6 Interesting Historical Facts about Cigars & Humidors

6 Interesting Historical Facts about Cigars & Humidors

In the world of luxury and indulgence, few things evoke a soothing and relaxing experience quite like a finely crafted cigar. From the hilly Cuban countryside to the lavish smoking lounges of Europe, cigars, and their loyal companions, the humidors have long intertwined with craftsmanship and traditions of leisure to leave behind captivating stories. The humble yet essential humidor acts as a guardian and curator, preserving your favorite cigars' flavors, taste, and integrity for centuries.

Curious about cigars' history? Tag along for six historical cigar and humidor facts you probably didn't know.

Fun fact #1: It all started with the ancient Mayans

Cigars have been around for well over a thousand years now. They are thought to have been invented by ancient Mayans in the 10th century BCE. The Mayans would wrap the tobacco in either a plantain leaf or a palm and smoke. The English word cigar was borrowed from the Mayan word "sikar," translating to "to smoke tobacco leaves."

Fun fact #2: Columbus and his crew members were the first Westerners to encounter cigars

Columbus and his men were the first Westerners to stumble on cigars. Legend has it that when Columbus landed in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492, he received several gifts from the San Salvador locals. Among these were wooden spears, fruit, and "dried leaves that gave off a unique fragrance."

Unaware of the value of the dried leaves, he threw them overboard and forgot all about them! However, his curiosity was triggered a month later when two of his crewmates, Rodrigo de Jerez and his friend, observed the locals make rolls of tobacco using palm leaves, where they light the other end and inhale the smoke.

Fun fact #3: Rodrigo de Jerez was the first European to smoke cigars

As expected, Rodrigo de Jerez, a Spanish crewman, soon followed the natives' "lead," becoming the first recorded non-native to start smoking tobacco. Years later, he returned to his hometown in Ayamonte, Spain, bringing his newfound habit with him.

Unfortunately, things worsened when the Spanish government got wind of Jerez's strange habit. He was quickly imprisoned for making people "blow smoke out of their mouths"- a habit closely connected with Satanism. And so, for almost a decade, the first European smoker spent his time in jail with several people believing he was Satan.

However, despite this setback, smoking spread all over Europe, with historical records revealing tobacco arrived in France in 1556, Portugal in 1558, and Spain in 1559. England embraced tobacco smoking a little bit late in 1565. By the time Jerez left prison, tobacco had spread like wildfire across Europe.

Fun fact #4: Cuba laid the foundation for the cigar trade

As far as history goes, Cuba is the mother of cigar production and tobacco trade. Cuba started producing cigars in the early 16th century, at the start of the reign of King Philip II of Spain. For hundreds of years, Cuba has perfected the art of cigar making, and now countries worldwide are demanding cigars from Cuba. What sets Cuban cigars apart is their robust experimentation of diverse leaves that go into a cigar's construction. Cuba also boasts a near-perfect "terroir," which help infuses a hearty, rich flavor into their cigars. The "terroir" of a region refers to a perfect blend of climate, topography, and soil needed to produce high-quality tobacco leaves.

Fun fact #5: The Cuban trade embargo nearly sank Cuban cigars

On February 7, 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed the Cuban trade embargo, which expanded Dwight D. Eisenhower's previous restrictions on trade with Cuba in a bid to contain Fidel Castro's communist regime. The embargo had far-reaching consequences, including cutting off trade and travel in Cuba and imposing sanctions on nations that traded with Cuba. As expected, the new turn of events significantly affected the production of the Cuban cigar.

Decades later, the Obama administration lifted the ban on Cuban products, and now travelers can bring back as many cigars as they want, provided they are for personal consumption and not for sale.

Fun fact #6: Cigars were once a popular prize at carnivals

The popular phrase "close but no cigar" was coined during the time when cigars were used as prizes at carnivals. It loosely means an individual was close to the prize but failed to win the cigar. Those days, many people would be heartbroken if they won a cigar instead of a coveted teddy bear on display.

The five little things you need to know about humidors

Here are five interesting facts about humidors:

1. Humidors have been around for decades now

The first humidor was invented in 1907 by Alfred Dunhill. He installed a cabinet with thick wood walls and a small tank of water inside one of his stores which he used to preserve his cigars. But, this interesting innovation didn't become popular because people found it easier to store their cigars in damp, dark basements found in everyone back then. However, the emergence of HVAC systems in Europe turned basements into warm and dry areas unsuitable for storing tobacco.

2. Zino Davidoff is credited as the inventor of desktop humidor

In 1957, Zino Davidoff made a visit to Cuba, where he noticed a distinct difference in the taste and aroma of local cigars compared to those sold in Europe. Cuban cigars were stored in a small wooden box whose bottom was covered with a piece of wet cloth. The cigars stored in such boxes gave off a better aroma and taste. Upon his return, Davidoff made similar humidors which quickly gained popularity. The modern version of humidors borrows heavily from Davidoff's invention though they differ in shape and capacity.

3. Humidors were originally made of solid wood and tins

Instead of Spanish cedar, the first humidors were made with solid wood that was nailed together with a hinged door. At one point, people used to store their cigars in novelty tins that served no storage purpose apart from displaying the owner's wealthy taste.

4. Spanish cedar is the king in humidor construction

Spanish cedar is the most preferred material for making humidors. In fact, 99.9% of all humidors are made from this wood. Spanish cedar combines a pleasant aroma that gives off the unique scent, flavor, and aroma note in the cigars we smoke. The wood is great at balancing humidity to make your cigar smoke smooth.

5. Humidors don't use tap water

Tap water contains a large collection of germs and bacteria. Since the Spanish cedar is highly porous, these organisms can seep into the pores of the wood and feed off humidity, multiplying fast to damage the cigar collection. For this reason, modern humidors always use distilled water as the humidifier.

Trust Northwoods Humidors for the finest cigars and accessories

Cigars have long been enjoyed for their complex and intense flavors. As cigars weaved their way through history, they soon found a loyal friend in humidors, helping maintain the perfect balance of humidity.

Northwoods Humidors offers the finest cigars and accessories to take your smoking experience to the next level. We are a retailer that sells cigar humidors and cigar-smoking accessories. Shop with us today for the best cigar products and humidors. 

10th Jul 2023 Jacqueline T

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