01 May 2020
Cigars: A Journey Through Time
It’s time to remind ourselves of the rich and varied history of the cigar, and why they have played such an important role in cultures all over the world. Understanding the background of certain cigars allows you to better understand the cultural significance that is associated with each particular brand, and what they might represent.
Cigars have a long and complicated history, with various interesting influencers and advancements which have led them to the place they are today. In very basic terms, they can be summed up as ‘a tightly wound bundle of tobacco which can be ignited so that smoke can be drawn into the mouth’. They are thought to have remained the same as the ancient Mayans intended for many years, simply tobacco wrapped in palm or plantain leaves.
The first westerners to encounter tobacco were Christopher Columbus and his ensemble, in October 1492. The famous explorer and his men soon recognised the growing of tobacco plants amongst the natives and further realised its value as a commodity. The exact name and origin of tobacco remains an uncertain mystery, but it has been widely suggested that the name was used among pre-Columbian natives of the West Indies and the Mayan verb “sikar” meaning “to smoke”, later became the Spanish noun cigarro.
Smoking soon grew in popularity in Spain and Portugal, it was then popularised in France by Jean Nicot who was the French ambassador to Portugal. Although most European cigars were manufactured in Spain, it wasn’t long until Cuba was discovered as the prime location to grow tobacco - due to the country’s climate.
The first half of the 19th century was a notable period for the increasing popularity of the cigars - the Civil War could be referred to as the Golden Age of the cigar in the USA. By the year 1898, the annual consumption of cigars in the US alone had surpassed four billion. By 1920, that figure had increased to seven billion. Everyone who wanted to enjoy smoking cigars was able to do so with a range of agreeable flavours and at a reasonable price.
Since then, cigars have risen and fallen in value and cultural importance - yet they remain a staple part of certain lifestyles for many. Several famous people in history have further established cigars and their luxurious nature; Sir Winston Churchill is arguably one of the most famous politicians and cigar smokers of all time - he was often seen holding a fine La Aroma de Cuba in his hand.