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Vintage Havana Cigars

I’m always trying to research or access as much research as possible regarding vintage Havana cigars. I have most of the decent book that have been written over the years but their always seems to be so much more to learn.

My friend Rolando Salup has compiled an invaluable list of Havana cigar brands and details of their ownership and locations which he has kindly given us permission to publish on our website. http://www.cgarsltd.co.uk/html/cubancigarlist.xls

Rolando lives in Havana and is an antiques dealer. It has been my pleasure to meet with him at least twice a year for the last decade and chat about the history and significance of many of the antiques that I have bought for the C.Gars collection and of course for sale on my website. http://www.cgarsltd.co.uk/cigar-humidors-antique-cabinets-humidors-jars-c-320_187.html and http://www.cgarsltd.co.uk/cigar-accessories-cuban-photos-paintings-c-319_192.html

Rolando is a mine of interesting information and its a privilege to know him.

The following accompanying article was written by Rolando and translated with thanks to my assistant Yudy in our Havana office (with a tiny amount of editing/corrections by ourselves)

I hope you find the articles useful and of course if you have any questions don’t hesitate to email me

Peaceful puffing

Havana Cigar Brands, their ownership and some history

by Rolando Salup


I entered the collectors’ world through humidors and old boxes. The last ones called my attention because of their beauty and the owners’ names that some had. That made me realize about their hidden history.

Most of the boxes had famous tobacco brands as well as other less well known.
I was also interested in getting bands from the same brands that I already had in the boxes and even some dedicated to the same owners of the boxes. From that point on, I started collecting cigars bands based on the history of tobacco factories and brands.

Many collectotrs of vitofilia organize their collections by theme and some of the most popular themes include flora, fauna, heraldic etc.
As my interest was in tobacco brands from the XIX and XX centuries, I wanted to find out if there was specialized literature about Cuban brands and factories in that period of time.

As soon as I started interviewing Cuban and foreign collectors and analyzing bibliographies, I understood that my task was a very hard one, almost impossible because of the following factors:
They are not enough information sources such as archives, official documents, books, phone guides, commercial documentation …etc that can provide historical information about cigars brands in Cuba. Many records related to this topic were not conserved. However, there is information provided by museums and researchers that comes from the Comisión Nacional de Defensa y Propaganda del Tabaco Habano that helped to know more about the topic.

Within the universal literature you can find bibliography related to Cuban cigars in universal catalogues with lists of brands from all the countries. Specifically within the vitofilia Catalogue of Brands and Factories for Collectors of Cigars, written by the Spanish author Emilio Menendez (Madrid, 1957), appear a wide range of world brands and only 1787 from Cuba.

Another study from Orlando Ortega Abreu, one of the Head Person from the Cuban vitofilia Association and a well-known expert in this topic, is the Universal Catalogue of Tobacco Brands. His research shows 5900 brands from all times and countries of which 2038 are Cuban. Both catalogues only show the name of the brand.

H. Upmann Factory

There are also some cuban brands in Graphic vitofilia Catalogues within different themes. Many of these contributions were made by F Gimenez Caballero, who was the Head of the vitofilia Association in Spain.
The “Chinchales” with their own brands is another factor that makes difficult getting to know the amount of Cuban brands that have existed. These are small business which made and sold cigars that characterized the period and were sometime known only locally.

Some of the Cuban factories were created in the XIX century and have been changing their owner through out the years. For that reason many rings and “habilitaciones” have the same brand name but different owners. In our research we have included information about the different owners which give us an idea of the brands story as well as how people from the tobacco world and factories are entangled.

Many factories produced cigars with different brands and also some used only the name of the owner to identify their cigar bands (vitolas).

Many brands were registered with the only variation of the article that precedes the original name. This case could even happened in the same factory as in “Albertina” and “La Albertina”, both registered by Antonio Cabargas y Cia or could have been registered by a different producer as in “Alteza”, registered by E. Amor and “La Alteza” registered by Vicente Suarez y Hno. This last case made us questioned whether the brand change its owner or the production was stopped at some point and started later.

The cases above show how difficult is to know the exactly amount of cigars factories that existed in Cuba since the XIX century to our days.

* Tobacco Factories and Brands. History

At the very beginnings of the tobacco production it had a domestic approached. By the end of the XVI century started its sale in public places.

