As far as cigar brands go, Cohiba is relatively new; it was introduced in 1968 and quickly became the flagship brand of the Cuban cigar industry. Developed initially as a medium bodied protocol cigar for presentation only by officials of the Cuban government, Cohiba was marketed widely beginning in 1982. Quite a few myths surround the Cohiba brand including one that relates directly to its name which was said to be the aboriginal Taino Indian word for "tobacco," but is now understood to have meant "cigar." The truth about Cohiba's origin is now offered by Emilia Tamayo, the Director at El Laguito. This charming and highly capable woman confirms that it all began in the mid-1960s when one of President Fidel Castro's bodyguards enjoyed a private supply of cigars from a local artisan. They so pleased the president that their creator, Eduardo Ribera, was asked to make cigars of his blend exclusively for Castro, under strict security in an Italianate mansion in the Havana suburb of El Laguito. At first, the brand had no name, then in 1968, under the name Cohiba, production began of three sizes, each a personal favorite of the president – the Lancero, the Corona Especiale, and the Panatela. The Cohiba brand is also produced in the Dominican Republic by two separate entities, General Cigar, which owns the trademark for the name in the U.S., and by Monecristi de Tabacos, which holds the trademark for Cohiba in the Dominican Republic.
Cigar master Daniel Nunez has created a beauty that was introduced in 2006 at the RTDA (Retail Tobacco Dealers of America) in Las Vegas, Nevada. Featuring a Connecticut Broadleaf maduro wrapper that is oily, dark, and hearty, the Cohiba Black is filled with a blend of Dominican Piloto Cubano long-leaf fillers, then is bound with a Connecticut Broadleaf that has been aged in tercio for three years. In case you don’t know, a tercio is an airtight bale of tightly wrapped palm leaves that results in a richer aroma and flavor. This combination leads to a smoke that provides a mixture of smooth and robust chocolate, leather, and tobacco flavors, with a core of earth and a slight sweetness with each puff. Bold and elegant, try pairing this smoke with a equally bold and elegant Cognac; our panel recommended Martell XO as an option.
Though tobacco is indigenous to Hispaniola, the tobacco industry in the Dominican Republic existed in the shadow of Cuba’s dominance through the 1960s. When the exodus of Cuban cigar makers began in the wake of the revolution, many decided the Dominican Republic would be ideal for the resumption of their livelihoods. Unrest in Nicaragua in the 1980s fueled the Dominican cigar industry further. The country now makes more than half of the premium cigars imported into the U.S.
The Cibao Valley and the nearby city of Santiago are the center of cigar production in the Dominican Republic. Three main varieties are grown here: the mild and native Olor Dominicano; the intense Piloto Cubano, brought from the Vuelta Abajo of Cuba; and San Vicente, a milder and more acidic Piloto hybrid. Dominican puros were once unheard of as it was widely thought impossible to grow quality wrapper leaf on the island, but new growing techniques are now allowing some exceptional puros to be produced.
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