"The Cuban Cigar"


Cuban cigars are cigars produced by hand and in all their components (tobacco and its processing) on the island of Cuba.


History of tobacco in Cuba and Central America 

Cuba is obviously not the only producer of cigars in the world, even if it is almost unanimously considered the producer of the best quality cigars in the world. The first Cuban plantations were organized in the region near the town of Santa Clara, in the area called the Vuelta Arriba and, later, in the area near Pinar del Rio, called the Vuelta Abajo. Today all the best quality tobacco intended for the production of premium cigars, i.e. made entirely by hand and with whole leaves, comes from this area. It is a relatively small area (approximately 31,000 hectares), located in the extreme west of the island (province of Pinar del Rio), which, thanks to its meteorological characteristics as well as its unique terroir (a bit like in France for champagne), allows the production of the best tobacco in the world.

However, it should be noted that in recent years the qualitative and quantitative competition from other regions of the world has grown significantly, capable of producing fairly popular cigars, less expensive (except for exceptions) and of even superior workmanship: first of all the Rep. Dominicana and Nicaragua, but also Honduras. A step clearly below Ecuador, Brazil, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Mexico, Indonesia, the United States and even Italy itself with its Toscano.

The first manufacturers brands appeared in Cuba around the first decades of the 1800s. Their success was mixed (so much so that not all brands are still active today), also due to the different fate of the product in the country which has always been , until the Cuban revolution and the embargo, the first consumer of Havana: the USA.

It was precisely the US action - which made use of the heavy duties imposed by Washington DC - that created the first serious crisis in the Cuban tobacco industry and led to the bankruptcy of numerous companies, the emigration of various entrepreneurs to Florida to escape the duties - Capestro and other countries in the Caribbean and Central American area and the acquisition below cost of abandoned Cuban companies by the United States.

This led to a phenomenon of concentration of brands within some companies which occurred at the beginning of the twentieth century, right up to the revolution of Fidel Castro and the acquisition by the state of the main Cuban companies, obviously including those that produce puros.


As mentioned, with the advent of the Castro regime, tobacco companies were nationalized and the United States decreed an embargo on goods produced in Cuba.

Of the 39 cigar factories, very few survived and the Castro government - despite Che Guevara's opposition - decided that only 4 cigar modules (called "Siboney" from the name of an ancient Cuban tribe) should be manufactured in Cuba. state tobacco industry Cubatabacco, compared to more than 950 before the revolution.

A few years later, faced with the disappointing economic result caused (the tobacco industry was the second source of income for Cuba, after cane sugar) Fidel partially retraced his steps, entrusting the great Ukrainian-Swiss expert Zino Davidoff with the tasked with revitalizing an industry now clearly in disarray.

He therefore recovered numerous historical brands, making sure that tobacco and its processing regained that incontestable qualitative primacy of the years preceding the Castro revolution.

After the forced withdrawal of Davidoff, the sole agent authorized for the official sale of Habanos (totally made in Cuba, by hand or by machine) is the Spanish Habanos company referred to by the various offices known as La Casa del Habano, but the semi-clandestine parallel market is flourishing, financed by the same artisans (torcedores).


The X-Ray Cuban Cigar

 The Cuban cigar is called puro habano. All Cuban cigars are currently puros habanos, a term which indicates that all of its components are of the same origin, grown and manufactured in Cuba: in the same way, there are Dominican, Nicaraguan puros and many others. To understand the meaning it is necessary to understand how a pure cigar is made.

Initially, it should be noted that the avanas appreciated throughout the world are all long fillers, i.e. made using whole tobacco leaves, and not shredded or similar products. The cigar is generally produced by assembling different qualities of leaves into the three main constituents: fascia (in Spanish capa), sub-fascia (in Spanish capote) and filling (in Spanish tripa).



