The History of Montecristo

September 2, 2015

The History of Montecristo

Montecristo, also known as the “Mountain of Christ”, is a small mountainous island off the coast of Italy.  The name gained worldwide recognition following the publication of Alexandre Dumas classic novel The Count of Montecristo.  However, in today’s world, it seems only fair to say the name resonates more with cigar smokers than with literature.  Montecristo has become the most recognized cigar brand in the world and has become a mainstay in the humidors of true aficionados.  The brand has a long and storied history that dates back 80 years.  Today, the American market is filled with the well-known and delicious Dominican version of the Montecristo, while the rest of the world is more familiar with its famous Cuban counterpart.  The story of these two brands begins, like any good cigar story, on the small island of Cuba in 1935.

During the 1930s, a brand known as Paticulares was one of the more well-known Cuban cigars.  Its fields and factory were purchased in 1935 by a man named Alonso Menendez.  The Menendez family is still considered to this day to be members of tobacco royalty, with his grandson Benji Menendez making a name for himself many years later with the General Cigar Company.  Alonso purchased the factory and immediately created a new brand all his own.  He named his brand after Dumas famed novel, which was a favorite of the lectors hired to read to his cigar rollers.   Two years later, Alonso formed the Menendez, Garcia Y Cia company and purchased the H. Upmann brand.  He relocated the production of Montecristo to the H. Upmann factory where it remains today.

Together, with the help of British luxury company Alfred Dunhill, Montecristo and H. Upmann became the most popular cigar brands in the world.  Montecristo cigars were seen as luxurious and the epitome of the high-end lifestyle.  Its use of tobacco from the fertile Vuelta Abajo region ensured that it was of pristine quality.  The Menendez family had formed the most recognized and sought after cigars the industry had ever seen.  However, there was a difficult road ahead in the form of civil unrest.  The Cuban Revolution caused a dramatic stir in the cigar world.  Up to this point, a majority of the world’s cigars were either rolled in Cuba, or were rolled with tobacco from Cuba.  Following the revolution, new President Fidel Castro nationalized the cigar industry and brought them under government control.  Not only was Menendez facing government intervention, but also with the trade embargo he lost his most successful market, the United States.

In 1961, Menendez and Garcia left Cuba to attempt to reestablish themselves and their brand.  Their first stop was in the Canary Islands, where they recreated the Montecristo line.  However, since the Canary Islands were eligible to receive and sell Cuban cigars, this became a trademark problem.  During the 1970s, the company was moved yet again, but this time with a new goal.  A factory was built in the city of La Romana in the Dominican Republic, where it still is today.  The company was able to find a loophole in their trademark dispute by solely offering these cigars in the United States, where their Cuban colleagues were banned.

Today the Dominican versions of Montecristo are just as highly regarded as original Cubans.  The Montecristo White is considered one of the best mild to medium cigars on the market and the standard to which all other Connecticut wrapped cigars should be.  The Montecristo Cuban is still viewed as the perfect Cuban cigar and is sold more throughout the rest of the world than any other cigar.  We one day may see both of the cigars on sale in your local tobacconist.  Until that day, I am more than happy to enjoy my Montecristo Espada with a glass of cognac.  But if you know anyone with some original Edmunds, give me their number.

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