Bolivar cigars have been around for a little over a hundred years, and in that time they’ve developed a reputation for being some of the richest, most full-bodied Cuban cigars in production. This is another ultra-famous Cuban cigar that also has a Dominican namesake (or copy-cat, depending on how you look at it). But of course the true history and quality of Bolivar lie with the Cuban brand.
The History of Bolivar Cigars
In the 1800’s, a general named - get ready now - Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad de Bolívar y Palacios Blanco (yes, that entire thing is his name) triumphed over the Spanish Monarchy and essentially freed much of South America. He was (and still is) an incredibly strong figure throughout the continent, having ruled as president over Gran Columbia, Peru, and Bolivia, which was of course named for Bolivar.
Bolivar is a South American hero. So what better name for a South American cigar than Bolivar? At least, that’s what the brand’s founder, Jose F. Rocha, thought when he founded the brand in the early 1900’s. He must have taken a few marketing courses at the Cuban community college - it turned out to be a smart idea.
And why didn’t Rocha name the brand “Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad de Bolívar y Palacios Blanco?” Because, I’m sure, there’s no way they would have been able to print the name on the cigars... even if they made them three feet long.
Though the brand was founded in 1902 or 1901, it wasn’t registered in Cuba until 1921. Upon introduction to the market, Bolivar cigars quickly became renowned for their strength and full-bodied flavor. At the time, Bolivar also made Barbie-sized cigars, which were even featured in the royal dollhouse in Windsor Castle. Whether Rocha created these as a marketing ploy or because he really thought Barbies needed a nicotine fix, nobody knows.
After Rocha died in 1954, Bolivar was purchased by the same company who owned the premium Partágas brand of cigars. During this time, Bolivar became increasingly popular the world over - it was soon one of Cuba’s most exported brands. And still is, to this day.
The Cuban and the Dominican Bolivar
If you’re a true cigar lover, you’ll probably agree that Bolivars are some of the strongest, most robust, most full-bodied cigars on the market. Not for beginners, the Bolivar has a distinct and very strong flavor, and is a favorite among the more seasoned devotees of Cuban cigars.
Following the Cuban Revolution, the tobacco industry was, as you know, completely nationalized. During that time, the then-owners of Bolivar moved their operations over to the Dominican Republic. From the Dominican Republic, they continued to sell Bolivar cigars to the U.S. market. However, until recently, the relationship between Cuban and Dominican Bolivars was almost unrecognizable. In 2005, the Dominican brand of Bolivar re-blended its tobacco, more closely matching it to its stronger, more robust Cuban brother. Would you mistake them for the same cigar? Probably not. But it does bring the Dominicans a step closer to the character of the world-famous Cuban Bolivar cigar.