ORIGIN

I - Origin

1 - Introduction

There are in the world just a few things that are known without question to be the best of their kind.

A Habano – or Havana cigar – is one of them.

In Cuba in 1492 the Spanish expedition commanded by Christopher Columbus saw tobacco for the first time in the New World. The Taino Indians rolled and burnt some mysterious leaves, which they called “Cohiba”, in an unknown ceremony for the explorers. From that starting point more than five hundred years ago, tobacco has been traded and planted throughout the world.  Since its discovery, Tabaco Negro Cubano or Cuban Black Tobacco has been considered the best in the world because of the unique growing conditions in some areas of the Island. This distinction remains incontestably valid after more than five centuries.

The heart of the distinction is the tobacco and its taste born of a combination of four factors that exist only in Cuba: the soil, the climate, the varieties of Cuban black tobacco seed and the know-how of the tobacco growers and cigar makers. Other places may have acquired some Cuban skills, even some Cuban seeds, but never the natural gifts of the Cuban soil and the Cuban climate. These you will find nowhere else.

Nor will you find anything that matches the centuries-old culture of cultivating Cuban tobacco: the extraordinary labour that the tobacco farmer invests in his crop; the months and years of patient waiting before his leaf is deemed fit for a Habano.

A further distinction lies in the definition of the term "Habanos". All Habanos are Cuban, but by no means all Cuban cigars are Habanos.

The title is the Denominación de Origen Protegida (D.O.P), or Protected Denomination of Origin reserved for a selection of the most outstanding brands whose cigars are manufactured to the most exacting standards from tobaccos grown only in particular areas, which are also protected as denominations of origin.

All Habanos are crafted Totalmente a Mano – totally by hand – using methods that were pioneered in Havana two centuries ago and remain virtually unchanged to this day.

More than 500 manual tasks are performed in both the agricultural and manufacturing processes from the planting of the seeds to the Habano's final resting place in its box.

Every cigar must pass through the most stringent quality control processes established by the Regulatory Council for the Protected Denomination of Origin (D.O.P.) Habanos before they can earn the precious title of Habano.

A benchmark for excellence.

Read on, and you will learn how.

2 - Paradise

VUELTA ABAJO*

San Juan y Martínez*

San Luis*

The soil and climate conditions in the western part of Cuba, especially in the Vuelta Abajo tobacco zone, are unique in the world.

Nowhere in the world grows tobacco better than Cuba. But even here, only a few selected Vegas – plantations – are judged good enough to grow the tobacco for Habanos.

As a great wine is defined by its vineyard, so the character of a Habano is intimately connected with the land where the tobacco grows.

‘Selection’ is a principle that runs through every stage in the production of a Habano leaf, and this is where it starts.

The locations where tobacco for Habanos can be grown are strictly limited to certain defined regions, zones and districts of Cuba and within those regions to just a small number of plantations with their own special style of cultivation.

These are the elite Vegas de Primera – first class fields – ranked above all others for the exceptional quality of their soil and microclimate, and the uncommon degree of skill that goes to produce their crop.

So important are many of these regions, zones and districts to the production of a Habano that they enjoy a special status as Protected Denominations of Origin (D.O.P). You will find each one marked with an asterisk in the text.

Havana city, capital of Cuba. Although no tobacco is cultivated in Havana, the city gave its name to Cuba’s most famous export because its natural harbour provided the port from which Habanos were originally shipped. Also it remains the location of the most famous Habano factories. It is a Denomination of Origin because of its historical relationship with the production and export of Habanos.

* DENOMINATIONS OF ORIGIN RECOGNISED BY THE REGULATORY COUNCIL FOR THE PROTECTED DENOMINATION OF ORIGIN (D.O.P.) HABANOS AND OTHER CUBAN TOBACCO DENOMINATIONS.

Name of the province that embraces all of the important growing zones in the west of Cuba, and the name of the provincial capital. It also gives its name to a tobacco region that is protected as a Denomination of Origin, and in which there are several tobacco zones such as Vuelta Abajo* and Semi Vuelta, and districts like San Juan y Martínez* and San Luis*.

