A History of Gurkha Cigars

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history of gurkha cigars

The history of Gurkha cigars shows off a rich tradition of making high-end premium cigars

If you’ve smoked cigars for more than a week, chances are you’ve heard about Gurkha Cigars in the cigar lounge. Gurkha specializes mainly in high-end premium cigars the likes of which are bought by the most affluent of Maharaja presiding over his kingdom, yet Gurkha also offers lines for the every day smoker that are out-of-this-world incredible for the price. But there’s always a story behind a name, and that’s where your resident smarty-pants (me) comes in. Behold the history of Gurkha Cigars!

A Brief History of Gurkha Cigars

It all started with Kaizad Hansotia, a man of Indian descent, raised in Hong Kong and London who was the son of a wealthy family that made luxury watches and other various timepieces. He was on vacation in India in the ancient year of 1989  (mind you I was born in 1988), when he met a Portuguese man rolling and selling cigars under the name of Gurkha. What a Portuguese man was doing in India rolling cigars, I have no clue, but Kaizad was so fascinated by this art he decided to buy all of the man’s tobacco and entire inventory for a grand total of a whopping $149. The original plan was to use these cigars to hand out to customers as gifts for his family timepiece business. After all, who doesn’t love a good cigar, right?

Kaizad sent one of the first boxes of Gurkha Cigars to his friend who owned a duty free shop, and his customers went nuts wanting to buy more. Kaizad saw an opportunity to make money off of high-end cigars which lead him to pursue well known manufacturers in the industry to help him get started. The first person he talked to was Charlie Torano (perhaps you’ve heard of him?) and Torano cigars agreed to roll Gurkha’s first ever cigars. After this momentous occasion in the history of Gurkha cigars, a brand was born so wonderful that it even made its way to the White House in the 1990s, which will forever be part of Oral Oval Office history.

The Origin of the Name

Okay, so what’s with the name Gurkha? Sure, the Portuguese man in India sold cigars under the name Gurkha, but there is a reason behind the name. If you read the first line in the last section, you’ll notice I mentioned Gurkha Cigar’s 125th Anniversary. Well, how can this be, with a company that was formed in the 1980s? The answer is simple: the name reflects how long cigars have been referred to as Gurkhas, not how long the company has been rolling cigars. Now you’re probably spewing bourbon all over your computer screen, appalled that I would even suggest that you ever once referred to a cigar as a Gurkha. Let me explain.

The term Gurkha was originally a name given to Nepalese fighters who carried those bad ass Khukuri swords. You know, the one the man on the Gurkha label is holding? Well, during the British occupation of nearly the entire world in the late 1880s, colonial soldiers became enamored with the skill and history of the Gurkha warriors in Nepal. As a tribute to these warriors whom the British defeated, all the cigars the colonial soldiers made were called Gurkhas instead of cigars. The name spread through the British colonies, eventually finding its way to India which explains the Portuguese man’s brand name of Gurkha.

Kaizad decided to keep the name after he bought the small company to continue paying tribute to the Nepalese warriors alive and well and to pay honor to the history of British rule. This lead to the various lines of Gurkha Cigars such as the Red Witch under the East India Trading Company line and His Majesty’s Reserve in their limited edition line to be born with such awesome historical names.

history of gurkha cigars

Traditional elements make up a core element of the history of Gurkha cigars.

First Lines and Today

When Gurkha first started in the late 1980s, they were supposed to simply be a gift cigar, but the passion to make premium cigars soon got to Kaizad. This lead him to create super high-end, premium cigars like the HMR, which is the most expensive cigar in the world, the likes of which we will probably never smoke because of the high price tag. Gurkha Cigars specialized in stogies the same way Ferrari specializes in high-end automotives. Sure, they were fun to look at, but for the common man, it was simply too opulent and too pricy.

Of course this trend could not last long in the cigar industry, especially after the cigar boom of the mid 1990s when most cigar customers were now blue collar workers on a middle-class salary. To meet demand, Gurkha broke away from their high-end offerings to make cigars using high quality tobaccos that everyone can afford.

Because of Gurkha’s start as a high-end-only cigar manufacturer, they were not received very well by the middle class worker who still, to this very day, look at Gurkha as an overpriced cigar meant only for those who wish to spend an exorbitant amount of money for an average stogie.

Of course, this is completely ridiculous in my book considering Gurkha puts out a great product and at a fairly good price. In fact, a few of my favorite cigars include the Cellar Reserve, the 125th Anniversary, and the Ninja, all of which can be bought at a great price point.

In any case, I urge cigar lovers who may hold this stigma to reintroduce themselves to Gurkha Cigars. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised by the flavor and complexity each cigar has to offer, whether you’re looking for an every day smoke or a super-high-end premium. I hope you’ve enjoyed this history of Gurkha cigars, but if you want to learn more, please check out the official Gurkha website!

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Jonathan DeTore

Jonathan DeTore

My job here is pretty simple - I write stuff, I post stuff to Facebook, and I take it to the house consistently at the weekly slam drunk contest. I do it all while sipping on a fine glass of cognac at my desk (don’t tell my boss), and wearing cashmere slippers. Let’s just say "The Hef" has nothing on me.

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