In 1614, king Felipe III dictated the first monopolized rule when order that ALL to tobacco that were not to be used in the colonies had to be taken directly to Sevilla.
In 1717, King Felipe V ordered that a “company” (estanco ) should be in charge of buying the tobacco crop and the production of cigars, leaving an amount for local consumption. During the century in which this “company” existed it had different names such as: INTENDENCIA GENERAL DEL TABACO, REAL COMPAÑÍA DE COMERCIO DE LA HABANA and later on LA REAL FACTORIA DE TABACOS DE LA HABANA(Havana Trading Post) from July 26 1761 to July 27 1821.

During the XIX century the use of cigars in Cuba, Spain and the rest of Europe grew. In order to satisfy the custumers there was a development of the tobacco industry in Cuba. The “company” established before was limited to collect taxes and could buy tobacco without any privileges but the Trading Post remained its duties.

All the new laws were not totally obeyed because they affected the business. For that reason Spain ordered to open the production in 1827 and the Trading Post disappeared.
From then on the tobacco industry was expanded. New mills were established and little by little some of the small “chinchales” became big factories.

The Trading Post mentioned above had the privilege to grant licenses for the production of cigars. They were registered in the Havana Book of Licenses. These books are a good source to find the first references to bands and “habilitaciones”.

At that time brands were not used to identify the specific production of a cigar factory so people started naming the cigars after the owner of the factory in order to identify one from another.

Wooden boxes were used for shipment and export. They were filled with thousands of cigars tied in bundles. This system made it impossible to identify the cigars and provide plenty of opportunities for forgery. During the XIX century smaller boxes of 25 or 50 cigars were used, so the customer could identify the producer.

The first bands appeared in Cuba around 1830-1835 and should be as a result of the rollers who wanted to identify and guarantee the cigars they produced. Even though there is a common belief that bands were used in Cuba for the first time, the exact origin of them is unknown. What is known is that it was in Germany where they were printed and produced for the first time.

In 1837 the ARCHIVO DEL GOBIERNO CIVIL DE MARCAS DE LA LITOGRAFIA DE TABACOS Y CIGARROS (Government Archive of Cigars and Cigarettes Bands and Lithograph) was created. This was the first official institution in charge of register the names and designs used in the different factories.

In 1839 two lithography companies were established in Havana. One was known as “taller de los españoles” (Spanish one) and the other as “taller de los franceses” (French one) and they work on labels for cigars boxes.

Ramon Allones, in his factory “La Eminencia”, started the use of luxurious boxes decorated with printed labels in 1845. This innovation took over among other tobacconists and here had its origins the cigars’ boxes industry. The bands and labels were printed with only one ink.

Lithography with colors was introduced in Cuba in 1860 and was used for cigarettes cases. Only 20 years later this technique was used to print cigars bands and boxes’ labels.

The Havana Lithographic Company, traditionally the major cigars bands producer, started introducing the offset technique in 1920. This process took the place of the lithographic printings and made it disappear around the 40’s


Another important moment in tobacco history is the insertion in Cuba of American monopolies after the Intervention by the end of the XIX century and beginnings of the XX. When the Spanish domination was over, they sold their business to American companies such as H. B. COLLINS AND COMPANY, HAVANA COMMERCIAL COMPANY, and LA AMERICAN TOBACCO COMPANY among others. They got to be owners of around 291 brands in a few years. However, some Spanish remained in Cuba and continuo with their business. They were called “Los Independientes”, “The Independents”.

A significant moment in the tobacco history was the revolutionary intervention of factories and companies after 1959. New Cooperative Companies have been formed through out the years, as part of the Agriculture Ministry, the INRA…etc which have been in charge of developing production, export and sale of Cuban cigars. Two of them that have been well known are CUBATABACO and the EMPRESA CONSOLIDADA DEL TABACO.

As a consequence of this process, most of the old factories and brands, as well as “chinchales”, disappeared. Some of the most notorious factories continuo their production of Cuban cigars up to our days and new brands has been created .i.e. the world known Cohibas.
The revolutionary process also maintains the independent tobacco farmers, especially in Pinar del Rio but also in other provinces. A well known case is Don Alejandro Robaina.

Nowadays we have the corporation HABANOS SA, formed by Cubatabaco and the Spanish company Altadis. This corporation trades all Cuban tobacco products, mainly Habanos(cigars) and other related goods. They are also a leading company in the trade of Premium cigars, which are now in more than 120 countries with 27 types of Habanos and more than 240 bands.

