For cigar aficionados, a fine smoke is about much more than flavour and aroma. Each puff is redolent with tradition, history and skillful production. Amongst connoisseures, a premium hand-rolled cigar is akin to a work of art.
When Christopher Columbus and his crew made landfall in the Caribbean on their maiden voyage to the New World they found the natives throughout the islands indulging in a curious practice: they twisted up dried aromatic leaves, wrapped them in a palm or plantain leaf, and smoked them.
Strange though it was, Columbus’ men quickly developed a taste for the habit, and before long had taken tobacco seeds back across the Atlantic and introduced smoking in Europe. The newly formed United States followed suit a little later, and by the early 20th century cigar-making operations there numbered over 80,000.
Five centuries later, the manufacturing process is infinitely more refined and cigars are smoked internationally – but the finest quality, hand-rolled cigars still come from the Caribbean region, with Cuban cigars commonly regarded as the gold standard.
Cuba’s enduring supremacy as a cigar producer is due both to ideal environmental conditions and centuries’ worth of knowledge and skill. Few, if any, other tobacco growing regions have soil and a climate that is so favourable for cultivating, curing and fermenting all three types of tobacco leaf – filler, binder and wrapper – required for cigar production. Indeed, the delicate, silky wrapper leaves are so tricky to grow that many manufacturers import them from Cuba...