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
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.