Cigars have been a popular commodity all over the world for quite some time, but a true cigar enthusiast has to wonder, where do cigars come from? Understanding the evolution of cigar, you will come to appreciate your experience with cigars so much more.
According to Wikipedia, a cigar is a rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco leaves, that are made to be smoked. Cigar tobacco has been around for over a thousand years and is grown in significant quantities, primarily in Central America and Caribbean islands (including Cuba), the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, Ecuador, and Nicaragua. It is also produced in the Eastern United States, specifically Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
Christopher Columbus Discovered… Cigars
In 1942, Christopher Columbus and his men were the first Western travelers to encounter tobacco in recordered history. Local Indians, believed to be form Guatemala, introduced the tobacco plan to Columbus and his men through trade.
After Christoper Columbus had claimed claimed Cuba for Spain, cigar smoking caught on and became quite popular there, and throughout Western Europe. In fact, French Ambassador, Jean Nicot made cigar so popular back then that the word “nicotine” is dervied from his name. Contrarilly, the word “cigar” was derived from the spanish term “cigarre.”
Now under their rule, Spain had forbidden Cuban tobacco growers to sell crop to anyone but them until 1871, thus cornering the tobacco market. While most cigars were then manufactured in Spain, it was only a matter of time before Spain discovered that Cuba was the more ideal place to grow tobacco.
The Cuban seed is the standard from which cigar tobacco is born because of its perfect climate, and the soil in which the tobacco is cultivated. Particurally in Cuba’s Vuelta Arbajo region, the soil is reddish-brown because of its high iron content. It is crumbly with its iron, clay, quartz, and sand content making it like no other soil in the world. It would take farmers decades in other regions to duplicate this type of soil to marry with the ideal climate requirements to produce quality cigar products.
What’s Good For Wine Must Be Good For Tobacco
To this point we have reviewed how cigar tobacoo was discovered, but the question still persists, “where do cigars come from?”
In the 1500’s, someone (notably the Spaniards) ingeniously figured that if grape juice can be fermented and turned into something greater, such as wine, then can’t tobacco? Not to get too much in to how cigars are made, which will be covered in another article on Cigardealfinders.com, the same ideology would become the blueprint for procuring cigars. In making wine, grapes are harvested at their peak ripeness, crushed, fermented with yeast (converting sugar to alcohol), and then placed in wood barrels to age.
Until this point, standard process was only air-curing the leaves which was a native tradition. Although smoking the tobacco leaves were thought enjoyable, they were still harsh and impalatable. Fermentation became the next step to further the process in delevoping the cigar.
Tobacco is a natural plant material, so when you stack it in piles it heats up as any compose heap such as weeds and grass clippings. Unlike the fermentation of grapes, sugar is not needed as tobacco plants contain natural enzymes and chemicals that when combined with heat in composting, ferments just the same. These tactics would become the standard process in how cigars were manufactured in Cuba for centuries to come, until other Regions became major players in the production of premium cigars.
Fidel Castro and Cuba’s Communist Government
Until the 1950’s, Cuba was the central manufacturer of the cigar industry. Many of the top cigar farmers and manufacturers lived in or around Havana, Cuba, a produced the finest smokes in the world. At this time, thousands of Americans would make the short trip to Cuba to enjoy some of the finest rum and cigars.
When Fidel Castro came to power during the Spanish Rebellion, he nationalized all Cuban industry and siezed control of all property and wealth from the Cuba’s elite ruling class. This would include twealthy cigar farmers and manufacturers, who understood rule of the new hand, and defected Cuba with little of their possessions consisting of mostly as many Cuban tobacco seeds as they can stuff in their pockets. Defecting farmers fled to other Caribbean and Central American countries that had the climate to procure the cigar product similar to that of Cuba.
Where Do Cigars Come From Now
Cuba: Cuba is the only cigar tobacco producing region in the world that requires that its product contains 100% of its own leaf (wrapper, binder, filler). Climate, rainfall, rich soil, and underground streams set Cuba apart from every other region in the world and is why they are still producing some of the best cigars. While manufactures and farmers defected to other regions during Castro’s rise to power, and the government took over 80% the production and sale of Cuban cigars, Cuba continued to produce many of the cigar brands that has become prominent in other regions.
Cigarfinders.com Top Cuban Cigar Brands:
- Montecristo #2
- Partagas Series D
- Hoy de Monterey
Dominican Republic: Located in the same chain of islands as Cuba, the Dominican Republic has replaced Cuba as the center of the cigar producing industry. With the climate, rainfall, and sun the Dominican Republic has always been known to produce a smoother and milder cigar. Through improved aging procedures and trade, they now procure now produce more spicy, powerful cigar as well.
Cigarfinders.com Top Dominican Cigar Brands:
- La Flor Dominicana
- Arturo Fuente
Honduras: Since the climate is somewhat drier and hotter than that of Cuba and the Dominican Republic, Honduras produces some of the potent tobacco with high nicotine content. It was here that many Cuban farmers and manufacturers had defected because the climate and soil conditions were most similar to produce the strength of cigar product that Cuba had become to be known for.
Cigardealfinders.com Top Honduran Cigar Brands:
- Alec Bradley
- H. Upmann
- Hoy de Monterey
Nicaragua: Residing right next door to Honduras and possessing the same ideal conditions for producing powerful, spicy tobacco, Nicaragua land had been neglected by government. This created a void in production into the 1980’s, where Nicaragua had come to produce some of Cigar Deal Finder’s favorite cigars.
Cigardealfinders.com Top Nicaraguan Brands:
- My Father
- Drew Estate
While other regions produce some of the cigar tobacco we enjoy today many of the cigars we smoke, climate and soil conditions is not conducive to producing a full cigar product. However, still quality in stature, their tobacco is still blended or wrapped in some of the finest cigars we relish today.
Mexico: Tobacco cultivation in Mexico began with ancient Mayans who cultivate tobacco leaf. Although the scorching sun and crumbled soil is not considered to be ideal for cigar tobacco pro-curation, it produces a spicy, earthy blend that is favored by many cigar enthusiasts. Many of the cigars enjoyed today in some of the top cigar producing regions in the world, use Mexican leaf in a blend of some kind of binder for the cigar.
United States: While most of the U.S. do not provide the necessary climate and soil to produce a quality cigar product, there are a few areas that produce a cigar tobacco product worthy of your cigar. The Connecticut leaf, grown under thin sheets of cloth, is a thinner, more elastic leaf that cures to a lighter, even color.
The Broadleaf is grown in Pennsylvania, USA (Lancaster) and is normally fermented into a maduro. Until recently, the PA Broadleaf was only used as a binder and sometimes blended as a filler. It’s not the most attractive leaf, due to its somewhat uneven and marbleized appearance, but the flavor is extraordinarily rich and distinctive.
Ecuador: Ecuador has only been on the cigar scene for the last 15- 20 years, and has been adopted by Cuba as its cigar offspring. Ecuador’s humidity and usual cloud cover is perfect for a making spicy, tasty cigar wrapper. Sumatra binder and wrapper leaf is being grown in Ecuador as well. The Ecuadorian Habano wrapper has been used on premium cigar brand such as Montecristo, My Father and Rokcy Patel.
Now Do You Know Where Cigars Come From
As a cigar enthusiast, I have come to thirst for the great cigar stories that have enraptured me in this cigar life. I hope by now you have an understanding where do cigars come from. Like many conversations that are enjoyed through beautiful clouds of cigar smoke, I hope this worthy of cigar speak in your next cigar experience.
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