14 November 2012
A Short History of the Cigar
The Cigar has been on a long journey from its humble origins on the Island of Hispaniola in 1492 when it was first introduced to Christopher Columbus and his crew when they were exploring the seas around the New World, to a product that is synonymous with wealth and luxury in the present day.
The term cigar did not come into general usage by the public until 1730. The name is rumoured to have come from the yucatec mayan word for smoking “Sikar” and as cigars grew in popularity the world of advertising chose the names “Cuban”, “Nicaraguan” and “Honduran” to name the different types of cigars that were being sold all over the world.
A Changing Reputation
There has always been conflicting views when it came to cigar production and consumption. Cigars were once regarded to have medicinal qualities before developments in science and medicine and public figures in the past such as James 1st of England and Phillip 2nd of Spain even went so far as to describe cigars as “evil”. Whether you enjoy a cigar or not there is no doubt that the cigar and its many variations has a fascinating history.
Havana has been “cigar capital of the world” for a long time since the middle of the nineteenth century. Even when Spanish cigar manufacturer Vicente Martinez Ybor moved his operations from Havana, Cuba to Key West in Florida to escape the conflict in 1868 which resulted in the ten years’ war Havana Cigars maintained their reputation. Thousands of Cuban and Spanish people travelled with the cigar company from Cuba to produce hundreds of millions of cigars every year in Key West, Florida. Cuban cigar rollers or “torcedores” are expert cigar rollers who are highly respected for their craft in Cuba and travel the world displaying their cigar rolling skills.
After the Cuban revolution in the 1960’s Cuban tobacco experts bought an abundance of tobacco knowledge and expertise to Honduras. The country of Honduras has the perfect climate and soil conditions for growing tobacco plants and so the Honduran Cigar was born. The Honduran cigar is famous for its “full-bodied smokes” and has a distinctive taste compared to other cigars.
The Nicaraguan Cigar also has the Cuban revolution to thank for its existence when cigar experts fled Cuba and sought refuge in Nicaraguan. The country has fertile soil which is essential for tobacco production and was famous for the quality of its cigarette tobacco before the cigar industry arrived in the country.
The Dominican Republic is currently the world’s largest producer of cigars on the islands of Cibao Valley and Santiago due to fertile soils for tobacco growth. There are 600,000 acres of plant fields which means there is a lot more variety in Dominican Cigars and are a lot milder than Cuban cigars. The most famous cigar makers in Dominica are the Leon family who have been making Leon Jimenes and La Aurora cigars on the island since 1905!