Cigar Aficionado Hall of Fame

Who shaped cigar culture? From a small tribe of native peoples in what became the nation of Cuba, to European aristocrats. From aristocrats to authors and world-builders. Business men, actors, politicians, thinkers, movers and shakers. All of us have had a hand in the making of cigar culture.

This list is devoted to acknowledging the most famous (or infamous) names in that long series of cigar ambassadors.

First Generation

Below are famous people who were known for their love of cigars at the inception of cigar history.

Priests of Colba

The original tobacco users. The tribal priests of Colba, now called Cuba, believed that the plant we now call tobacco had magic powers. They rolled the leaves into a plug they smoked. This ancient form of the cigar was called the tobacco. Eventually, the name tagged to the plant.

Christopher Columbus

Credited as being the first European to access tobacco, Christopher Columbus brought a few seeds back with him when he departed from Cuba. This was the inception of tobacco product testing in the Iberian peninsula.

Jean Nicot and the Monks of Malta

A French diplomat, Nicot was the first to introduce tobacco to France. He is nicotine’s namesake.

Nicot was 29 when the French government asked him to go to Portugal. His job was simple, and a bit depressing. He was to arrange the marriage of then six-year-old princess Margaret of Valois to the then five-year-old King Sebastian of Portugal.

As you’ll see in our world history of Cuban cigars, the Portuguese tried their hand at tobacco cultivation for a time. Nicot picked some up while he was, including some snuff. The Father Superior of Malta loved tobacco with all his monks.

Soon the high society French were all enjoying tobacco. They named the plant Nicotina in honor of Nicot. Over the years, the name the French gave tobacco was used for its chemical base instead.

Authors and Leaders

Mark Twain

Mark Twain is the literary genius alter ego of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Clemens was a river boat operator down the old Mississippi during the Pioneer era of our history. If men could be furnaces, that would be Mark Twain. He smoked up to 40 cigars a day at maximum. His minimum was said to be something like 25.

We are aware that these numbers sound exaggerated, and it’s a possibility that they were. Still, they stand as testament to a man who loved all cigar save only one. For some reason, he did not care for Havana.

The author of such works as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and more famously Tom Sawyer Mark Twain had a wild sense of cigar humor. Once, he looted his friend’s humidor, swapping the labels on a fancy blend of cigars for his cheap and disgusting favorites. When he re-gifted them to his friends, they threw them away in revulsion. The man whose humidor was ransacked was convinced one day Mark Twain would be shot for offering those nasty blends to polite company.

Ernest Hemingway

The famous writer wasn’t a multi-brand devoted man. He had one blend of choice. His bartender remembered him for a refined love of Havanas. It seems that expatriate life in Cuba had a hand in shaping that taste.

Winston Churchill

He carried England through the dark days of the Blitzkrieg. He did it with a cigar in hand. Winston Churchill was one of the most steady and stellar people to ever preside over the free world. His words of wisdom changed the narrative of World War 2. All the while, he kept his poise composed and his humidor filled to bursting.

Fidel Castro

Hollywood has glorified the cigar connoisseur villain archetype. Possibly, Fidel Castro had some bearing on this television trope. Fidel Castro was the dictator of Cuba during the Kennedy Presidency. This is the historical period when the infamous trade embargo between the United States and Cuba was enforced.

Castro was known for propelling the Cohiba brand into worldwide fame. You can read more about the inception of Cohibas in our Cuban brand-centric history.

John F. Kennedy

The President who lead our country during civil rights and trade embargos. He was a man at the face of trying and exciting times. His love for Cubans drove him to rack up on as many as he could buy before he enforced the embargo.

Lee Iacocca

He was probably the most famous executive of the automotive innovation industry before Elon Musk took the stage. Iacocca was known to light a Cohiba when a great deal was struck. His celebratory tradition has stuck with all of us to this day.

Hollywood

Arnold Schwarzenegger

The face of more than one iconic sci-fi film franchises, the Governor of California has a cultivated his cigar enthusiasm over time. His humidor has been part of silver screen appearances.  

John Wayne

The actor was almost more legendary than his iconic cowboy roles. A family man with a persona that was larger than life, John Wayne was an avid cigar enthusiast.

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise was famous for his love of cigar-smoking earlier in his career. We’re not certain if he  is still an aficionado, since he converted to scientology. While he was still married to Nicole Kidman, Cruise was noted for gifting cigar-themed presents to his Hollywood peers. He and Kidman gifted Demi Moore with a beautiful travel humidor for her birthday on one occasion.

Sylvester Stallone

When you were a kid, you knew him as Rambo. He’s been other iconic roles. Rocky, the loveable down-on-his-luck boxer. The fearless leader in The Expendables. Stallone has played everything from hometown heroes to hitmen. He christens his classic image with a love of premium and rare cigars. Some of the blends he enjoys includes Fuente and Fuente Opus X.

Al Pacino

Famous for many “gangster” roles, Al Pacino himself is an avid cigar aficionado. He was iconic for the role of Tony Montana in Scarface. For the sake of this role, he is a legend in cigar circles.

Robert DeNiro

Recently, he’s been involved in politics, but DeNiro’s real claim to fame has been the gangster film universe. His name is almost known synonymously with Pacino. He’s also known on screen as the homicidal maniac who stalked a family all-over California smoking on a Casa Blanca Jeroboam Maduro.

Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson has been one of the showcase faces of the Stephen King film adaption franchise. Once a cigarette chainsmoker, Nicholson had grown weary of burning through pack after pack during his golf sessions. He switched to cigars for their soothing nature. He has developed a cultured love of Montecristo.