  • The capa is the superficial part of the cigar, made up of very thick leaves harvested from a particular variety of tobacco, called corojo. The leaves obtained for the band, chosen for their beauty and clarity, do not have great importance in the 'flavor' of the cigar (around 10%).
  • The capote is the so-called cigar underband, made up of second-choice leaves (from an aesthetic point of view) of the corojo variety, the same as the band.
  • Tripa is the filling of the cigar. The leaves used are much thinner than those used for the capa. They are also harvested from a different variety of tobacco, called criollo.

    Contrary to popular belief, the color of the capa is not linked to the strength of the cigar: it is simply a convention used in the past, when a lighter "tripe" was combined with light-colored cigars and a stronger one with dark cigars.


    • The ligero, i.e. the leaves on the upper part of the plant, give strength to the ligada;
    • the seco, leaves from the intermediate part, give strength and flavour;
    • finally the volado, the low leaves, are used to increase the flammability of the tobacco, as they are not very aromatic in themselves.

      As mentioned, Havanas are also called puros because all the aforementioned leaves come from the same country, Cuba. Contrary to what one might think, this is an exception in the world of cigars, given that for economic reasons, the tobacco-producing countries specialized in a single type of leaf. For example, the Tuscan cigar, with exceptions, is made up of leaves of American origin (Kentucky variety) as regards the leaves for the capa, while the tripe leaves are usually Italian (the capote does not exist in the Tuscan cigar).

      The mix of these three types of filling leaves, called ligada, gives each cigar typical organoleptic characteristics known to all cigar lovers. For example Partagas cigars are known to be stronger (therefore they will have more ligero leaves in proportion and less seco and volado). Conversely, however, for example for Romeo y Julieta which tends to produce sweeter cigars.

      All this is called "typicality" of the brand. Before Fidel Castro's revolution, since brands had different owners, this was the rule (a bit like wine). Today, however, that the State owns all the brands, the collection and selection of tobaccos is usually carried out by the same people for the different brands.


      Vitolas, types and dimensions of a cigar 

      The vitola is a technical term that refers to cigars, especially Cuban and all Caribbean cigars.
      Vitola is the name given to the length and diameter dimensions of any cigar. However, there is talk of a vitola de galera, the jail is the room of the factory where the artisan torcedores involved in the manual packaging of the cigar work.
      When we want to refer to any cigar that has a certain length and a precise diameter, therefore regardless of the factory or commercial brand.

      The vitola de fábrica or salida is instead the specific and characteristic name that a vitola de galera will receive in the factory in order to be identified and marketed without confusion.

      For example, to understand the vitola de galera cd. robust, 124mm x 50 of cepo (which is a unit of measurement expressed in sixty-fourths of an inch), can be marked precisely "Robusto" (vitola de salida) in the Cohiba factory, or "Epicure No. 2" in the factory Hoyo de Monterrey, “Serie D No. 4” in the Partagás or “Royal Coronas” by Bolivar.

       Cigars are mainly divided into two types: Parejos and Figurados.

      • Parejos are cigars with the classic cylindrical shape.

      • Figurados are those cigars with at least one tapered end.

        The category of figurados in turn is divided into sub-categories: the Perfectos, cigars with both tapered ends and the Semi- Figurados, cigars that have only one of the two tapered ends.



        The dimensions of the cigar instead refer to its width and its cepo.
        The largo corresponds to the length of the cigar and is measured in inches or millimeters depending on the market in which it is found.

        The cepo corresponds to the diameter (at its largest point in the case of figurados) and is expressed in millimeters or more commonly in sixty-fourths of an inch.


