For those of you who are interested in cigars, but don’t quite know how to get started, we have designed this page to answer the majority of your questions and assist you in taking pleasure in enjoying a fine cigar. Below, you will find a list of books that we recommend that will help and give you plenty of visual references. If this isn’t quick enough, please continue to scroll down this page and we have the Stogies Cigar 101 “Course”.
To learn about specific terminology in the world of cigars, please refer to our cigar glossary below...
HISTORY OF CIGARS
Native Americans have been smoking tobacco long before Christopher Columbus discovered the New World at the end of the 15th century. It remains unknown where and when tobacco leaves came to be used for smoking but by the time Columbus reached America, it was relatively widespread. Native Americans in the pre-Columbian era smoked tobacco in pipes and rolled into dried corn or palm leaves.
Introduction of Tobacco to Europe
Tobacco was introduced to Europe by Columbus who brought a few leaves and seeds from his voyages at the end of the 15th and early 16th century. However, tobacco didn't catch on until the middle of the 16th century. An important role in its popularization (initially as a snuff) played the French diplomat Jean Nicot (1530-1600) who recommended it to the French Queen Catherine de' Medici (1519-1589) as migraine relief. It worked and snuff tobacco soon became highly sought after by the upper classes of society.
Popularization of Tobacco Smoking in Europe and Commercial Production in the Colonies
From the mid-16th century onwards, tobacco smoking became very popular in Europe and with the spread of the European influence and colonization, in the rest of the world as well. The Europeans also tried to grow the tobacco plant at home but the outcome didn't meet the expectations. However, since the finest tobacco was produced in regions under Spanish control, the British decided to give it another try in their new colony of Virginia. Within a few years after the first successful commercial production in 1612, tobacco became Virginia's main export product.
The Golden Age of the Cigar
Despite very successful commercial tobacco production, Americans weren't able to achieve success with the highly desirable Cuban variety. It simply wasn't the same. But in the early 19th century, the Spanish monopoly over Cuban tobacco export came to an end. Access to Cuban tobacco combined with a rapidly growing popularity of cigars in the United States gave rise to the so-called Golden Age of the Cigar (from about 1860s to 1920). By the end of the 19th century, more than 4 billion cigars were sold in the country. By 1920, the demand for stogies almost doubled.
The U.S. Trade Embargo Against Cuba
The United States responded to the Cuban Revolution (1953-1959) and the subsequent overthrow of President Fulgencio Batista with economic, financial and commercial embargo which was in 1962 extended to virtually all exports including cigars. However, before signing the expanded trade embargo, John F. Kennedy ordered a large supply of his favorite Cuban cigars. According to Pierre Salinger, the President ordered him to buy over 1,000 Cuban cigars before the embargo came into effect. Ever since, Cuban cigars have been unavailable to Americans.
Trade Embargo Against Cuba and the Rise of Premium Cigar Brands in Other Countries
On the one hand, the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba has deprived the American cigar lovers of the country's most famous and desirable product. But on the other hand, it has encouraged cigar producers in other countries to fill the void that was created in premium cigar market by the embargo. Although Cuban cigars continue to be widely considered to be the best there is, a growing number of aficionados is enjoying premium stogies from the Dominican Republic, Honduras and many other countries, mostly Latin American.