Here is a quick history on cigars; the history, the process and fun facts!
Enjoy this Friday’s read.
Getting Started with Cigars – An Introduction
We all know the imagery associated with cigars; the powerful businessman or politician offering the finest rolled embargoed Havana stogie to an influential guest as a gesture of mutual profitable business to come; the celebrity and star athletes with winning smiles donned with a sleek cigar to cement their celebratory status from a recent winning project or season.
King Edward VII, Ulysses S. Grant, Sigmund Freud, Winston Churchill, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Groucho Marx, Mark Twain, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Red Auerbach, Bill Cosby, and perhaps the most iconic cigar smoker of all time, George Burns, have engrained in our minds the independent maverick men respect and women flock to.
But aside from the small percentage of people that fit into these grandiose categories, there are innumerable others that have enjoyed being connoisseurs of tobacco rolled in fine leaves for centuries upon centuries. Lawyers, general contractors, academics, and entrepreneurs, all have enjoyed the cigar as a sophisticated pleasure, a symbol of self-congratulations for achieving that long sought after goal, an attaboy, good job buddy, I’m proud of you process of self reflection.
Cigars are so strong a symbol, they are even a token of the biggest occasion in any man’s life, the birth of a child. “It’s a boy!”, and “It’s a girl!” is exclaimed at the proudest moment, printed on a cigar and given to both family and strangers alike. This cultural artifact is believed to have either come from the Native American tradition of gifting to the community when a family had a new child or from the time spent waiting in the den by men when babies were born at home with the expectant mother and midwife in the bedroom.
The English word cigar came into general use in 1730 according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, being derived from the Spanish word cigarro and the French word cigare but both probably being superseded by the Mayan sicar meaning “to smoke rolled tobacco leaves”.
An excellent history of the cigar can be found here, but a quick rundown of the last 500 years starts with Europeans first coming across the practice of smoking dried tobacco leaves from expeditions to the Caribbeans in the late 15th century, spreading from Spain and Portugal, then moving to France, Italy and eventually to Britain by the mid-16th century. Half a century later tobacco was commercially grown in America and by the 19th century cigar smoking was common with cigarettes still being relatively rare. By the 20th century the “cigar capital of the world” was in West Tampa Florida with over 500 million cigars being rolled in 1929 alone.
Fast forward to present day cigar making and we find that most are made by machine with a small percentage of them still being rolled by hand to add a feeling of superior quality and prestige.
There are three parts to a cigar – the wrapper, the binder, and the filler. There are different type of filler leaves and how the filler leaves are blended is what gives the cigar it’s own personal taste. Cigar tobacco falls into several categories of originating seeds whether it be Cuban, Sumatra, or Connecticut type seeds. The regions where cigar tobacco is typically grown are Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras/Nicaragua, Mexico, United States, Cameroon/Central African Republic, Indonesia, and the Philippines with each producing different characteristics.
If you’re just getting started with cigars, we’d like to help anyone willing to spend a little time to learn how to determine the difference between quality craftsmanship and an inferior roll that relies solely on marketing gimmicks. Next time, we’ll talk about how to select a cigar that is just right for you and also how to choose a cigar for different occasions.