The Full-Bodied Stories Behind 20 Cigar Brand Names
Mark Twain once said: "Every morning, as soon as I'm up, I smoke a cigar, and then have breakfast at eight o'clock. After breakfast, I smoke another cigar, and then go back to bed," solidifying his place in the cigar smokers hall of fame and ensuring a future stogie would be named after him. Here are 20 cigars and the stories behind their names.
1. 5 Vegas
2. Erin Go Bragh
Infused with Irish whiskey, this line of cigars takes its name from the anglicized Irish phrase which translates to “Ireland Forever.”
The name Gurkha is derived from a town called Gorka in Nepal and was used by the British during colonial times to denote the fearsome soldiers who were called the “bravest of the brave.” The British, who later enlisted the Nepalese to fight with them all over the world, supposedly began calling their cigars Gurkhas, and when cigar maker Kaizad Hansotia began making and selling cigars in the late 1980s, he attached the name and symbol of the soldiers to his company. They now make some of the world’s most expensive smokes.
5. Brick House
Nope, this cigar has nothing to do with the Commodores. Owner J.C. Newman named the company, launched in 1937, after his childhood home, which was the only house in his Hungarian village made of brick.
Defined by Merriam-Webster as a small part that sticks out, the cigar makers at Studio Tabac took the word nub and applied it to their popular line of “short, stout and well-filled smokes.” The little stogies even made it onto a segment of The Colbert Report back in 2009 as an example of “luxury at economy prices, just like Caviar Chap Stick and the Dom Pérignon six-pack.”
A favorite smoke of Tony Soprano, the CAO company was formed by Cano Aret Ozgener in the late 1960s. Ozgener, a former engineer, is an Armenian who was raised in Turkey and studied at Columbia University. He initially crafted pipes and humidors, introduced his first line of cigars in 1995, and today produces a lineup of 24 different cigars.
Perhaps the most famous, best reviewed, and most counterfeited cigar brand in the world, the Cohiba line of cigars was created for Fidel Castro starting in 1966 at Havana’s El Laguito factory. The cigars were initially made just for Castro, various high-level Cuban administrators, and as gifts for foreign dignitaries, but by 1982 the state-controlled cigar industry began selling limited quantities around the world (except the United States, of course).
The word cohiba comes from the Taino word for the bunches of tobacco leaves that were rolled together and smoked and seen by Christopher Columbus on his early voyages.
A luxury brand with roots in Europe, South America, and Cuba, Davidoff produces high-end cigars, pipes, pipe tobacco, and accessories. Its founder, Zino Davidoff, was born in Kiev in 1906 to Jewish parents, and the family moved to Switzerland in 1911. He emigrated to South America in 1924 and later became known worldwide as “the King of Cigars.”
Another classic, highly rated Cuban brand with a literary heritage and a connection to the cigar factory lectors who read aloud to the torcedores who hand-rolled some of the best cigars in the world. Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo was supposedly a favorite at the factory founded by Alonso Menéndez in 1935; the cigar logo includes a sextet of swords surrounding a fleur-de-lis.
12. Hoyo de Monterrey
13. Sancho Panza
The proverb-spouting squire in Miguel Cervantes’ Don Quixote had his name put on a Cuban cigar in the mid-19th century.
14. H. Upmann
Herman Upmann was a German banker who moved to Havana and started a bank and a cigar company with his brother August in 1844. The two are credited with being the first to package cigars in cedar boxes, and although the bank folded in the 1920s, the cigars are still made today in both Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
The Cuban city of La Santísima Trinidad (the Holy Trinity) and the surrounding Valley de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills) was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. This exclusive cigar was created in 1969 and was, like the Cohiba, made only for Cuban dignitaries and foreign diplomats, but was finally sold on the open market in the late 1990s.
A luxury hotel in Nassau, Bahamas, lends its name to an equally opulent cigar created by master cigar maker Avelino Lara. Once a private residence that has housed, over the last 350 years, pirates, a royal couple, the American Navy, and a friend of Al Capone, in 1973 Enrico and Anna Maria Garzaroli bought the property and transformed the mansion into a hotel and restaurant; the cigar company was founded in 2000.
A top-selling cigar rolled in Honduras, Baccarat is named after one of James Bond's favorite card games and one of the most popular casino games in Asia. The cigar label features a pair of cards and the Italian phrase Dolce Far Niente, which roughly translates to “sweet doing nothing,” or “pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness.”
18. Henry Clay
19. Rocky Patel
The first iteration of this company was known as Indian Tabac and it produced a line of successful cigars with the same name. But in 2002, owner Rakesh “Rocky” Patel, who previously worked in the movie business as an entertainment and product liability lawyer, opted to re-launch the company with the well-reviewed Vintage line and used his own name.
It’s a Spanish word, and it means tattoo. But the creator of this cigar isn’t a descendant of Cuban or Dominican cigar makers; he’s an inked bass player from Maine named Pete Johnson who started his own company in 2003.