Cigar History: Cohiba Cigars

cohiba cigar next to a cup of coffee

While relatively new in comparison to some cigar brands, Cohiba is one of the most iconic cigar manufacturers in Cuba and the world.

Cohiba is the flagship brand of Habanos S.A. and is known for producing the finest quality premium cigars using some of the world’s best tobacco. They implement unique maturation techniques to craft their famous Cohiba cigars, which offer complex flavour and medium-full body.

In this instalment of Cigar History, we explore more about the past of this iconic cigar brand.

The Beginning of Cohiba Cigars 

While most Cuban cigar brands were initially privately owned before being nationalised following the Cuban revolution, Cohiba is fairly unique, as it was created following the revolution as a national company of Cuba. 

Cohiba cigars started out as Fidel Castro’s private brand, exclusively supplying Castro with cigars to enjoy or gift to dignitaries. 

The story of the first Cohiba Cigars – or how Castro tells it – is that one day in the mid-1960s, one of his bodyguards was smoking a strong aromatic cigar. Castro asked him what he was smoking, to which the man replied that it was not a branded cigar but a gift from a friend who was a local torcedor.

Upon smoking the cigar, Castro made contact with the creator of the cigar and requested they be made for his own personal use. The cigars were produced in the El Laguito Factory for Castro using the unbranded tobacco.

The Cohiba Name

In 1968, the Cuban state tobacco marketing bureau came up with the idea to name these cigars “Cohiba”. The word Cohiba is the name the indigenous people of Cuba gave to the bunches of tobacco leaves they rolled up and smoked. The Cuban people already knew about the uses for tobacco and smoked it before the arrival of the Spanish in 1492.

First Cuban Cigars 

In 1968, these cigars were launched under the Cohiba branding, still only for Castro’s exclusive use.  

The first Cohiba cigars were dispatched from the El Laguito Factory in 1968. The first three cigars were the Lanceros, Corona Especial and Panatellas.

Becoming a Public Brand 

In 1982, Castro relinquished his exclusive hold on Cohiba, and the brand was commercialised, with the cigars released for public sale.  

Cohiba was launched as a premium cigar brand into markets outside of the US because of JFK’s embargo. The initial three styles of cigar were launched in conjunction with the World Cup hosted by Spain. This made Cohiba an almost overnight success! 

The first cigars to be launched were the Coronas Especiales, Lanceros and Panetelas.

What Tobacco is Used for Cohiba Cigars? 

The tobacco used for Cohiba cigars comes from Cuba’s Vegas Finas de Primera (first-class fields). The location of this land was a closely guarded secret for many years, something of a genuine miracle as they managed to hide over 700 acres of tobacco fields in total! 

This was certainly a necessary measure as the American CIA was aware of the attempt to revolutionise Cuba’s industries and had plans of sabotage.

Only ten selected fields are used to make tobacco for Cohiba cigars. It is estimated that only the output of five fields are utilised by the end of the cigar-making process due to strict quality control measures. The tobacco used as filler is unique to Cohiba cigars owing to a special third fermentation process in wooden barrels. This method is aimed at producing a smoother flavour than other cigars.

Cohiba Cigar Lines

After the international success in 1982, with sales figures off the charts and plenty of room for expansion, the managing team at Cohiba decided that it was time to add more cigars to their collection.

La Línea Clásica Series

The classic branch of cigars was launched in 1989, which included the Espléndido, Robustos and the Cohiba Exquisito, in addition to the Corona Especial, Lancero and Panetela from the initial Cohiba launch.

La Línea 1492 Series

In 1992, the next addition to Cohiba cigars was introduced – the 1492 line. There were five models in the 1492 collection, named to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of Cuba. These were then rebranded as the Siglo range, featuring the cigars Siglo I, Siglo II, Siglo III, Siglo IV and Siglo V, with a special Siglo VI being added in 2002.

Maduro 5 Series

The Maduro 5 series was launched in 2007 with three cigars, the Magicos, Genios and Secretos, each being wrapped in dark Maduro leaves that were aged for five years.

Cohiba Behike

One of the most famous launches from Cohiba was the Cohiba Behike line in 2010. Their most exclusive line since becoming a public brand, the Behike line contains the Behike 52, Behike 54 and Behike 56.

An exclusive luxury range, the Behike cigars are considered some of the greatest Cuban cigars ever made as they use an exquisite blend of top quality Cuban tobacco. The filler tobacco comes from some of the finest tobacco leaves in Cuba, including the rare Medio Tiempo leaves, which bring a complex flavour to the smoke.

These cigars are in high demand, and only a small amount are made, making the Behike range a premium price and highly collectable.

Cohiba also produces machine made cigars and mini cigarillos, such as the Cohiba Clubs.

Other Cohiba Products

Non-cigar products have also been branded under Cohiba, such as Cohiba Cigarettes and Cohiba Cognac.

What are your thoughts on the Cohiba brand and its range? If you haven’t tried them yet, then you can check out the full range of Cohiba cigars at Havana House.

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