Cuba is understandably famous for its cigar production, with many cigar connoisseurs considering them the finest in the world. The mystique surrounding Cuban cigars was only further cemented in February 1962 when President Kennedy imposed a trade embargo on the island to protest the recent communist revolution on the island. Despite Kennedy’s wishes that cigars be exempt from the embargo, due to pressure from Miami cigar companies he caved and included cigars, including the famous Montecristo cigars, among the Cuban exports which couldn’t be legally imported into the US. Just before Kennedy actually signed the embargo into law, he told his press secretary to obtain 1,200 Cuban cigars so that he would be able to continue to enjoy them after placing the trade embargo.
The Montecristo brand was first created by Alonso Menéndez in 1935 when he acquired the Particulares Factory in Cuba. Apparently the name was inspired Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Count of Monte Cristo, a swashbuckling tale of escape and revenge which was apparently popular among the torcedores (Cuban cigar rollers) in Menéndez’ factory. The legendary Montecristo logo, a design featuring a fleur-de-lis surrounded by swords, similarly had its origins in the cigar’s namesake, Dumas’ adventure novel. The next year, Menéndez moved Montecristo production to another factory on Cuba, the location at which Montecristo cigars continued to be produced afterward. The Montecristo brand proved incredibly popular around the world, and about a quarter of Habanos SA’s cigar sales still come from Montecristo cigars to this day.
After the Cuban Revolution, the state nationalized the cigar industry in 1961. Menéndez fled the country, establishing a new cigar company in the Canary Islands, which was later moved to La Romana in the Dominican Republic. Because the US didn’t recognize Cuban trade rights, the US accepted these new cigars as “Montecristo cigars”. In Cuba, Jose Manual Gonzalez, an expert torcedore, became the floor manager at the Montecristo factory and added a number of new sizes of Montecristo cigars to production. As production continued throughout the 70s and 80s, Montecristo cigars increased in popularity, to the point that the Montecristo No. 4 is considered the single most popular cigar in the world. Today, both Habanos SA, the Cuban state tobacco company, and La Romana in the Dominican Republic produce their own version of “Montecristo cigars”. Purists generally consider the Cuban Montecristo cigars to be the ‘authentic’ version of the famous cigar.
Montecristo cigars are manufactured on Cuba in an intricate process, with many still being rolled by hand. Due to the aura of distinction which surrounds authentic Montecristo cigars, counterfeit Montecristo cigars are, unfortunately, fairly common. If you’re looking to purchase genuine Montecristo cigars, be sure to find a trusted cigar supplier who will guarantee that you’re getting real Montecristo cigars.
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