Partagas is one of the most well-known and best-selling premium Havana cigars on the market. These aren’t wimpy cigars, and if you consider yourself a serious cigar smoker, you’re probably fond of Partagas. These are strong, earthy smokes, made for people who smoke cigars because they love the flavor - not because they have a strange, Freudian desire to put something in their mouths.
Though you never know... Perhaps a cigar is “just a cigar” less often than we think.
As happens with a lot of the more popular brands, there are two types of Partagas cigars in production today: the Cubans and the Dominicans. And just as with most brands, it’s the Cubans that really deserve our attention. So at the risk of making the Dominican cigars feel neglected, I’m going to focus on the history of the Cubans. After all, the best goes first, right?
Like all of the best cigars, it seems, Partagas cigars started with one man. Jaime Partagas, a Spaniard from the Catalunya region of Spain, worked as a cigar supplier in Cuba for years before learning enough in 1845 to open the Partagas Royal Tobacco Factory. Jaime would go on to have something of a tumultuous life - and the evidence of it is easy to see in the naming of the brand. The guy had a high opinion of himself, and called the brand “Royal” to reflect his status as a supplier to the nobility of Asia and Europe. Go figure.
Fortunately, Jaime didn’t just walk around full of love for Jaime... he also had some great ideas about tobacco. He is credited for being one of the first to really experiment with using different methods of fermentation and aging that would both increase production and maintain quality. He’s also credited for being the first cigar factory owner to have “readers” read aloud to his employees while they worked - a practice which would inspire the name for Montecristo cigars almost a hundred years later, funnily enough.
The brand did incredibly well right from the beginning, and Partagas, who already had money of his own, made more. Jaime had so much fun spending his money on life’s pleasures (which for him seemed mainly to be women) that it eventually got him killed - according to legend, anyway. While nobody knows the exact date, sometime in the mid-to-late 1860’s, an unknown man murdered Jaime on his own plantation - he was viciously jealous of one of Partagas’s many love affairs.
After this, Jaime’s son Jose took over Partagas, and his slightly more serious nature helped to increase the success of the brand. It won the Golden Medal of Paris’ Universal Exhibition in 1879, and was soon prized throughout the cigar community. Perhaps Jose wanted to have more time for illicit love affairs like his father, because he decided to sell the company in the late 1800’s. After some shuffling around, it ended up in the hands of Ramon Cifuentes and Francisco Pego. After these two died in the 1938 and 1940, the brand ended up with the Cifuentes family, who still owns it today, along with several other famous Cubano brands.
Photo credit : pietroizzo