        Once the cigar is finished, the ring is inserted, which represent true works of art, highly sought after and decorated. Very fast and skilled workers are in charge of this task, able to affix the ring in a few seconds. Habanos SA guarantees that no cigar is assembled using glues or chemical elements.
        Microfermentation and the evolutionary period
        Before being rolled, the tobacco leaves are wetted by the torcedor to become softer and easier to work with. Once packaged the cigars are kept for a period that varies, from one week to six months, in air-conditioned cabinets to allow excess humidity to escape. During hot periods, or in the presence of temperatures above 23°, micro-fermentations may occur inside the box/cabinet due to the heat and humidity of the cigars. The higher the humidity and heat rates, the stronger will be the micro-fermentations that will release ammonia.
        The ammonia quickly leaves the leaves and in the presence of good ventilation it will no longer be perceptible in the cigars in a period that varies between 8 months and 3 years. If the ammonia is not perceptible to the nose it does not mean that the micro-fermentation is not present in the cigars, but the excess ammonia covers the aromas and flavors of the tobacco. There are other elements to consider in the fermentation process. If the leaves that make up our cigar are particularly rich in oils, sugars, organic acids, tannins and nicotine, the micro-fermentations will be more consistent and the tobacco aromas will need more time to emerge at their best.
        Normally for a correct type of conservation, 9 months of aging should be sufficient for cigars with little ligero, called soavi and a minimum of 12 months for strong and full-bodied cigars. These times allow the league to harmonize. The tripa (stuffing) is made up of three tobacco leaves with different organoleptic characteristics. Also in this case it is time that allows the three leaves to amalgamate, returning a more balanced cigar. The so-called "evolution period" consists of a period of time that varies from cigar to cigar, ranging from about a month to about a year after the invoice. In practice, a micro-fermentation takes place in the cigar which produces ammonia: if you smoke in this period the cigar is very strong with bitter, sour scents. The more ligero is present in the cigar, the longer this phase lasts, which is why brands with more decisive flavors require longer maturation times. This criticality can be found especially for Cuban cigars while it is almost absent for cigars of other origins.




        Cuban cigars today 

        Experts and aficionados debate whether current Cuban cigars are at the same level of undisputed excellence as in the pre-Castro period or whether for other reasons (nationalization and/or cultivation problems due to parasite infestations) they have not worsened. Certainly, as mentioned at the beginning, there was a deterioration towards the end of the 1990s, dictated by the decision to abruptly increase production: in this phase, inferior quality tobacco and unskilled labor were used. Faced with these problems and the risk of ruining one of the most flourishing industries, the quantities produced were reduced and quality control increased. However, today the phase has certainly been passed and the Havana market is booming all over the world (obviously excluding the USA because of the embargo). Worth noting is the success of the limited editions, i.e. three particular cigars produced by Habanos every year, as well as their remarkable quality.


        Cigar factories in Cuba 

        Originally, each individual brand produced its own products. Over time, as already mentioned, the market has meant that most of the brands are concentrated in the hands of three-four large groups (basically Partagas, Romeo y Julieta and Montecristo and H.Upmann). With the revolution and nationalization of all brands, the Cuban government has further accentuated this trend so much so that today we can assume that four factories (all located in Havana, among other things, produce 90-95% of Havanas:

        The Francisco Perez German factory, located in the city centre, which has always produced the Partagàs and currently also the Bolivar, Ramon Allones and La Gloria Cubana brands.

        The factory La Corona, which has always produced Montecristo and H. Upmann and currently also Diplomaticos, Hoyo de Monterrey, Punch, Vegas Robaina, Por Larranaga and San Cristobal de l'Habana.

        The Briones Montoto factory, which has always produced Romeo y Julieta and currently also Cuaba, Juan Lopez, Sancho Panza and El Rey del Mundo.

        El Laguito factory, located on the outskirts of Havana in the Laguito residential district of the Playa municipality, which has always produced Cohiba and Trinidad.


        The main Cuban brands 

        Here are the main brands of Cuban cigars (which before were all owned by different owners, with exceptions, while now they are owned by Habanos, 51% state-owned and 49% owned by Altadis, a French-Spanish tobacco multinational): Cohiba, Trinidad, Montecristo , Romeo y Julieta, H.Upmann, Partagas, Cuaba, Por Larranaga, Vegas Robaina, Hoyo de Monterrey, Ramon Allones, Juan Lopez, Punch, Bolivar, San Cristobal de la Habana, Vegueros.