Premium cigar brand Hoyo de Monterrey is one of the oldest brands in the world. Of course, a cigar this old has got to have a pretty interesting history. And Hoyo de Monterrey is no exception. These cigars were born in Cuba when a 13-year-old boy came to work on his uncle’s farm. And they were reborn for the American market in Honduras in 1969, when a Cuban seed was smuggled out of post-revolutionary Cuba in a diplomatic pouch.
The brand Hoyo de Monterrey was registered in 1865. But the history of the brand really goes back a bit further... to 1831, when a 13 year old boy named José Gener Batat emigrated from Spain to Cuba. Today, boys that age spend all their time parked in front of the TV, eating copious amounts of food, and whining about wanting a new Playstation. So it's hard to imagine a 13 year old José arriving in Cuba and getting right to work on his uncle's tobacco plantation in Vuelta Abajo.
But that's just what Gener did. And working hard from a young age must be pretty good for kids (who knew?) because Gener not only learned a ton about the tobacco industry, he also became quite a self starter. In 1851, a now-adult Gener looked at the current cigar industry and realized that it had tremendous potential. And he wanted to play a bigger part in it. He decided to open a cigar factory of his own in Havana, and called it La Escepcion. His goal? To get the brand into the American market, and make it a success there.
It didn't take him long. With the special attention he paid to all aspects of the production of his cigars, from harvest to manufacture, he managed to create a cigar that would be an almost overnight success in America.
With the profits from his La Escepción brand of cigars, Gener decided to expand. He went around buying up some of the best farming land in Cuba, including land in Pinar del Rio and Vuelta Abajo. In 1960, he made his most important purchase: a supremely rich and fertile piece of land in the Valley of Monterrey in Vuelta Abajo - one of the best plantations in the whole region.
After farming his Valley de Monterrey plantation for about five years, José Gener finally registered a brand name for the cigar that resulted: Hoyo de Monterrey. A "hoyo" is a rich valley or hole where some of the best tobacco is grown. And Hoyo de Monterrey essentially means "Valley of Monterrey" - which is where his tobacco was grown. Creative name, right? I bet he really had to wrack his brain for that one.
The brand became a quick success, especially in the British market, where it developed quite a following. And in 1900, the man who began his career in the tobacco industry by working on his uncle's farm as a boy passed away. His company passed on to his daughter, Lutgarda Gener. The Gener family held on to the tobacco company for another thirty years. They must have decided they liked sweet better than smoke, because in 1931 (exactly 100 years after José Gener moved to Cuba) they sold the company in order to focus exclusively on the sugar cane industry.
After the trade embargo of 1969, production of Hoyo de Monterreys was expanded to Honduras. And today, both the Honduras and the Havana Hoyo de Monterreys are some of the most sought after cigars on the market. Even if his family no longer owns it, José Gener would probably be pretty proud to see what his brand has become.
Photo credit: philipmode