Harrison Ford

This man carried us through sweeping eras of cinematic greatness. He was at the masthead of Star Wars. He was Indiana Jones. He was and is Blade Runner. He’s worn badges, slung whips and guns, lived with the Amish, fought the IRA. He’s even played in softer romantic dramas when he’s felt like it. Ford’s raw honesty on the screen never fails to amaze as he still guides 20 million dollar franchises even into his elder years.

He is a man who loves solace. Reveling in the relaxation of cigars, he’s been known to prefer the company of his family and ranch life. He smokes in that backdrop of solitude, and array of different blends. What better way for a film legend to spend his golden years?

Robert Downey Jr.

This list would be nowhere near complete without Iron Man. Rather, the guy behind the on-screen Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr. is Hollywood’s comeback kid. Having overcome demons of former addiction and incarceration, the man has made his mark on classic pop culture cinema. He is an integral part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe which is well-known as one of the highest grossing film franchises in cinematic history.

Downey is often photographed behind a variety of stogies. This adds to his class act that has a both charismatic superstar and everyman attributes.

John Travolta

If you thought of Pulp Fiction first, no one blames you. John Travolta has been in many more films than that one infamous title. He was also a famous dancer for a while. Travolta has an expensive taste for his humidor. He smokes Davidoffs, Dunhills, and Montecristos to name a few.

Jeff Bridges

This is the actor behind iconic roles such as the Dude Lebowski. Bridges has played an array of characters of varying types, from the White Russian fan #1  to hardened Western sheriffs. Off screen, he enjoys relaxing hikes. He will often watch the sunset accompanied by premium cigar brands like Fuente Don Carlos or Padron.  

Whoopi Goldberg

Say what? You thought it would be only guys on this list, eh? Ladies, take no offense. Cigars are more commonly associated as a guy’s pastime. Be that as it may, a few famous ladies have share the love of cigar culture. Goldberg is one of them. She is more commonly known for her presence on The View but she was made famous by starring in The Color Purple and Ghost. While some sources say she prefers small cigars, she’s known to smoke a full-sized Cohiba now and then.

Whatever her preference, cheers to the woman who bears no standard classification.

Mel Gibson

Gibson has had a unique carrier that has been made famous by religious film directing exploits in recent years. Before that, he was known for the buddy cop franchises Lethal Weapon. He also starred in historical dramas like Braveheart and The Patriot. We’ve even seen him tackle the bridge between science fiction and the supernatural when he played the father in M. N. Shyamalan’s Signs.

Given his religious persona, some might be surprised to know that Gibson is a cigar enthusiast. He has been with a passion. To the point that he threw carrier caution to the wind all to play  a tobacco lobbyist in Thank You For Smoking.

Demi Moore

You already knew about Moore’s cigar enthusiasm from the Tom Cruise section. Still, why not add her to the list? She is one of only two women on it so far.

Moore is known to be partial to smaller cigars, which seems to be common among lady smokers. Of this selection, she enjoys Montecristo Joyita. She will tackle a larger cigar now and then. In this case, she enjoys Montecristo No. 2 and Cohiba No. 2.  

Nicolas Cage

Cage has been known for his assorted cast of both bizarre and heroic characters. He’s played everything from gunslingers, to master thieves, to eccentric writers. Recently, you’ll remember him from titles like Mandy, Drive Angry, or Pay the Ghost. In his off-screen life, he loves both cigars and comic books. An excellent combination, in our opinion.

Harvey Keitel

In more recent films, Keitel played the FBI agent who foiled Nicolas Cage’s character in National Treasure. He is a Habanos lover in his private life. Such is his love of cigars that he starred as a Brooklyn cigar lounge manager in the 1995 film Smoke.

Final Thoughts

The story of cigars as a part of our culture continues to grow. These names go down in history as icons that represent cigars, but in a way cigars also represent them. Cigars are a staple of class and aptitude. They shape the quiet circles of everyday people and the most powerful. They unite us with a mutual sense of luxury despite our social status.

Cigars are a staple of the human experience. Despite potential health implications, all can agree. They won’t soon disappear from our history books. Tomorrows movers and shakers, thinkers and builders, will have cigars in their hands. They will be the music makers, the dreamers, those who lifted skyscrapers into the stars.

We just had the wildest thought. One day, this list might have your name on it. If one thing a hall of fame proves, it showcases those creatives who took their lives to the next level. Class and style choices painted a backdrop they climbed the ranks in. You can learn more about personal style tutorials in our blog.

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Guide to the Best Cigar Bars/Lounges America #1

America is so vast and blessed, one would be hard pressed to cover all of the best cigar lounges and bars in a single volume. So, in this article, we focused on major American cities on all the major points of the compass rose.

North

New York

New York City as a metropolis has many pockets of culture tucked inside. Harlem is famous for its cigar culture. It was made so by Wall Street Journal’s coverage of its cigar smoking competitions. You can read more on that here.

The best culture places are always hidden. Such is true of Fernandez. Known for its laid-back atmosphere, Fernandez Cigar Lounge lies in the heart of Harlem.

There’s no listed website available, but all those who visited this place felt a warm sense of friendliness added to the backdrop of the aesthetic. The said aesthetic includes dominoes matches. Every shop visitor is invited back to play dominoes with the locals.  

This place has more to offer than can be covered in one small blog note. Known to local guides as a place of escape, for good music and great sports, this is a must-see for your next New York visit.

Detroit

The place you need to visit is Uralli. I wins in a close race with 20 minutes cigar bar. Uralli has 2 five star ratings whereas 20 minutes only has the one.

A bit different than many of its peers on this list, Uralli is an evening lounge. It doesn’t open until 5pm. You will find it on Cass Avenue.

If you’d rather try 20 minutes, you’ll find that on Randolph Street.

