Dating back as many as one-thousand years, tobacco smoking has been a part of the human experience for a good stretch of time. Though tobacco smoking was, for at least 500 years, exclusive to what would become known as the Americas, Columbus’ encounter with the plant and with its attractive properties would soon the it exported to Europe. From there, it acquired a large following that would go on to fuel trade disputes. Colonists in the North American (very far north of tobacco’s origin) colony of Virginia would soon take to cultivating the crop to compete with the Spanish monopoly which had taken root (so to speak) in Cuba and elsewhere.
And though cigars remain very closely associated with Caribbean and Central American cultures and lands, they are manufactured worldwide. Tobacco is now grown in the Mediterranean, in China, and in a dozen or so other major countries. Still, there is a purity component to the subject of cigar-making, one that stands in defiance of its global production. Much of it has to do with perception and a sense of tethering one’s vice to the time and place of its origin.
The cigar has an interesting hold on the human imagination, perhaps more so than the cigarette ever did. Across the generations, many public figures have been recognizable by their penchant for cigar smoking, often to such an extent as to see that person identified almost solely with the habit. Winston Churchill is often credited with having saved his kingdom from certain doom during the Second World War. His reward? A Cuban cigar bearing his name. The reasoning is understandable: Churchill was frequently photographed with a cigar in hand or on his lips. It was a fondness he had acquired during adolescence and would go on to indulge for decades.
For reasons difficult to identify, those who harbor an affinity for a finely rolled cigar have retained a sociocultural acceptance that has long been eluding cigarette smokers. There are practical reasons, of course. Cigar smoke is not fully inhaled, for one, and the aroma that emanates from a quality cigar can be quite pleasing to the olfactory. But beyond that, cigars seem to tell a story. We mentioned purity a few paragraphs earlier, and that concept does play a role in all this. Puro cigars, to put it plainly, are prized by cigar connoisseurs in a way that no cigarette has ever known.
At its core, a cigar is fermented, dehydrated tobacco encased in a binding leaf and wrapped in paper for smoking purposes. Now, if you followed that passage, you will note that a cigar requires at least three components to exist in a recognizable form. What if two of those three components were from, say, Nicaragua while the third was from, say, South Carolina? Would it necessarily diminish your smoking experience? Would the taste suffer? How about the tobacco content? Would it be any less well-wrapped?
Very possibly yes, in theory. At least one of those things might, indeed, be negatively impacted.
For which reason…
Puro Cuban Cigars
There exists a category of cigars for the discerning palate, one for the aficionado who needs to know that the cigar making its way to their lips is comprised of singularly sourced products. These are the “pure” (Spanish: puro) cigars alluded to above. For example, a puro Cuban cigar would be comprised solely of tobacco grown and harvested in Cuba. The tobacco filler, the binding leaf, and the wrapper will call Cuba home, and nowhere else.
In the modern world, hyper-efficient commerce allows for the easy transporting of goods and materials from one region of the globe to another. The result is that many cigars are multi-national in their origins. This allows for companies specializing in one aspect of the cigar-making industry to focus strictly on that aspect, while partner companies cover down on the other areas. It’s sensible business for many in the industry, but in principle it stands opposite the craftsmanship and sense of cultural pride that tends to enliven the cigar business.
For that reason, along with a few others, a puros Indios cigar will always carry with it a sense of quality that seems somehow unattainable for a cigar with American filler held together by a Guatemalan leaf and housed within an Indian wrapper. That tri-national cigar may have an excellent taste to it, but it will lack the purity that so many a cigar enthusiast craves.
It would be difficult to argue that hybrid cigars are inherently inferior to the puros cigars alternative. From a chemistry standpoint, there may be comparatively litter difference at all where the tobacco quotient is concerned. But that “hold” mentioned above, the hold cigars have on human imagination, has created a strong market for the purity associated with single nation cigar origins. Tobacco smoking is centuries old. Reveling in at least one element of that rich history is not by any means too much to ask.