One of the main reasons Cuban Cohibas are so popular is they are known to use some of the finest cigar tobacco available in Cuba, which for years was known as the best tobacco in the world. The tobacco for Cohiba is selected from the finest Vegas in da San Luis and San Juan y Martinez zones of the Vuelta Abajo region of Pinar del Rio Province. The tobacco used in Cohiba cigars undergoes a unique third fermentation process in barrels, to give it a smoother flavor than other cigars. Originally all Cohibas were made at the El Laguito factory, a converted mansion located on the outskirts of Havana.
Cohiba began with the cigars smoked by a bodyguard of Fidel Castro’s named Bienvenido “Chicho” Perez. Castro noticed he often smoked a “very aromatic, very nice” cigar. When asked by Castro what brand he smoked, he replied that it was rolled by a friend of his who would give him some of these cigars as gifts.
The man in question was a cigar roller working at the La Corona factory in Havana named Eduardo Rivera. Castro approached Rivera about rolling cigars for him personally and set him up with five other rollers in a former diplomatic mansion in a suburb of Havana known as El Laguito (Spanish for “the little lake”). Historically, security at the factory was tightly regulated, with only designated officials and workers allowed entry into the factory.
Castro decided to release his personal cigars as a premium cigar brand for public consumption when the 1982 World Cup was held in Spain. When first launched the Cohiba name consisted of three vitolas or sizes: the Panetela, the Corona Especial, and the Lancero. Castro himself is said to be particularly fond of the long, thin cigars rolled for him, especially the sizes that would become the Lancero and Corona Especial.
In 1989 three more vitolas, the Robusto, the Exquisito, and the Esplendido, were added; the six are referred to as the Linea Clasica (classic line).
In 1992 Habanos SA launched the first sizes in what it calls the Linea 1492, commemorating Christopher Columbus and his voyage to the Americas, with each size named for a century since Columbus’ discovery. The initial launch included the Siglo I, Siglo II, Siglo III, Siglo IV, and Siglo V, with a Siglo VI added in 2002.
Besides regular production, Habanos SA regularly releases limited release Cohiba cigars for such events as the annual Habanos Festival, brand anniversaries, and their annual Edicion Limitada (limited edition) release of special sizes of their various cigar brands wrapped in a darker vintage leaf. In 2007, Habanos released a new line of maduro-wrapped Cohibas, called “Maduro 5,” in three sizes.
Cohíba also produces two machine-made cigarillos: the Mini and the Club.
Habanos SA have used their Cohiba brand name for non-cigar products, manufacturing Cohiba cigarettes since 1987 and Extra Cohiba Cognac since 1999.
As of late 2006 Cohiba had released three different Edicion Limitada Cohibas: the Piramide released in 2001 and re-released in 2006, the Double Corona in 2003, and the Sublime in 2004.
The cigars were reserved for Castro and other high-ranking Cuban officials, and were often presented to foreign dignitaries as gifts. Additionally, with rumors and fears of a CIA assassination attempt running rampant, it made sense for Castro to smoke only cigars that were manufactured under extremely secure and secretive conditions. (The CIA had allegedly contemplated using exploding cigars as a means of assassinating Castro).
A long-standing rumor is that the original Línea 1492 was a replacement for the Davidoff marque that recently ceased production in Cuba (each of the first five “Siglos” corresponded to a size in the Davidoff line-up).
With the nationalization of the Cuban tobacco industry along with all other businesses after the Cuban Revolution, many cigar makers fled the island and began growing tobacco with smuggled Cuban seed in the Dominican Republic and Honduras, taking the brand names of their cigars with them. Other Cuban businesses, big and small, also moved abroad.
Because of the precarious legal and trademark situations created by Cuba’s communist government and a US embargo against all Cuban goods, there are many brand names that are used by both Cuban and non-Cuban cigars (and rums), though the non-Cuban varieties of such cigars as Hoyo de Monterrey or Montecristo cannot usually be sold under those names in foreign markets where Cuba is considered to own the trademark. To circumvent this, most non-Cuban cigar manufacturers simply sell their cigars under different names for the foreign market while retaining the old pre-Revolution name in the US market. But there has been heated debate between Habanos SA and other cigar manufacturers about using the brand names of Cuban cigars created after the Revolution in the US market, Cohiba being one of those brand names.
In the 1990s, US-based cigar manufacturer General Cigar Company, Inc. began mass-marketing a Dominican-made cigar under the “Cohiba” name for the US market.
General Cigar first registered the name Cohiba in the United States in 1978 and claims to have sold cigars under the Cohiba name in the US in limited quantities through the 1980s until its current incarnation with the so-called “Red Dot” Cohiba, named for the red dot in the middle of the “O” in “Cohiba” on its bands and boxes, in 1997. Cubatabaco, the government-run company in charge of cigars, half-owner of Habanos SA, along with Altadis SA, promptly began a campaign to have General Cigar’s trademark revoked and numerous legal battles ensued that were partly resolved on 19 June 2006, when the U. S. Supreme Court denied Cubatabaco’s petition. As a result, the February 2005 decision of the U. S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals (Docket #04-2527), which confirmed General Cigar Company’s exclusive ownership of the Cohiba trademark in the United States, is final and is law of the case. The General Cigar-made Cohiba cigars now have a disclaimer on boxes that they are not affiliated in any way with the Cuban brand.
However, the United States government, in an amicus curiae brief filed in the Supreme Court, acknowledged that Cubatabaco could request U.S. government permission for judicial protection of the brand from the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which administers the U.S. blockade. Cubatabaco has stated that they intend to pursue this course of action
Information gathered from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cohiba_%28cigar_brand%29 , http://www.cigarinspector.com/stellar-stogies/stellar-stogies-cohiba, google images, and random browsing