VUELTA ABAJO*

The finest cigar tobacco-growing land in the world. Vuelta Abajo* is the main source of tobacco for Habanos, and the only zone that grows all types of leaf: wrappers, filler and binders. Indeed all tobacco for fillers and binders for Long Filler Habanos (see Totalmente a Mano Tripa Larga) comes from this privileged zone. Not surprisingly Vuelta Abajo is also protected as a Denomination of Origin. But even here less than a quarter of the tobacco-growing land enjoys the Vegas de Primera status that is required for the growing of tobacco for Habanos

b>San Luis*: Small town at the epicentre of Cuban tobacco culture, known above all for the cultivation of wrapper leaves. As a district located in the Vuelta Abajo* zone, its name is protected as a Denomination of Origin. Here you find the world-famous El Corojo Vega as well as the Cuchillas de Barbacoa farm. It is one of the two districts from which the leaves grown on its finest vegas are selected for the Cohiba brand.

San Juan y Martinez*: The other famous small town in Vuelta Abajo* which gives its name to a district that is protected as a Denomination of Origin.  It has a particular reputation for the cultivation of fillers and binders, and the famous Hoyo de Monterrey plantation is located here. It is the other district where the finest vegas supply leaves for Cohiba.

SEMI VUELTA
The other tobacco zone situated in the Pinar del Río region known mainly for its cultivation of binder and filler leaves for Tripa Corta -Short Filler- Habanos. Traditionally the part of the Pinar del Rio* tobacco region not included in Vuelta Abajo* has been called “Semi Vuelta”. However the area of this zone employed for Habanos is very small, barely one per cent of its tobacco growing land. Nevertheless, it has good soil for producing seeds which are later sown in Vuelta Abajo*. Most Semi Vuelta tobacco is grown for other purposes.

* DENOMINATIONS OF ORIGIN RECOGNISED BY THE REGULATORY COUNCIL FOR THE PROTECTED DENOMINATION OF ORIGIN (D.O.P.) HABANOS AND OTHER CUBAN TOBACCO DENOMINATIONS.

Founded during the early 17th Century, Partido* is a historic tobacco region incorporating a number of tobacco-growing zones traditionally located to the south-west and more recently to the south-east of Havana City. Partido*, which is protected as a Denomination of Origin, specialises in the cultivation of wrapper leaves for long and short filler Habanos.

* DENOMINATIONS OF ORIGIN RECOGNISED BY THE REGULATORY COUNCIL FOR THE PROTECTED DENOMINATION OF ORIGIN (D.O.P.) HABANOS AND OTHER CUBAN TOBACCO DENOMINATIONS.

Cuba’s oldest tobacco-producing region and a protected Denomination of Origin. It is the source of the leaf for one particular Habano brand: José L Piedra. The soil and climate have their own distinctive character.

* DENOMINATIONS OF ORIGIN RECOGNISED BY THE REGULATORY COUNCIL FOR THE PROTECTED DENOMINATION OF ORIGIN (D.O.P.) HABANOS AND OTHER CUBAN TOBACCO DENOMINATIONS.

It was at Bariay in the extreme eastern part of this region that Columbus landed in 1492 and discovered Cuban tobacco. Consequently it is protected as a Denomination of Origin. Tobacco is still grown here, but not for Habanos.

* DENOMINATIONS OF ORIGIN RECOGNISED BY THE REGULATORY COUNCIL FOR THE PROTECTED DENOMINATION OF ORIGIN (D.O.P.) HABANOS AND OTHER CUBAN TOBACCO DENOMINATIONS.

3 - Anatomy

It takes up to six types of tobacco leaf to make a Habano, each type specially grown and prepared for its purpose.

Every leaf is grown in Cuba, especially for the making of Habanos.

You will not find such tobacco in cigars that are not Habanos.

Two, three or four types of leaf are blended to form the tripa, or filler, source of the rich flavours and aromas that immediately distinguish a Habano from the rest.

  • Volado: a light-flavoured leaf, especially valued for its combustibility – also known as Fortaleza 1 (Strength 1).
  • Seco: medium-flavoured, the most important leaf for aroma - Fortaleza 2 (Strength 2).
  • Ligero: a full-flavoured and slow-burning leaf that adds strength to the blend – Fortaleza 3 (Strength 3).
  • Medio Tiempo: a rare leaf used very occasionally to bring extra intensity to the taste – Fortaleza 4 (Strength 4).

The capote, or binder, is the special leaf that wraps around the leaves of the filler, defining the shape of the Habano and perfecting its smoking quality.

The capa, or wrapper, is the exquisitely thin and supple leaf that forms the outer surface of the cigar.

 The wrapper contributes little to the flavour of a Habano, but it stands as the ultimate symbol of the cigar’s perfection.