Significant Cuban Cigar Events
The following periods are significant within the Cuba's industrial cigar history:
Before the Revolution, the Cuban cigar industry was not centralised.
There was no system or rules to follow.
All manufacturers were independent, ranging from the very small to the very large.
Every manufacturer was free to produce whatever cigars and packaging style that they desired.
The Revolution occurred on 2 January 1959. After this, it was business as usual for the cigar industry. Firms remained independent.
The Cuban cigar price list effective from 1st January 1959 showed 140 brands undertaking export production.
There were a total of 1,185 vitolas available, comprising 999
in production and further 186 available by special order.
On 15 September 1960, all private businesses were “nationalised” and become the property of the Cuban government.
Many business proprietors of the Cuban factories fled the country.
While there was general chaos, Cuban cigar production in many small factories
continued, sometimes with only the employees operating the businesses.
Cubatabaco was formed in February 1962, and immediately appointed Government officials to take over management of all Cuban cigar factories.
Most small factories were closed down due to lack of man-power. Only major factories remained in operation.
These factories still remained independent of each other and
therefore from a production point of view, still nothing changed from pre-revolution times.
The lack of change was probably due to the new government factory managers knowing very
little about cigars, and the Communist system, where there is no reward for positive thinking.
Cubatabaco produced its first Catalogue detailing the brands officially produced by the new Government regimen.
The number of brands and vitolas was substantially reduced.
The 1980 Crop Failure
In 1980 blue-mould plant disease wiped out the entire tobacco crop in 1980.
With no tobacco, the factories became idle and some were closed.
This period of inactivity initiated a historical rationalisation of the Cuban cigar industry.
During this time, a new policy was developed that had three main principles.
Every factory could make any brand; the vitola and packaging types were standardised; and uneconomic vitolas or packaging were eliminated.
A massive trimming of many small selling vitolas occurred, with only some 500 different vitolas remaining.
Altadis SA purchases of 50% of Habanos SA
Prompted by Altadis S.A. purchase and influence, Habanos S.A. decided to dramatically change the way they make and market cigars.
This change was carried out over a three year period.
Instead of having varying degrees of quality within each brand (handmade, hand-finished, & machine-made),
Habanos S.A. decided that the major brands will only offer premium “totalmente a mano” hand-rolled cigars.
This was to allow consumers to better understand just what sort of cigar they are buying.
Of the 549 vitolas that were manufactured in 1992 (the beginning of Cuba's Special Period)
only 319 were to remain in production, and only 33 brands continue to manufactured, and almost all brands saw major changes.
Within each brand, vitolas that have the same size but different blends, were axed.
Only the best-selling cigar of a vitola was to survive.
These changes enabled a greater chance of a particular vitola being in stock.
The simplification of the brand lines allows the occasional smoker to better understand the range of Habanos.
There were two other significant decisions.
Firstly the machine-bunched hand-finished method was to be eliminated, due to economic and
marketing simplification reasons.
Secondly, the Belinda, Quintero, Jose L. Piedra, Gispert, La Flor del Cano, Cabanas, Los Statos de Luxe, and Troya brands will
only be made by either the “tripa corta” or “mecanizado” methods.
Extension of the 2001 Policy
Around 2005 Habanos SA decided to carry the 2001 policy further
by eliminating all machine-made cigars and brands from their portfolio.
This reduced the number of brands to 27 and reduced
the number of standard production vitolas to around 240.
This was offset by the major increase in production of premium-cost special releases.
Purchase of Altadis SA by British Imperial Tobacco (BIT)
With the 2008 purchase of Altadis SA, BIT became a 50% owner of Habanos SA. So far, there are no obvious changes arising from the BIT purchase.