Minneapolis

Tobacco Grove is actually in Maple Grove Crossing which is roughly 20 minutes less traffic outside the city proper. You’ll find it on Wedgewood Lane.

Some of the locals call this the best place in their world to sit with a smoke and find a conversation. We see this as a recurring trend in the love of cigar lounges. That’s what makes the culture diverse and all-inclusive. All cigar shops that are good cigar shops share that everyman slice of life.

For the Tobacco Grove, this slice is a wedge of heaven in the hearts of its loyal locals. If you’re in the city, drop in.

Seattle

There is a little lounge on Corson Avenue that speaks to Seattle’s soul. It’s called Rain City Cigar. This boutique sells premium cigars, both new and favorite. Many of the locals laud its aesthetic, how well organized and maintained the feel of the place is.

Some of the Rain City locals said it couldn’t get better than here. Others said this was truly the go-to best of the greater Seattle area. It has the best off-the-reservation prices in this place. Top recommendations, as per the people’s choice.

 

Portland,OR

While Portland itself has become a city of some controversy, cigar culture still lives here. Tim’s Great Cigars rises out of the calamity of politics and protests to give every Portland-dweller a place of relaxation.

Tim is known as a dedicate shopkeeper who takes his time to learn every customers cigar of choice. They know their smokes and recommendations, but things aren’t strictly business here. They are also open to great conversation, something that gave the place a firm local appeal.

Still more than a place for friendly small talk, TGC also has an excellent humidor.

East

Boston

S&A is Boston 5 gold star cigar lounge. The locals think that Steve and friends are the friendliest people on earth, and to them at least, they quite possibly are. This is a great asset to the “unbelievable” selection the place boasts. Truly a must for the Boston-bound aficionado.

Chicago

While classically known as a gentlemen’s past time, St. Lucia’s of Chicago is owned by a lady. Many found this a great plus feature to the overall friendly atmosphere of the cigar emporium.

The locals cite this as the go-to spot for all smoking accessories_which even include imported glassware. It’s beloved by the locals for its customer service as well. One lady even said she traveled from out of the area to return to St. Lucia when she had a cigar related need. Another man firmly believed that this was the best place in the city at large. There was still one man who was captivated by the store’s mascot dog, who added a final touch of warmth to the environment.

If you’d like to form your own opinion of Chicago’s smoking saint, St. Lucia is on N Western Avenue.

Massachusetts

Richmond

West

San Francisco

Wingtip won by a landslide in our search for San Francisco favorites. This lounge introduces itself as “The 21st Century interpretation of the classic social club”. Crafted around the idea of providing a refuge from the press of its home city, Wingtip is an environment to get in one’s own skin_and love it there.  It has a lovely local aesthetic built into a historic building.

Wingtip is actually a signature clothing company. They provide a style outlet to keep the men of San Francisco looking their sharpest. A master barber is present for a trim and a shave. The private lounge then adds  the final keynote of that old fashioned brand style. And the locals_including the ladies_adore it. It’s known locally as one of the best places for boutique jeans.

The bar upstairs has been called a “throwback” to the era of fine whiskey and food. Jazz plays on Friday nights. With a fully stocked humidor of premium blends, you can purchase all varieties of luxury accessory here.

Please note that to access the cigar lounge/bar you’ll need a membership. If you’re just visiting the city, you may consider signing up in case you pass this way again soon.

Las Vegas

Of all of the names on this list, this should be the easiest to remember. Las Vegas Cigar Outlet is located on Sahara Avenue. It retains 5 gold star reviews among all its peers. It rates so high because of the down-to-earth staff. Yet, that appears to only be a bonus of the massive selection the Outlet has in the humidor.

In the lounge, they serve Armenian style coffee. When in Vegas, this is a downhome must-stop on the way to the glittering lights.

Reno

Another Nevada location, Reno locals sometimes jokingly call themselves a separate state from the Vegas dwellers. That sets apart their preferences for the most part. What they can agree on is a love of great smokes.

Ruiz Cigars is actually in Sparks, Nevada, which is about 6 minutes outside of the city. You’ll find it on E Prater Way. It’s owned by Marvin Ruiz and his family. You get a deep sense of the family-centric from this place. Those who visit say that this place takes them back to their youth. It reminds young men of their fathers. Of men who played dominoes over Cuba Libres. Of the family dog sitting loyally at the feet of the gathered family dynasties. Each cigar’s is hand-rolled just like in the traditional days.

For all of this, Ruiz is dear to Nevada’s heart. Some customers drive all the way from Carson City to enjoy the collection at this 5-star establishment. The humidor includes hand-rolled Nicaraguan blends that left a lasting impression on lounge patrons.

Great Los Angeles

The Cigar Factory Lounge is in the Simi Valley, California which is in the greater Los Angeles area about 48 minutes outside the city limits. It’s on Los Angeles Avenue.

The locals call this place “second home”. Stocked with rare cigars, like Opus X, this humidor is a plentiful sanctuary for people escaping the craze of Ventura County.

Palo Alto

Home of the great Stanford University. The township has a sense of youthfulness as the co-eds roll in and out. What better place to live out a teenage dream? Surrounded by beaches and palms, and bright young minds, Palo Alto is a paradise for the dreamchaser.

About 15 minutes from Palo Alto, you’ll find Redwood City. There is a little shop of local fame there on Bay Rd. It is low-key with a large flat screen station in the center to bring the visitors together for a movie and a smoke. A great place for good company for a young life starting out in the world. Even if you’re older now, you should swing by for the conversation.  

South

In this section you’ll find cities below Chicago where the greatest smoke recreation culture can be found.

Nashville

Called the Borough by it’s natives, Nashville is the crown city of Southern music culture. The big names of country music have their history with luxury and fine dining. In the midst of this scene, you will find cigar culture.

