H Upmann Cigars
How do you describe H Upmann cigars online in just one word? There are many, but we’ll go with “legendary.” And that’s not just because H. Upmann is among the oldest cigar brands in the industry — it’s because Upmann cigars are a world-class favorite, a great cigar for beginners and are as dependable and consistent as the day is long.
It was around 1840 that German bankers and brothers, August and Hermann Upmann, offered to open a branch of the family bank in Havana. Hermann, apparently, was quite the raging cigar nut — so the prospect of going to Cuba and opening an office in Cuba didn’t require much arm-twisting. It also provided Hermann the opportunity to send cigars back home to Europe. That, it seems, got his entrepreneurial juices flowing: with the possibilities of making a business out of cigar manufacturing and exporting becoming clear, Upmann invested in a cigar factory in 1844 and launched the “H. Upmann Cigars” brand. Alternate versions of the cigar’s history call out Upmann’s nephews, German and Alberto, as the founders of the factory and the cigars that were produced there; but at the end of the day, it was Hermann who became most closely associated with it.
The Upmanns, it’s been argued, are to be credited with the concept of packaging cigars in cedar boxes. Labeled with his bank’s name, the boxes initially contained other manufacturers’ smokes — which August and Hermann gave to their customers as advertisements for their company before manufacturing their own.
Through the turn of the 20th century, H Upmann 1844 cigars gained international fame at various exhibitions, winning seven gold medals — the same medals depicted in lithograph on H. Upmann boxes, along with Hermann’s signature.
The company operated as both a bank and a cigar business until 1922, when both lines of the business failed due to speculation in both German currency and Mexican oil prospects; the bank went down first, the cigar company second. Upon their bankruptcy, it was Upmann Cigars for sale; a British firm, J. Frankau & Co., stepped in and acquired the Upmann Cigar business. The Frankau group continued producing H. Upmann cigars until the mid-1930s, when the again-faltering company was sold to the folks making a competing brand that was growing in popularity — Montecristo. The new ownership group, Menéndez, García y Cía Co., opened a new factory in an Old Havana neighborhood in 1944 to mark the 100 year anniversary of Hermann Upmann’s enterprise — and continued production of both Montecristo and H Upmann cigars for sale at this new location. That is, at least, until the upheaval that was set in motion during the Cuban Revolution, and the subsequent nationalization of the island’s tobacco industry. As for the once-famous H. Upmann Factory, it would become known as the José Martí Factory — which still stands and produces Cuban Upmanns and Montecristo cigars to this day, using tobacco from Vuelta Abajo.
Then came the trade embargo on Cuba; it prohibited US residents (including President John F. Kennedy) from legally purchasing Cuban cigars, and American cigar manufacturers from importing Cuban tobacco. So the night before he signed the sanctions on Castro’s communist government, Kennedy secretly dispatched his Press Secretary — Pierre Salinger — to find and buy H Upmann cigars (specifically, Petit Upmann corona Cuban cigars) at every tobacco shop in and around D.C. When Salinger returned with about 1200 Petit Upmann cigars the next morning, Kennedy signed off on the executive order and put the embargo into effect. White House assistant Richard Goodwin later revealed in a New York Times piece that, in early 1962, JFK told him, “We tried to exempt cigars, but the cigar manufacturers in Tampa objected.”
Private businesses and property were “nationalized” in Cuba, meaning the island’s state tobacco monopoly continued producing cigars under their existing brand names. In the meantime, many cigar manufacturers moved to other countries to continue production using those same known company names — and H. Upmann was one of them, with Menéndez and García moving the brand to the Canary Islands, then again to the Dominican Republic in 1975. But now there would be two Upmanns cigars on the market: one still produced on the island of Cuba by Habanos SA, the other produced in La Romana, Dominican Republic.
La Romana is what’s known as a “company town,” where the one company in town at which everyone is employed also owns almost all buildings, services and stores. The South Puerto Rico Sugar Company was initially that company — which became part of Gulf+Western, who acquired the Consolidated Cigar Co. in 1968, and who shifted the cigar-making operation to Tabacalera de Garcia. T de G is among the largest cigar factories worldwide, and has been owned by Altadis since 1999. It’s there that many world famous brands are produced - including H. Upmann 1844 Cigars.
From their origin as cigars of Habanos until their Cuban emigration and eventual landing in the DR, H Upmann 1844 cigars have remained as venerable and dependable mild-medium bodied smokes — first class in construction and consistency. Upmann cigars online are now offered in rich variety lines, including H Upmann Vintage Cameroon cigars, added to the lineup in 2003 — which doubled down on the legendary Cuban flavor and tradition rolled into the smoke.