H. Upmann: The Banker, The Cigar and The Legend
There have been a great many cigar brands come and go over the last 170 years, but none has endured and continued to excite cigar lovers as the storied H. Upmann cigars. A force in the cigar industry for generations, the H. Upmann brand stands alongside Cuban Cohibas, Partagas, Montecristo cigars and others as a true giant.
From the passionate dream of their creator to the pinnacle of the cigar world, the H. Upmann story is the quintessential tale of the rise, fall and rebirth of a legend.
A young German banker Herman Upmann and his brother August formulated a plan in 1839 to open a new bank in Havana. By 1843 the two brothers from Bremen fell in love with the idea of having their own cigar company and in 1844 the H. Upmann brand was born. Officially the “H” in the name is of course for Herman, yet it has been suggested by many that the “H” was actually an abbreviation for Hermanos or “brothers”, a reference to the brothers Herman and August.
Whatever the original intent of the name, the brand became a successful business along with their new bank and the H. Upmann legend was off and running.
Utilizing tobaccos from the lush Vuelta Abajo region and later pioneering efforts to cultivate the African Cameroon leaf, Upmann cigars became an instant hit with connoisseurs who adored the smooth, elegant nature and deeply textured flavors.
In fact H. Upmann cigars famously won countless international cigar exhibitions with each award being worked into the brands logo which has little changed to this day.
Upmann is also believed to be one of the first cigars to be offered in uniformly crafted boxes emblazoned with company logos. It was this innovative spirit that propelled the Upmann brand to even greater heights and popularity, ranking them with the best Cuban cigars on the market.
Upon Herman Upmann’s death in 1894, his sons Herman Albert and Albert Heinrich were sent to Havana to learn the cigar trade under the guidance of August Upmann. Another of Herman’s sons, Carl Julius, would later make a name for himself with his own Carl Upmann cigars.
The dreary days of World War I, however, brought a hardship to the family. The very German Upmann family was not seen favorably by western eyes and their business concerns in the West went into a tailspin that only worsened with the economic troubles that followed the war.
Finally in 1922 the H. Upmann company was purchased by the British firm of J. Frankau & Company who held until again the brand was sold in 1935 to Menendez, Garcia y Cia. It was Menendez, Garcia y Cia that would lead H. Upmann up to the dawn of a new Cuba, a revolutionary Cuba dominated by the presence of Fidel Castro.
As tensions between Cuba and the US came to a head, American President John F. Kennedy was about to make a fateful order that would change the face of Cuban cigars forever with a trade embargo against Cuba. It was here that a favorite bit of H. Upmann lore added to the mystique of the Upmann legacy.
Before Kennedy signed the order, he sent out aides to gather all of the H. Upmann cigars (his favorite) from around the Washington D. C. area. Once he had accumulated over 1200 cigars, the embargo was put into effect.
The embargo sent shock waves through many of the Cuban cigar companies, while others whose focus was primarily on European markets went relatively unscathed. H. Upmann was a brand that could absorb the fallout caused by the embargo, yet with Castro’s nationalization program seemingly prying more and more control of companies away from their owners, Menendez, Garcia y Company made the decision to leave Cuba, taking the H. Upmann brand first to the Canary Islands and then to the Dominican Republic. Like so many of the old Cuban brands, now there were two H. Upmann cigars.
The Cuban-made cigars that JFK so famously desired are still just as sumptuous and as well-made today, offering smokes that are at once mellow, flavorful and satisfying. Cuban H. Upmann cigars are still ranked amongst the World’s best Cuban cigars and have continued to be the go-to choice for cigar aficionados around the Globe who desire the complex and elegant nature for which Upmann cigars have become so famous.
The H. Upmann Monarcas and Coronas Majors are classic connoisseur favorites, while the H. Upmann Magnum 46 has become an international superstar.
The Dominican H. Upmann flourished in the West and garnered a well-respected reputation much as its Cuban predecessor. The brand would again change hands and eventually fall to mega-giant Altadis USA, makers of the Dominican Montecristo, Don Diego, Romeo y Julieta and a great many others.
The current line-up of H. Upmann cigars offers a wide range of cigars and cigar sizes with many offering a smooth and balanced experience much like their Cuban counterparts, while others deliver a heartier, fuller-bodied smoke created with modern palates in mind.
Utilizing the traditional Cameroon leaf to full effect, the H. Upmann Vintage Cameroon series captures the essence of the Cuban smoke, as well as those early Canary Island and Dominican-made Upmanns.
The H. Upmann Reserve offers a much rounder and richer experience, while still maintaining the signature Upmann taste. Newer blends such as the H. Upmann Legacy and The Banker are newer blends which deliver the big and bold smokes that have become so wildly popular in these modern times.
Cigar enthusiasts should be able to find these stellar smokes at their nearest cigar shop.
Whether Cuban or Dominican, mellow or strong, H. Upmann cigars have been built upon the legacy of Herman and the family Upmann, a legacy that continues to offer up magnificent cigars to cigar enthusiasts of all walks of life.
So treat yourself to an Upmann and be sure to give thanks to the brothers Upmann.
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