If you’re looking for the best lounge, the people voted for Primings Cigar Bar and Lounge. Primings is on 4th Avenue South. It is known  for serving signature prohibition style drinks. Every drink can come to you smoked if you request it. The average price of drinks costs 12 dollars each.

Naturally, the gem attraction of this place is its humidor. Primings offers brands such as follows:

  • Alec Bradley
  • Arturo Fuente
  • Ashton
  • Camacho
  • Avo Uvezian
  • Bellaterra
  • Diamond Crown
  • Don Pepin Garcia
  • Crowned Heads
  • Gurkha
  • La Galera
  • San Cristoral
  • My Father
  • La Palina
  • La Aurora
  • Rocky Patel
  • Xikar
  • Zino Platinum
  • Principle
  • Sans Pareil
  • Take 2

 

Atlanta

It seems the best locations are always the closest to local hearts. That’s the feeling you get from J’s Cigars and Coffee House. The local guides know is a humidor with reasonable pricing and good selection. Plus, they love J, the lounge namesake. He is kind to customers and knows his way around cigar etiquette.

Some of the visitors even called it an extension of a man cave. With an immediate welcome, this is known to the locals as “the perfect neighborhood shop”. The coffee is good, a regular drip machine there if you’d like it with your smoke.  They carry Gurkha which was enough to sell most of its faithfuls.

You’ll find this lovely lounge on Defoors Ferry Road.

New Orleans

The old pirate town has seen its fair share of cigar influence. Today, it owes that cigar culturing to Smoke on the Water Cigars. You can find this place on Conti Street.

Local guides swing by every time they visit New Orleans. This shop is known for having a well-versed tobacconist at its disposal.

Others have called it cool to the Dr. John degree. After a pressing search, the outward front is a bit misleading. This building looks average, wrapped in brick. Step inside, and you will find a spacious cabinet by cabinet humidor filled to brim with the adjectives of luxury. This branding decision adds to the odd-but-unique aesthetic of the place.

Dallas

World Class Barber is a barber shop that has a cigar lounge built in with it. Located on Inwood Rd., this place is a thing of pride to the locals who visit it. Even the shy left their reviews in hopes of driving a following.

This is the ideal place to enjoy a classic staple of American culture. Get a trim, enjoy a smoke, and some fine spirits from the craft collection.

Houston

Ask anyone who frequents Houston about a A-list cigar lounge. They will answer The Briar Shoppe. You’ll find it in Rice Village on Times Blvd. Self-described as an enduring mom and pop, this place stands out as an island of quiet in the bustle of bursting Houston.

This place is not exclusively for the cigar aficionado. It may be closer to the pipe smoker’s heart as they offer a gallery of pipes to choose from. They have a house blend of pipe tobacco called “White Russian” that the regulars praise.

Honestly, the chief complaint we heard was that parking was difficult. For everything else, no one had anything significantly negative to say.

Final thoughts

If you didn’t see your city on this list, don’t worry. Everyday we continue to build our knowledge of the cigar culture. Lists will expand. For now, we hope that you enjoyed our humble take on the vast street corner world that is the select cigar room.

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An American Aficionados Guide to Cuba

Cuba is a Central American destination next-to-sacred in minds of cigar lovers everywhere.

This is the Mecca of premium cigar blend and variety. It makes it a must-see destination for your next vacation.

You have to understand how fragile the “sacred” part of Cuba is. This is a country that is wonderful but also difficult for an American to travel to without a guide book to follow. You want to adjust to the culture shock quickly so you can explore, enjoy cigars, and have the experience of a lifetime.

This guide was made expressly for the American aficionado. Anyone can enjoy it, but especially Americans will learn from the destination tips and facts we found on cigar heritage.

History of cigars in the country

The history of tobacco enjoyment in South America has no starting date label. Tobacco has been a staple crop of the Americas since the ancient times.

The Spanish opened the first official cigar factory in the late 16th century. This was the milestone that marked the beginning of Cuba’s unique part of cigar history. The conservation of the plentiful landscape has served for centuries as part of cigar craft legacy. It’s in the soil. The compounds of Cuban soil make for nature’s vitamin table. It is the “superfood” of tobacco plants.

The constantly fair climate helps this superfood soil to yield the best crops. The special ingredients used in special brands benefit too. Only a Cuban cigar can taste like a Cuban because it has the country’s essence mixed in with its blend.

You can view a world-history of Cuban cigar fame here. We also have a complete crash course to the history of Cuban cigars per brand.

Vinales-Pine del Rio province

If you want to see where the Cuban cigars originate, leaf by leaf, you will need to venture into Pinar del Rio province. This is the center of Cuba where the soil harnasses the earth’s richest nutrients that eventually become part of the Cuban blend manifesto.

can do that on horseback in Vinales. This is a World Heritage site replete with all the natural conservancy that makes Cuba a thing of wonder.

Some of the farms will allow you to tour them directly. Here, you can walk among the plantation itself to observe the plants in their rawest form. Then, you can go to the drying houses, called secaderos, to see how the tobacco is fired and seasoned.

In this valley, watch the master cigar rollers in their craft. There are available tours where the cigar roller will walk you through the step by step process. Many times, a feel of the culture, the country, and the craft directly comes through the tobacco farmer’s table.

Note on cigar purchasing on-site

Cubans must legally sell 90% of the cigars they handcraft to the government. This plus a long and drawn out embargo makes it expensive for Americans to buy at-source Cuban cigars. You will be charged higher rates, with the cheapest ones being equivalent to $25. You can only buy small quantities, usually packages in a cannister bundle humidor. The source in this video was charged 50 dollars for a container that was rolled in pine bark.

