forward more than 500 years and tobacco trade and farming has spread globally. In 1966, the Cohiba cigar began as a private brand supplied to Fidel Castro and high-ranking government officials. Fidel favored Cohibas, which developed a cult following after the commercial release in 1982.

Castro’s government nationalized the Cuban tobacco industry, forming Cubatabaco (Empresa Cubana del Tabaco) in 1962, which oversaw the production and distribution of all Cuban tobacco products. In 1994, the global exportation of cigars and cigarettes became the responsibility of Habanos S.A., a newly created division of Cubatabaco. Habanos literally means from Havana and has become synonymous with Havana cigars.

Habanos S.A. owns the trademarks for all Cuban cigar and cigarette brands in their countries of exportation, as well as franchises the La Casa del Habano cigar store chain. Habanos S.A. controls distribution and counterfeiting by only exporting to one distributer in each country. The United States placed a trade embargo on Cuba in 1962, making it the only country to which Habanos S.A. does not sell cigars. Did you know before President John F. Kennedy signed the trade embargo, he asked his Press Secretary to purchase him 1,000 petit Upmanns before they became contraband?


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