“Cohiba” is a word as old as cigars themselves. When Columbus asked the natives on the island of Hispaniola (the site of modern-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic) what...
“Cohiba” is a word as old as cigars themselves. When Columbus asked the natives on the island of Hispaniola (the site of modern-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic) what they were smoking, they told him that their cured, rolled up tobacco bunches were called “cohibas.”
And so it began.
But the real mystique didn’t begin until much later, in Cuba. A cigar maker named Eduardo Ribera sold cigars to one of Castro’s bodyguards. Eventually, “El Jefe” got a taste and was impressed. Ribera became Castro’s private roller and Castro’s love of cigars became well documented. Ribera was set up with a cigar making operation at a factory called El Laguito, and unbranded Cohibas then filled Castro’s private stock. In fact, for a long time, there was no way to get them other than Castro himself handing one over. As time passed, Cohibas made their way into the humidors of top Cuban government officials, and in 1968, the Cohiba Cigar brand was formally launched.
It’s a bit funny that Cohiba Cigars became synonymous with Cuban cigars, given that so many Cuban companies had deeper roots and a richer tradition, some going back generations. The popularity is a testament to Castro and the power of the image of Castro with a cigar clamped in his teeth. Of course, there’s also the impact of “forbidden fruit” to consider as well. Kennedy’s embargo on Cuban cigars in 1962 (along with his own personal hoard thereof) made westerners want them that much more.
But let’s be clear: you still can’t get them here.
What you can get in the states is a Dominican Cohiba, produced by General Cigar Company. Both the Cuban and Dominican Cohiba companies started selling their own version of Cohiba cigars to the international market in the 1980s. Despite the relaxing of the Cuban embargo in recent years, we still can’t carry Cuban Cohibas for sale. If you take a trip to Cuba yourself, of course, you can bring back a hefty bundle for personal consumption. For now, we’ve got the Dominican version, which includes high quality lines like Cohiba Black, Blue, Connecticut, Macassar, Nicaragua, Puro Dominicana, and the famous Red Dot.
Just like Rolexes, there’s lots of fakery out there, so don’t get taken in.