Choose wisely.

A must-see feature of Vinales

In the true spirit of a cigar aficionado, you will want to tour the tobacco farms under the doming peaks. Take a moment to enjoy a cigar in the wild countryside of its origin. The Valle de Silencio_or Valley of Silence, in English_is a place of solace from Havana’s insomnia. Most travelers will skip the trek down into this reverent place. You would be missing out if you follow their example.

Holguin

Now that you’ve had a chance to review the tobacco farms, it’s time to visit the factories. There is an old one that hosts tours in Holguin. The tour of the cigar factory itself is rumored to be brief, but visiting the city with a local guide is well worth the effort all the same. As of 2018, there was a local named Yuri that was given the highest recommendations as a local guide.

Baracoa

Baracoa had a cigar company in Canada named in its honor a few years ago. While it may have closed due to regulation disputes with the FDA, the legacy of Baracoa on cigar aficionados leaves a lasting impression. Baracoa is the oldest city of the island nation and the cradle of Cuban culture. Called Cuba’s First City, Baracoa is fixed between the mountains and the sea. Go to this place and you’ve gone back in time.

The Hidden Havana

Havana is immortal in the hearts of pop anthems and paradise seekers all over the world. If you visit Cuba, you must see Havana. Seeing it in style is another thing. There will be lots of tourist traps and attractions flashed in front of you. Find the hidden gems to bring the most meaning from your adventure in Cuba’s capital.

Visit Partagas factory while you’re there

In the heart of Havana is the classic Partagas factory. While you’re there finding hidden gems, take a moment for this classic destination. You can also view the shops and museums which has a highly varied humidor for on-site purchase. This source video will give you a look at the place’s aesthetic.  

Safety tips for Americans in Paradise

Travel officials often say to blend with the locals as much as possible. As an American, you have many attributes that identify you quickly in foreign countries. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it will make it easier for potential tourist scammers to identify you.

“American” identifiers and toning them down

American identifiers are little traits that are American culture related. Some of these things are clothing choices. Flashy bling is often viewed as an “American” attribute. We caution against wearing or carrying too many valuables on your person when traveling abroad. There will be a higher risk of loss or theft. When possible, keep your belongings concealed in light-weight bags or backpacks. Observe the clothing styles you see other people wearing. You may like to purchase a similar style for your stay.

American smoking posture?

According to the CIA, Americans even have a unique way of smoking than other cultures.  Americans hold their smokes between their index and middle finger and stand at a casual pose. In some countries, like England, for example, the smoking posture is noticeably different.  UK natives typically pinch their smokes between their index finger and their thumb.

We’re not entirely sure if the Cubans have their own smoking posture, but they are bound to notice yours. If you want to blend in, observe other smokers. Emulate that if you notice anything different.  Embrace the local color culture that you observe. Doing this, you will blend in more like a local and you will be able to tour areas with decreased unwanted attention.

Other things that are bound to draw you trouble are bling. Don’t flaunt accessories. Fancy watches, flashy phone cases, handbags, or other costume jewelry is a temptation for street thieves. The average Cuban makes a 20 dollar salary, after all.

Playing by the rules

Cuba has had some progress recently, but it’s still a communist country. Which means there is a regimen of rules you’ll have to know to safely access the cigar Mecca. This is a basic rundown of those rules:

  • Taking pictures of the police is illegal.
  • Use discretion with political topics.
  • If you rent a casa particular be sure you understand the legal policies before arrangements.
  • Some of the casas are reserved for Cubans only
  • These have been labeled by an orange paint mark in many cases.
  • Foreign-friendly casas have blue signs painted on their doors typically.
  • Glass sharing is a custom in Cuba, and it’s considered a bit rude to refuse.
  • Old customs consider spitting and blowing noses in public a bit rude. This may be an outdated cultural preference in some areas, but use a latrine to be safe.
  • Don’t fall for local guide scams. Unless you solicit help yourself, be cautious of volunteer guides.
  • The local currency values vary by about 25 fewer units from the one provided at the exchange office. If you pay with cash, use exact amounts when possible. You want to avoid being short-changed.
  • Please tip generously. Cost of living is brutal here. Some hotel staff will accept gifts of soap or other things of a small convenience item nature as tips.

Cubans have boisterous personalities. They speak animated Spanish and revel in their Latin roots. Learn a little bit. It will help you find your way to places in more efficiently. Plus, it’s more immersive to speak the language. If you follow the roles, steer clear of the militarized maneuvers, and use foreign-access facilities to avoid run-ins with the complex legal system, you can enjoy your smokes in peace.

Closing thoughts

However, you explore Cuba you will have a monumental experience. Despite our cultured opinions, you can’t go wrong with what you try out here. Take in Cuba as more than a destination resort. Find the local small town feel and cigar culture even in the midst of the tourist hubs.

Again, be mindful of the local laws and customs. Don’t worry so much about your “American” showing. You will show your American spirit the whole time, no matter how you try to conceal it. That’s the beauty of this experience. For the first time in decades, now an American aficionado can go back to the birthplace of cigar legacy.

 

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Hollywood Cigars: Aficionados on Screen

Cinema culture is at the center of our lives. It has gilded our dreams with class and fine-living fantasies.

Every silver-screen hero requires an equally classic cigar to complete the persona. Over the history of classic film and television, dapper heroes have wielded cigars as a declaration of power or a slapstick prop of comedy. Sometimes even both.

Heaven forbid we break from tradition. This is our master-list of silver-screen aficionados.

Man With No Name-The Good the Bad and the Ugly

Clint Eastwood characters are iconic for their everyman hero essence. They ride into town at the eleventh hour bringing cowboy logic and justice to even the most god-forsaken Western towns.

