Cohiba: the Rolls Royce of Cuban cigars
If smoking is not allowed in heaven, I shall not go. This statement by the famous American writer Mark Twain sums up the love for cigars well. Cigar lovers get peace and enjoyment from smoking a tasty cigar. Although there are now many good cigars from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras, the top of the cigar production is of course still in Cuba. And the top of the top … that’s the exclusive and world-renowned Cohiba cigar and its legendary vitola: the Behike.
- Brief History of Cohiba – Cigar for the Revolutionary Leaders
- What makes the Cohiba special?
- The Cohiba Behike – the cream of the crop of Cuban cigars
- Why is the Cohiba so attractive?
- Overview of the most famous brands of Cohiba and their prices
- Perception of the cigar: supporters and opponents
Brief History of Cohiba – Cigar for the Revolutionary Leaders
The history of the Cohiba starts in the 1950s. The world is divided into a communist sphere of influence between Russia and later China and the capitalist Western world led by the United States. The US viewed Cuba as an inseparable and important part of its sphere of influence. Ultimately, the island is close to Florida. In Cuba, Fulgencio Batista, a dictator who was backed by the US, ruled. Fidel Castro and Ernesto (‘Che’) Guevara managed to oust him from power in a guerrilla war in 1959. American businessmen, casino bosses and investors also fled with him. The owners of the large cigar factories also fled. Their assets were confiscated by the Cuban state. All cigars have since been produced through a state monopoly, currently called Habanos SA
Fidel Castro, himself an avid cigar smoker until the 1990s, commissioned the state-owned company to create a superior cigar. Because the Cohiba is surrounded by so much mystery, even the exact date of the first production is not entirely clear: was it 1966 or 1968? It is certain that the first Cohiba cigars were only intended for Castro, the other senior leaders of the Party and foreign guests. This remained the case until 1982, when cigar production was increased and the Cohiba in the open market thrown. Since then, the Cohiba range has expanded significantly, the brand got a new cigar band and logo and consumption increased sharply. Since the 21st century, the brand has been the flag bearer of the Cuban cigar industry. Just about every cigar aficionado has tried a Cohiba at some point, if only to test its legendary reputation.
What makes the Cohiba special?
The tobacco from which the Cohiba is made is all grown in the Pinar del Rio region west of Havana. This region supplies the best tobacco for all Cuban top brands, such as Trinidad or Montecristo. But the Cohiba goes a little further. Not only should the tobacco come from this region, but one specific part of the region is also chosen: the Vuelta Abajo. Here, experienced growers grow the choice of tobacco – best or nothing.
What makes the brand truly exceptional is a small, but important difference in production. Every premium cigar produced in Cuba undergoes two fermentations. This process can best be compared to yeasts. The tobacco leaves are placed on large bales. Due to the heat that this creates, they will secrete all kinds of substances that are not needed, such as acids and nicotine. The leaves will also change color. After this process, the leaves are taken apart, hung and moistened again. Then it starts again, for a second time. The Cohiba is the only cigar that undergoes this process three times instead of twice, which gives the cigar a special taste. The cigar is rolled by the best and most experienced rollers at the El Laguito factory in Havana.
The Cohiba Behike – the cream of the crop of Cuban cigars
Where the Cohiba brand is already highly sought after and exclusive, the Cohiba Behike is the cream of the crop. This vitola (type or subdivision of a cigar brand) was launched in 2010. Cigar lovers of all countries were amazed and stimulated. Everyone wanted to try this very special and very pricey cigar. The Behike takes its name from the Taino Indian tribe. The Behike was the person who led the smoking sessions – smoking was almost a religious ritual. He can even be compared to a priest or shaman.
The Behike is even more special than the other Cohibas. This is due to its composition: the very difficult to find and only limited available Medio Tiempo tobacco leaf is used in it. This leaf can only be obtained from certain tobacco varieties; it is also one of the two top leaves of plants that are grown in the sun. Many tobacco plants grow under shade cloths. This blade gives the Behike a lot of extra punch.
