Re­flec­tions on 50 years of Co­hiba

With a big re­veal ex­pected for co­hiba’s 50-year an­niver­sary, si­mon chase looks back on the ori­gins of the lux­ury brand

Virtuozity - - The Humidor -

was smok­ing an un­usu­ally shaped, long, thin cigar and asked if he could try one. Chi­cho com­plied. Cas­tro found it de­li­cious and asked what it was. Chi­cho ex­plained that it came from his per­sonal sup­ply made by a friend of his, named Ed­uardo Rivera, who worked as a top-grade torce­dor at La Corona, one of Ha­vana’s most fa­mous cigar fac­to­ries. Rivera had de­vised his own blend of to­bac­cos to suit the el­e­gant 7.5inch (192mm) by 38 ring gauge vi­tola that was also his own cre­ation.

As time went by, the Com­man­derin-chief’s de­mands for Rivera’s cigars

who re­ceived them as gifts from the Cuban Pres­i­dent.

In 1969 Rivera, a man who did not en­joy run­ning a large fac­tory, quit El La­guito and re­turned to work on his fam­ily’s farm. His place was taken by Avelino Lara, a 49-yearold, top-rank­ing torce­dor, who had spent his whole life in to­bacco. It was Lara who set the rules for the pro­duc­tion of Co­hiba, in­clud­ing the strict colour grad­ing and the much-vaunted “third fer­men­ta­tion” for the seco and ligero leaves in bar­rels now re­ferred to as an “ex­tra fer­men­ta­tion”. His goal was sim­ply to en­sure that Co­hiba met the high­est stan­dards for any cigar that Cuba could make.

Lara’s reign lasted 25 years, the first 12 of which were spent mostly mak­ing Co­hiba’s sizes for David­off as the No. 1, No. 2 and Am­bas­sadrice, and for Mon­te­cristo as the Es­pe­cial, Es­pe­cial and Joyita.

It was not un­til 1982 that Co­hiba’s three sizes were fi­nally put on sale to the pub­lic in their own right. Lara flew to Spain to demon­strate how they were rolled at a launch, which was timed to co­in­cide with the FIFA World Cup that was tak­ing place there. Both Spain’s King, Juan Car­los, and the then-prime Min­is­ter, Felipe Gon­za­lez, be­come firm Co­hiba fans.

Lara also su­per­vised the 1989 range ex­ten­sion that added the Exquisito, Ro­busto and Es­plen­dido to Co­hiba’s lineup, as well as the 1992 in­tro­duc­tion of the five Siglo sizes, be­fore hand­ing over at the end of 1994 to the first woman ever to run a Cuban cigar fac­tory, Emilia Ta­mayo.

It is ex­tra­or­di­nary to re­call the ex­tent to which, in the early days, Co­hiba’s story

fea­tured on more top-10 lists than you can shake a stick at, and with good rea­son—it’s fan­tas­tic. Like the rest of the Line 1492 range, it of­fers a smooth, creamy brown wrap­per with no vis­i­ble veins and a beau­ti­ful tex­ture. And as you’d ex­pect, the burn is per­fect through­out and the draw is spot-on.

Upon light­ing, you’re in­stantly show­ered with a plethora of stun­ning flavours. Along with the ex­pected woody grass notes, the Siglo V serves up a com­plex ar­ray of flo­ral flavours, which are com­ple­mented by hints of spice and sugar. Ev­ery part of your palate is al­lowed into this party.

In the se­cond third, the flavours be­come even more com­plex, but they’re ut­terly en­joy­able thanks to the smooth, creamy smoke that the cigar pro­duces. Salty flavours with hints of nut come into the fray, be­fore mor­ph­ing into bit­ter­sweet dark choco­late—all against a spicy, grassy back­drop.

When you fin­ish this sto­gie, you need a lit­tle time to re­lax and re­flect on the jour­ney you’ve just been on—the mark of any good smoke. What’s more im­pres­sive, though, is that there’s sim­ply no as­pect of the Siglo V that isn’t ab­so­lutely bril­liant.

Emilia Ta­mayo took over Co­hiba in 1994, be­com­ing the first woman ever to run a Cuban cigar fac­tory.

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