In many Eastwood movies, cigars are smoked on screen. They are also part of the backdrop.

In The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, No-Name actually smoked a cigarillo. Probably one of the hand-rolled variety, although the blend is not exactly clear (wild tobacco for all we know). Cigarillos are usually classified as cigars and not cigarettes because they are wrapped in leaf wrapper like a cigar. 

Cigar culture is a central part of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. There are Parejos present in this movie, but they also search for Figurados as part of the characterization.  

Figurados are identified by different “figures” in their rolling shape. Cones, widebodies, and more creative forms meet this criterion.

The movie’s character Tuco should get a mention here as well. He spent iconic screen time searching for a “usable” cigar.  

Alan “Dutch” Schaefer in The Predator

A Vietnam veteran turned alien-wars fighter, Dutch took on that role with undying style.

The original Dutch was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, a real-life cigar aficionado.

The Wolverine  

Marvel Comics James Howlett “Logan” has featured an iconic cigar love since his creation. While he won’t be allowed to feature with his iconic cigar in the printed comics anymore, his character has been immortalized by the film versions of X-Men.

The on-screen Wolverine, portrayed by Hugh Jackman, has many legacy moments focusing his iconic cigar. Some of which include dousing a cigar in his self-healing palm and lightning up from the flames of a wasted battlefield.

Jackman’s Wolverine smoked Cohibas of several form varieties. These come in all sizes including the Hollywood favored Parejo.

Tony Montana, Scarface

Al Pacino has a storied career playing mobsters and gunslinging characters. Scarface features the Cuban refugee, Tony Montana, in a race to the top of his mob game. It ends badly, but we have a legendary cinematic experience watching it unfold.

In Scarface, Tony Montana smokes classic Parejos, which are defined by the long, cylindrical and dark shape.

The Psycho of American Psycho_Partick Bateman

Hollywood makes a point of adding menace and poise in the same shot to classic villain types. Even if those villains are debut in dark comedy films as satirical archetypes of cruelty and the ridiculous.

We see a lot of this with Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. About the business of a killing spree,  the Psycho smokes a Parejo over a body he has just dropped. Bateman takes his profession with an ultra sense of the serious. After all, the murder of homeless guys spree was inspired in a vanity fit over his work rival’s business card.

Independence Day, Steve Hiller

Steve Hiller didn’t ask for the alien-battling life. It just found him one day and threw him head over heels into an epic battle for planet Earth that was also one of the highest grossing films of 90s box offices. After having just about enough of it from the alien infestation, Hiller decides to stop for a smoke.

He sports a Parejo in that scene. The blend-type isn’t entirely clear, but we have an idea. In 98, Baltimore Sun posted this article condemning Hollywood tobacco use. They cited a pitch of Cuesta Rey cigars from J.C. Newman as the blend supplied to Independence Day’s production team. The brand identifiers were taken out of the shot to avoid the same kind of backlash that eventually happened anyway.

Jeff Goldblum’s genius character touted a victory smoke all the same. If one thing can be said about the alien-battling cast of  Independence Day, they have a refined taste in smokes.

James Bond

Agent 007 could have blown his super-spy cover just by his cigar enthusiasm. Throughout the films, some of his special devices take on cigar themes. A breathing tube in the shape of a cigar canister is gifted him for a special mission in one of the titles. It serves as a comedic gesture throughout.

Finally, there comes that moment where the all-time spy is finally about to take his smoke break. He’d waited in earnest for that Romeo y Julieta Churchill, a blend of Cuban that doesn’t require a great deal of aging to be at its best.

Tony Soprano-The Sopranos

This was actually an HBO show and not a Hollywood film. We still would be remiss to leave out the legend of Tony Soprano. The patriarch of the series’ infamous mob dynasty was a trendsetter throughout the shows run for a plethora of premium cigars and blends.

Tony Soprano left such an enduring impact on cigar enthusiasm that the premium brands released special flavors in his honor.

John “Hannibal” Smith, The A-Team

The original Hannibal from the A-Team TV series was featured frequently with his choice cigar. Portrayed by George Peppard, the team-leader was a trope of confidence and class.

The Reboot film in 2010 features a Hannibal who smokes hand-rolled cigars. The team-leader who loved it when a plan came together, Hannibal was portrayed by Liam Neeson in the reboot. Touting the full-swing of genius, Hannibal breaks out of prison through a crematorium, tells a classic “Devil walks into this bar” joke, and completes terror-fighting feats of daring with his bizarre but brilliant team of renegade career soldiers.

Xenia Onatopp

The femme fatale from the James Bond’s universe features in GoldenEye. This Russian villainess crushed a man to death between her thighs. Homicidal and crafty, she drags Bond over a game of cards in their first scene together.

 Vicious though she is, Xenia has an excellent choice of personal passions_ cigars. She is featured smoking her iconic cigar in the scene she meets James Bond and all throughout the film.

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A Legacy of Cuban Brands: Guide to the Classics

Cuban cigars of world-renowned quality under their general name. A true cigar aficionado will dig deeper to understand the intricate unique nature of each brand.

This is a guide to the classics. In it, we will give a brief history of the most excellent premium brands available in Cuba. Some of these cigars can only be purchased on site in Cuba. Refer to our Cuba_for_Americans travel guide for more information on a safe and well-cultured trip to Cuba.

What makes a Cuban unique

The drying process of world-famous Cuban tobacco is where brands are separated. Drying and fermentation of tobacco leaves is a highly refined process, passed down from traditions and family dynasties of cigar makers. Every maker has their own recipe for flavor additives. Honey, sugar, rum, vanilla, pineapple and more are included to the savor.

