The world-famous Partagás factory (at the address of No. 520 Industria in Havana) was nationalized 46 years ago, during the course of the Cuban revolution. The proprietor family, by the name of Cifuentes, had to leave everything behind when emigrating to the USA with nothing but the often-quoted clothes on their backs. There they made a new beginning, producing their first cigars in Jamaica and later in the Dominican Republic, and finally selling the rights to the brand to American cigar pro ducers. The history of Partagás split
with Fidel Castro’s revolution. Not even all the die-hard fans of the brand are familiar with the fact that since the time of the revolution, Partagás cigars have been produced both in the Dominican Republic and in Cuba. As already mentioned, Cuba claimed all of the cigar factories and brands located on the island as owned by the State after the revolution. Due to international agreements, it is today accepted almost worldwide that the brand rights belong to this island nation. It is only the jurisdiction in the USA that did not recognize this provision- and still doesn’t.
The trade embargo of the United States against Cuba causes an extremely confusing situation for the consumer: on the one hand, Partagás cigars from Cuba are not allowed to be imported into the USA (side note: nonetheless, it is especially there that Havanas are enjoying great popularity though their possession is prohibited), and on the other hand, Partagás cigars which are rolled in the Dominican Republic and which are very successful in the USA may not, according to the international declarations mentioned, be distributed in the rest of the world… a prime example of a political muddle.
THE LEGENDARY DON JAIME
The Real Fábrica de Tabaco Partagás (Partagás Royal Tobacco Factory) was established in Havana in 1845 by Don Jaime Partagás and is therefore one of the oldest tobacco factories in Cuba. Don Jaime called his cigars „Flor de Tabacos de Partagás“ Today the factory is still one of the city’s landmarks. Jaime Partagás made cigar history: he was one of the first who introduced new fermentation methods for tobacco. He was also responsible for employing the first lector (reader) in order to entertain the torcedores in his factory. His cigars achieved prizes at international exhibitions and therefore also attained worldwide prestige. After the violent death of Jaime in 1868, the Partagas family decided to sell their
enterprise to a banker by the name of José A. Bance, who in turn sold the factory in 1900 to Ramón Cifuentes Llano and José Fernández. The Cifuentes family established considerable cigar empire with trademarks such as La Intimidad, Ramón Allones, Bolivar and La Gloria Cubana with ownership of all the brands up until the nationalization in 1961
Ramón Cifuentes’ son, also with the first name of Ramón, took over the management of the company in 1938. Under his guidance, the taste profile of Cuban Partagás cigars, as we know them today was developed – strong, earthy-leathery and spic cigars in a broad range of sizes. In 1959, at the beginning of the revolution in Cuba, his factory was the second-largest export producer of Havana cigars. After that came the flight into exile.
THE DOMINICAN BRANCH
In the USA Ramón Cifuentes became acquainted with Edgar M. Cullman, the proprietor of the General Cigar Company. Cifuentes introduced him to the world of hand-rolled cigars à la Partagás and was also helpful with the upgrading of Connecticut wrapper leaves from Cuban seed which had been grown by the Cullman family since 1906. As a result, in 1971 the two brought onto the market the Macanudo brand the first premium cigar by General Cigar, which very soon rose to number one among American cigars. The moment finally came in 1978 when, together with General Cigar, Ramón Cifuentes brought onto the market the first Partagás cigars, which were rolled in the Dominican Republic.
Like the Macanudo, it was a cigar brand which was widely distributed on the national market. Cifuentes had opted for wrapper leaves from Cameroon which, to him, seemed even more suitable than those from Cuba. Cifuentes, together with Daniel Nuñez – the master blender of General Cigar, developed the „Partagás Limited Reserve“ which was added in 1991. In 1995, marking the one-hundred-fiftieth anniversary of Partagás, Cifuentes developed with cigar master Daniel Nuiez the „Limited Edition Partagás 150 and the „Signature Series The tobacco corporation of Swedish Match, today the number two player worldwide, took over the successful enterprise of General Cigar in 2000. In the same year, Ramón
Cifuentes died at the age of 91. He had been checking the production of the Partagás cigars until a ripe old age. In 2005, Daniel Nuñez launched the latest rage of the Partagás cigar evolution – the „Partagás Limited Reserve Decadas“, with a ten-year-old Cameroon wrapper leaf, Dominican and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos and a binder from Honduras.
THE CUBAN BRANCH
The development of Partagás on the Cuban side is wellknown by ECCJ readers due to our continuous reporting. Marking the 150th and 155th years of existence, anniversary cigars in limited humidors were launched. In 1993, the remarkable Salomones was awakened from its long state of hibernation. In 2005, the Series D No. 4 Reserva followed, in addition to the Series P No. 2, which has been very popular since that point. At short intervals, the brand name is also appearing within the circle of the Ediciónes Limitadas-since 2000, a Pirámides and the Series D No. 3, 2 and 1 were presented, as well as the No. 3 again (last year). Hand in hand with this began an ongoing reduction of the extensive portfolio of vitolas. Today, just approximately one-half of the 40 different sizes existing in 2002 are left. What is no longer accepted on the market is deleted from the range of products.
Over a period of somewhat longer than ten years, the Cuban Partagás also went through some alterations in their taste. The unanimous opinion of the aficionados is that the cigars are rounder and less robust than in former times. However, to a large extent, it is of common opinion that the Partagás brand preserved its independent taste profile within the realm of Cuban cigars.
ONE BRAND TWO PHILOSOPHIES
The two countries of origin for Partagás – Cuba and the Dominican Republic-are not comparable with each other, one of the reasons being that their different types of soil, climate and seed result in different taste styles. This is exactly the reason why we, at the European Cigar Cult Journal, wanted to confront the two brands of the same ame.
Our results: The Dominican cigars are of great quality in their workmanship, aroma and overall harmony. The Limited Reserve cigars are, by their richness in aroma and depth in taste, even in a class of their own. And Cuban Partagás also have their very expressive taste characteristics which are probably more familiar to those of us who are European. In their opinions regarding their general impressions, our jurors of the test were more in unison in the case of the Cuban versions than with the Dominican Partagás when reaching the conclusion of „typical Partagás“. However you look at it, the authenticity of the Partagás cigars (for Europeans) always remains Cuban. The Cuban Partagas cigars were provided by the Sth Avenue Products Trading GmbH, the authorized importer of Habanos cigars.