Another company is the INTERNACIONAL CUBANA DE TABACOS S.A, created to produce and trade machine-made cigars, for export and internal use purposes.

The BRASCUBA CIGARRILLOS S.A. is a Cuban-Brazilian company formed by the Souza Cruz from Brazil and TABACUBA, part of the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture. This company produces and trade cigarettes for export and internal use purposes.

* Luxurious Cigar Boxes

In Cuba there was an expansion of the production of cigars boxes for personal use. Therefore, people could buy their cigars at the shop and put then in their particular box, which sometimes had their own names engraved. These boxes were kept at home or offices and were the most distinguished way to offer a cigar to a friend or a guest. It was very common for professionals to have one of these beautiful boxes on top of their desks.

During the XIX and the XX century many craftsmen made especially beautiful cigar boxes. Some of them had engraved the cigar brand or the factory name, but others didn’t have it. It is important to mention from this period the boxes made between 1930 and 1950 which were hand-made boxes out of mahogany. Their main motives were el Morro and La Cabaña fortresses and the Cuban coat of arms. A very famous craftsman was Pablo Lopez.


There was a very important factory called La Nacional that was the major cigars’ box producer until the beginnings of the 60’s. They made small and medium size boxes as well as the famous Presidenciales (Presidentials). Many of these boxes had engraved the name of the owners who were famous politicians, professionals, merchants…etc.
After that period the production of luxurious cigar boxes took place in CUBATABACO. Their workers claimed that their goods were pieces of art that could fulfill its function of preserving the unique quality and aroma of the Habano as well as embellish the custumers’ desk or table.

Some of the most famous designs from CUBATABACO from the 60’s to the 80’s were the Cinco Bocas, the Barrilito, the Libro (book), la Presidencial for 100 coronas, the Joyero (Jewelry) for 125 cigars, el Tronco de Arbol for 25 ó 50 cigars, and the PARTAGAS Assorted Humidor. The last one was a copy of the only humidors made in Cuba at Partagas and La Corona for export in the 50’s, since there is no need of humidification in Cuba with our weather conditions. These humidors had a sponge to preserve humidity. The use of hydrometers is a more modern way.

Humidors were introduced in Europe in the 50’s by Alfred Dunhill as a way to preserve cigars in the shops.

We would like to highlight 3 designs from CUBATABACO that represent the Cuban boxes and have been of interest from collectors. They are the BOHIO, CASA TRINIDAD and the collection of engraved boxes that show images of farmers with tobacco, or sugar cane, scenes from the discovery of the island and a slave driving a carriage. This was a limited production.

At present ARCA creates boxes and humidors for Habanos.

Nowadays there are well known craftsmen that create humidors that are auctioned during the Habano’s Festival, displayed in cultural events or used for limited editions of new bands.

*Catalogue of Cuban bands during the XIX and XX century

In order to complete our catalogue of Cuban bands, we research books and previous studies from authors in and outside Cuba. We also got information from collectors who share their experiences and collections with us. With them we found valuable information about 2000 bands that have not been found before in any documental source. Looking at the different cigars bands we could follow their stories and go deeper in their history.

Among the collectors who helped us are: Paolo Jucker from Switzerland, member of the Cuban Vitolphilic Association and Orlando Arteaga Abreu from Cuba.

The catalogue that we offer below has 4491 Cuban bands. In the first column you will find the cigars brands. As it is known, there were factories that used their names as brands. This can be checked in the second column where we put owners and factories.
As we mentioned before, owners had changed through out the years and, in some cases, with them changed the name of the brand. For that reason we include in this column what we collected from the Registration offices and from the cigars bands. The information about all this changes is not in chronological order though.
Sometimes the cigars bands only showed the name of the owner, therefore, this was known as the name of the brand. We kept the spelling found in the original sources.

The third column was devoted to Place. Here we included city or province according to the old division of 6 provinces. In some cases you will see brands with two different places because the plantation and factories were in one province and offices were in other.
A very important aspect of this catalogue is the reliability. Most of the 4491 brands were authenticated in documental source or in more than one reliable list as the case may be.

We put an asterisk (*) before the brands that could not be corroborate and that were found in only one source.

Written by Rolando Salup 2009