The brands

Cohibas

The immortal favorite of Fidel Castro. The origins of the blend and make aren’t quite as old as the other brands on this list. Cohibas originated under its flagship name  in the 60s. Castro’s bodyguard allegedly shared some of his private stash of smokes with the infamous leader. They were a special blend created by Eduardo Ribera, who was a local artisan.

Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo is a historically classic novel by Alexander Dumas. It was popular reading material in Cuban factories when it debuted. Alonzo Menendez bought out the Particulares brand in 1935. He and his son Benjamin chose to rename the brand after the Dumas character familiar in the cigar factory culture.

The Spanish branded Montecruz was a brand rip off by Menendez. His family had to flee Cuba after Castro nationalized his factory. By changing the logo and varying the name, Menendez struck gold with the brand he’d lost.

There were some slight differences with the make as well. Menendez had to opt for Cameroon wrapper to substitute the Havana wrapped he could no longer access. This did not reduce the soaring popularity the brand would proceed to have in the US.

Romeo y Julieta

Known famously because of James Bond’s enthusiasm (read more about that here) Romeo y Julieta showcase luxury with the romance of their name. The brand was christened after the Shakespearean tragedy in 1875. It was founded by Inocencio Alvarez and Manin Garcia. Originating in Cuba, the brand was forced to move to its current location in the Dominican Republic after a political outbreak.

Partagas

The cigar near Havana’s heart. The Partagas brand is traditional and well-loved. Its factory is located in the heart of the city. It is well-respected to be a cigar roller in this factory because of the traditional connotations.  

Don Jaime Partagas y Ravelo immigrated to Havana, Cuba in 1845. He built the original factory where the bled of cigars that wear his name was first christened. The Don had an obsession with creating the perfect blend. He bought a large number of plantations for this purpose. Including the beautiful Vuelta Abajo.

In modern times, the company has opened extensions in the Dominican Republic. The classic brand is still produced in Havana. You can read about touring the Havana location in our American’s guide to Cuba. The Cuban classic variation of Partagas is called Habanos S.A.  

Punch

Punch was registered as an official brand by a German living in Cuba during the 1840s. Over its many years in practice, older even than the Don’s famous quest blend, Punch has become a name favorite.

  1. Upmann

These cigars made their mark on history because President Kennedy loved them. So much so that he stockpiled them before signing that infamously dreadful embargo that separates Americans from their Caribbean cigar heritage blood brother. Well played, Mr. President.

Ramon Allones

Classic, but not well known. Ramon Allones is a small local brand that originated in 1837. Older than most of the famous names on this list, it was always a small operation. It utilizes the same full-bodied tobacco that makes these other names icons. It may have even paved the way for the obsession that led to its peers.

The culture

Smoke has found its way into Cuba’s soul. The culture of the cigar is spoken over the cigar at its birth, almost like a blessing. Not in the literal sense. Rather, in the sense of the Readers.

Origin of Readers

The tradition born from 1865. During those days, knowledge and education options were low among the majority of factory workers. A factory selected one of its rollers to read works of literature to the others to improve their knowledge.

Cuban cigar factories still have readers. This is a highly esteemed role. You can see the lectore of  H. Uppman Cigar factory in this video. Daily he finds magazines, newspapers, and works of literature to enrich the H. Uppman rollers.

The Cuban love of rum and cigars combined

One other thing the Carribbean is known for? Classic rum. Tales of piracy and entrepreneurial pioneers circle around Carribbean rum par excellence. In the heart of this legendary production district, the Cubans have a refined taste for liquors as well as cigars. They will often pair the two for the best luxury experience available.

Cubans traditionally share rum in a community glass. You can read more about Cuban drink sharing in our American aficionado’s guide to Paradise.

Notes on parings

The culture behind liquors and cigar pairings was refined by the likes of Earnest Hemingway, the famous novelist and Cuban expatriate. He was fond of that one famous bar-The Floridita-which is near to the soul of Havanna. Mojitoes were made here. So was the infamous Cuba Libre that is apparently a subject of controversy in some bars.

This is a crash-course pairing guide for the aficionado with culture enrichment at near the heart of their passion.

Mojitos with La Gloria Golden Age

Mojitos are always better when their ingredients are cold fresh. Mojitos are light and refreshing in that regard. If made with the best ingredients, La Gloria Golden Age is said to couple the best via contrast. There is an earth, wood, leather and spice accent to this full-bodied cigar.

Cuba Libre and La Gloria Cubana

Cuba Libre is a lime-infused Rum and Coke. The flavor is all sweet and tart together. The La Gloria Cubana, particularly the Series RF, uses rich Nicurageuan fillers that add ligero flavors. These balance and amplify the sweet/tart of Cuba Libre.

For the record, La Gloria may also pair well with Scotch and bourbon.

 

Tequila and Cohibas

Many love to pair Tequila neat with the aromatic Cohiba. Tequila itself is smooth and stomach relaxing and pair where with the long-time savor that made Cohibas historic so quickly.

Havana Cocktail and Olde Penn

Another of the fresh ingredients mint-and-lime variations, Havana Cocktail is made with spiced rum,vanilla liquer vodka, and is topped off with ginger. Typically, the rum of choice if Captain Morgan.

We’ve seen specialty officials pair these with Olde Penn. Old Penn is made by the Drew Estate Cigar Company. It has a flavor base that contrasts the fresh, fruit and sugar infused Havana. Old Penn typically has accents of pepper, leather, cedar, and toasted nuts.

The Old Penn is actually a Nicuraguan cigar but made this list due to the highest of recommendations.

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A World History of the Cuban Classic

Cuban cigars may have some serious competition as the dominant quality blend today, but they will never be replaced as the classic. Cuban cigars have a history that reaches back all the way to the time of Christopher Columbus. Even further still, into times that have passed out of common knowledge.