There are three sizes for this cigar: the BHK 52, 54 and 56. The numbers refer to the width of the cigar, not the length. The prices of these cigars are also very solid. For a Cohiba BHK 56 you pay more than 40 euros in Belgium … for one cigar! The beautiful band will be included for free.
Why is the Cohiba so attractive?
Because the cigar brand was only intended for the very highest in Cuba in the period 1966 to 1982, some mystery. Cohiba became an unknown but legendary brand that hardly anyone could ever smoke. From 1982 the brand was freely available (of course not in the United States), but in limited quantities. Production was quite low until 2000 … and prices quite high. Add to this a very well thought-out promotional campaign. Cohiba has a beautiful logo: a black stylized Indian, also referring to the Taino. Their word for tobacco was Cohiba. The boxes in which the cigars are kept are equally beautiful, especially those of the famous Behike series. Empty (!) Boxes of this vitola are quickly sold for fifty euros or more on eBay, and then they are only used as jewelry.
Overview of the most famous brands of Cohiba and their prices
Cohiba has four main production lines. The first and oldest production line is the Linea Clasica. This contains the old, but still quality cigars. Some of them have been produced for thirty years or more. The most important cigars from this line are the Robusto and the Esplendidos. Both cigars were first sold in 1989. Three years later, Habanos launched perhaps the most successful line of Cuban cigars: the Linea 1492. In 1992 it was celebrated that Columbus discovered America (and therefore also tobacco) five hundred years earlier. Five cigars were launched in this line: the Cohiba Siglo I, II, III, IV and V. The word ‘siglo’ simply means ‘century’, referring to the five centuries that have passed since then. The magnificent Siglo VI was launched in 2002 – according to many the best cigar in the range.
Fashion and trends can be found in every sector, from cars to clothing and hairstyles. This is also the case in the cigar world. Since 2005 there has been a clear trend towards heavier and firmer cigars or Maduros. Cohiba responded to this with the production of the Cohiba Maduro 5: a cigar that has matured for five years and therefore offers a lot of extra power. This cigar comes in three sizes: Genios, Mágicos and Secretos. The first of this series could be smoked in 2007. The first Behike, the fourth line, was launched in 2010. By the way: Cohiba also makes a lot of limited and special cigars. The Cohiba is new since 2009 Gran Reserva. This one has matured for at least five years and consists of the very best tobacco leaves. Prices quickly run up to a hundred euros – if one can still find them.
The prices stated are those in the Netherlands and Belgium in 2016. Due to the ever-increasing taxes and excise duties, these will only increase further in the future. Most Cohiba cigars are very easy to obtain. It is simply the most famous cigar brand in the world. In the Netherlands, however, the three versions of the Behike (52, 54 and 56) are always sold out quite quickly. Is this due to the high demand or the smaller supply? Finally, the price is very high. June 2016, Habonos implemented an immense price increase. The price for a Behike 56 increased from 42 to 65 euros … each.
|Vitola||Price Netherlands||Price Belgium|
|Linea 1492 Siglo IV||18.20||18|
|Linea 1492 Siglo VI||29.40||27.50|
|Linea Clasica Esplendidos||32||29.20|
|Linea Clasica Robustos||18.40||19.20|
|Linea Maduro 5 Secretos||11.90||11.90|
Perception of the cigar: supporters and opponents
There is no disputing about taste, is a frequently heard statement. There are therefore supporters and opponents of the famous Cohiba cigars. For many, these cigars are “the ultimate expression of the taste and aroma of the Habano.” They are tasty, offer an extra element through the third fermentation and they are very exclusive. Others, such as the renowned cigar connoisseur Philippe Juliam, have a slightly different opinion:
Due to the high demand for Cohibas, production is no longer as flawless as it once was. Sometimes badly rolled cigars dare to be offered for sale. When such a cigar costs 20 euros or more, that is of course inexcusable. Meanwhile, demand in China and India has increased sharply. Europe is slowly becoming a less important sales market for Cuba. And that will be reflected in the prices and the quality …