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A Brief History Of Cigar Smoking

Say cigars and most people with think ‘Cuba’. It’s famous for its cigar production, a reputation no doubt enhanced by Cuba’s 46 year trade embargo with the US. Cuba’s soil and climate are both highly conducive to the growing of tobacco leaves and the country has perfected the art of growing, drying, fermenting and rolling of these to create world-famous cigars. The history of cigars is not that simple, however, and Cuba did not invent them.

Where Did Cigars Come From?

The precise origins of the cigar are not entirely clear but tobacco has grown and likely been smoked by humans in the Americas for millennia. It’s possible to find artwork depicting Mayans smoking rolled tobacco leaves dating back to the 10th century, and it’s widely believed that their language gave birth to the word cigar.

It wasn’t until Columbus, however, that cigars came to Europe. When Columbus’s ill-thought-out voyage west to India fortuitously came across a brand new continent, he also fortuitously came across a brand new crop in what is now Haiti: tobacco. The native peoples smoked rolled bundles of leaves rapped in dried husks or palm leaves as a way to socialise and relax, and it wasn’t long before the Europeans saw the virtue in that noble activity.

Columbus soon after found Cuba, and claimed it as a Spanish territory. Tobacco was also being grown and smoked here, and the practice was soon adopted by sailors and Conquistadors. Spain began importing tobacco from the country and selling it across the European continent, and its popularity spread over time. By the mid 16th century smoking was popular across Europe (albeit in pipes by the English) and had become a lucrative business, leading the Spanish to create the first Cuban cigar factory and mandating that the natives could only sell their product to Spain.

Initially, it was believed by many that smoking tobacco had health benefits – but there were others that considered it the work of the devil. Despite the controversy, by the 19th century it was commonly smoked by nobles and commoners alike and most often in the form of cigars and pipes. Cigarettes were a later development.

The Birth Of The Modern Cigar Industry

The industrial revolution brought further enterprise and mechanisation to the cigar business and, indeed, the cigar industry is sometimes credited with creating the modern labour union movement.

These days, many cigars are created by machine but the most prestigious brands still prefer to hand-roll, especially in Cuba and wider Central America and it is a point of prestige to smoke only hand-rolled cigars due to their quality and authenticity.

Over time cigar smoking has developed a distinct culture that has withstood the growth in popularity of cigarettes, and the subsequent fall due to health concerns and indoor smoking bans. Due to the care with which they are made, the length of time they take to smoke and indeed the price, cigar smoking is seen by many as more ritual than instant relief. It is often associated with patience, class and good taste and many of history’s most influential figures have been noted cigar smokers.

At Puro Prestige we are passionate about all aspects of cigar smoking – from the history to the tobacco leaves used in the roll to the cigar accessories used to smoke them. Have a look at our own luxury travel case The Hemingway Edition or our collection of S.T Dupont and Xikar lighters and cutters.

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