So, how did the Cuban become the historical cigar blend of world excellence? A story worth telling is worth telling again. As follows, this is the story of the world-wide history of Cuban as the cigar blend par excellence.

 

Pre-Columbian era

Tobacco has been used in the Americas for over a thousand years. Back in those days, the users generally smoked in small clay bowls or pipes. The present form of a cigar, which is the winding of a tight bundle of tobacco, are believed to have come from the ancient Mayans.

Columbus Debut

When Columbus explored the Americas, he claimed the large island for Spain. He called it Isla Juana in honor of Catile’s governor. The Native Americans who lived there called the island Colba. Somewhere along the way, the name was twisted by the Spanish-speakers to sound like “Cuba”.

Tobacco_the First Cigar

When Columbus assistant scouted ahead of the Spanish party, he encountered the tribal residents of the inner island. His first impression of them was one that captured the past and future of Cuba in a snap shot. They were puffing on tobaccos. Originally this was a tribal dialect word that referred to the long, musket long bar of rolled tobacco leaves that made for the original cigar. The natives would light one end and tote the massive plug along with them on excursions, breathing in their smoke as they recited their belief system’s prayers. They believed the plant gave them mystical powers.

The plant itself is now named after the cigar.

 

Europe’s failed attempt

Columbus brought some seeds from Colba back to the Iberia in an enterprising attempt. It would be many years before the Spanish cornered the market on premium tobacco. These first few seeds led to a stiff attempt to DIY their tobacco cultivation in Portugal. They made snuff and sold it in Lisbon markets. Still, they had yet to discover that the true essence of cigar craft lay in the soils of Colba.  

Spanish commercial launch

Of all the Europeans who took a liking to tobacco, the English became obsessed with it quickly. Things got political fast. The English were sworn enemies of the Spanish. That’s partly why the Spanish-who had a cultivated history with the plant_became so greatly interested in it. They would refine it and then sell it to the English for an outrageous price. One that the English would be ready and willing to pay.

 

When King James I swore off tobacco as a vile pass-time in English, it made the English delight in it all the more. This skyrocketed the sale of tobacco products on the British Isles. Iberia would have to step up production to meet that demand. The tobacco cultivation experiments in Portugal had only sufficed for the casual habits of the last 16th century. As the 17th century took off with full-force, it was time to fully embrace and commercialize the Spanish cigar trade.

 

The Wooden “Cigar Store” Statue

At this point in history, America had become the matrix of all luxury products in the whole world’s eyes. That’s where the wooden Native American statute you find in a lot of your favorite cigar shops came from. As the Colonial economy unfolded, many people still couldn’t read. Shopkeepers identified their wares by icon, like a carving or a painting, placed by the door. The wooden Native had become synonymous with tobacco because at this time the European traders were sourcing directly from the Native Americans.

These statues were called Virginians after the largest colony in the English-speaking Americas. They were also called Virginnie men. Rarely, if ever, did they look accurate to a Native American because they were created based on propagandized drawings made by the traders. Many Tribal stereotypes came out of this early period of commerce with early Colonial America.

As told by pirates

Cigars are part of the culture_the heart and the soul_of the pirate world stage. The Caribbean saw the Golden Age of piracy shoot into its full form. That was an age where illegal drug trafficking, bootlegging spirits, and other forms of high sea robbery shot off the charts.

Trade embargoes and smuggling

In the same spirit of the pirate age, trade embargoes inspired smuggling rings. Cigar smuggling became synonymous with other acts of the black market. The history of violence and exclusivity derived from the illegal trafficking industry is where the Hollywood tropes of smoking mob villains got their heaviest momentum.

Gateway to Wall Street

America became a strong nation and became the strongest place on Earth to invest after surviving a Civil War, a Great Depression, and two global conflicts. As these times came along, cigars became the staple of professional and powerful people.

Modern times were the gateway to equality. After so much had happened in the world, people were no longer separated by the barriers of bureaucracy, monarchy and social caste systems.

The Cigar: A social equalizer

In that brave new world, the electrician and the day trader had equal chances of making millions. The sport of the cigar then became a social equalizer. Wherever you were on that ladder of New World influence, you shared the common bond of the cigar.

In this everyman’s world, there came the natural competition that follows people made equals. Smoking competitions were open to people of a variety of professions and ages. They weren’t hosted in some elite gentlemen’s club. They were held in your friendly neighborhood smoke shop. Wall Street Journal shot this footage of a cigar competition in Harlem.

A symbol of power

Winston Churchill could arguably be the man who made cigars a symbol of power. Not because Churchill exercised any extravagant political control_as did his smoking politician counterpart Fidel Castro_ but because from his humidor he managed to steadily lead the British Isles out of World War 2. It was this quiet resolve that added an almost sacredness to the cigar passion in the modern age.

Crackdown on Big Tobacco

In the 90s, the politics and sentiments toward tobacco as an industry caused vicious disapproval of smoking in most polite society rings. The cigar as art and passion was not going anywhere anytime soon. Yet health implications were being discovered.

The FDA commissioned a crackdown on tobacco advertising. The public sentiment of underage smoking changed from the “kids will be kids” mentality to a cause for outcry. Film studios were attacked by the press for potential product placement schemes from premium suppliers. Cigar sales were dominating none the less, driven on by the action heroes that dominated box office titles of this time frame. Favor for the corrupt cigarette industry was fading fast.

Closing thoughts

The history of the Cuban cigar culture is a Caribbean history, an American history, a Spanish history, a Portuguese history, a British history, and a modern history. These different colors together blend a palette of world history. A world history without the confines of the traditional nationalism, and yet never discouraging the importance of nations.

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