Cigar called Fonseca
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Connoisseurs who appreciate the finer things in life always value the flavour, body and aroma of a good cigar or of a great vintage wine. Amongst the best of these two rank the name 'Fonseca'. From the finest Habanos of Cuba to the best of Port Wines from Portugal, they share some rare qualities that are essentially 'Fonseka', and just like a true 'fonseka', they just get better with age.
In this page we look at the mystique of the Cigar and the 'Fonseca' cigars of Havana in particular. But before that let us learn the basics of Cigars.
History of the Cigar
On October 12, 1492 in the gulf of San Salvador in the Bahamas, Christopher Columbus discovered tobacco. He and his crew saw the natives there growing the tobacco and soon realized that it would become a valuable commodity. Columbus' crew carried the hobby of smoking tobacco home with them. The Mayan verb "sikar" meaning "to smoke" later became the Spanish noun cigarro.
The largest of the islands was called Colba by the native Taino Indians, which Spanish tongues twisted to "Cuba." They also had a name for the curious dried leaves they set on fire in order to inhale the smoke - cohiba or cojoba.
The cigar had obtained a great deal of popularity in the first half of the nineteenth century but the period involving the Civil War could easily be called the Golden Age of the Cigar in The United States. By the year of Victoria's Diamond Jubilee (1898) the annual consumption of cigars in the U.S. had surpassed 4 billion. In 1920 the number of cigars sold had reached 7 billion. Everyone who wished to smoke, no matter his financial means, could find a cigar of agreeable flavour at a reasonable price.
Cigar smoking enjoyed consistent support until the downfall of Cuban cigars, when Fidel Castro emerged in Cuba in 1959 and toppled the hated government of dictator Fulgencio Batista. Suddenly, an island that since Columbus's arrival was called "Pearl of the Antilles" was now looked upon aghast and with alarm. American retaliation against Castro took the form of an economic embargo but, according to JFK's press secretary Pierre Salinger, not until Kennedy, assured himself a stockpile of his favourite Havana's. Called into the Oval office one afternoon, Salinger was order to obtain a thousand Petit Upmans by the next morning. He returned and proudly reported completion of the assignment. With a satisfied smile Kennedy opened his desk, took out a long sheet of paper, and signed his name to it, therewith imposing by the stroke of his pen an embargo on all imports of Cuban cigars that would remain in effect for decades. The embargo on importation of Havana cigars led directly to an exodus of Cuban cigar makers and the growth of competition in premium cigar manufacturing in the Dominican Republic, Honduras and other Latin American countries.
Know Your Cigar
Cigars come in many shapes and sizes and colours. It is often difficult for a neophyte cigar smoker to get a complete understanding of the how these factors affect the taste. The shape of the cigar is perhaps the hardest thing to describe since there are no set standards used between cigar manufacturers. Usually it is best to remember the shape written on the box to remember what you are smoking.
The size is measured by length and ring gauge (cigar's diameter). One ring is equivalent to 1/64 of an inch. The world's finest cigars vary in size from about a 9X64 (which is nine inches long and one inch wide) down to approximately 4X30. The first number refers to the cigar's length, in inches; the second is it's ring gauge.
Some of the most common are;
Panatela (6 1/2 x 35)
Robusto (4 1/2 x 50)
Churchill (7 1/4 x 48)
Corona (5 3/4 x 42)
Double Corona (6 1/2 x 48)
Lonsdale (6 3/4 x 42)
A cigar with a larger ring gauge will have a fuller and more complex flavour and produce more smoke compared to the smaller ring gauge cigars. The larger a ring gauge the more a cigar maker can blend and combine different types of leaves.
Quite often the name of a cigar also indicates its size. These basic shapes that fall within certain size parameters are given names, so that there is some degree of universality in the industry. These are only generic shape names and vary from brand to brand.
The group below lists the most common shapes.
Robusto: Short and thick
Lonsdale: Thin and long
Corona: Medium length and medium gauge
Churchill: Long and thick
Toro: between robusto and churchill.
Pantela: A skinny lonsdale.
Rothchild: Somewhere between a robusto and a corona.
Presidente: Either a little larger or smaller than a churchill
These descriptive dimensions are approximate. Short is less than 5.5 inches. Long is greater than 6.5 inches. Thin is less than 42 ring size. Thick is greater than 47 ring.
Manufacturers can also add one of these common adjectives to the name. Gorda, grande, gran, larga, extra, or double always mean they are adding on to the size.
Petite, slim, finos, or demi indicate some sort of reduction to the size. For example a "Corona Grande" is a long corona, and would be close to a londsdale.
Cigars come in two basic types of shapes. There are the Parejos and the Figurados. A parejo is a straight-sided cigar. A figurado is an exotic, irregular shape.
There are many shapes within the Figurados. The end that you light is known as the foot and the end you keep in your mouth is the cap.
Torpedo: The cap is a sharp point, the foot is open.
Piramide: The cap is round, the foot is open.
Triangulo: Similar to a piramide, but the cap is pointed.
Belicoso: Similar to a torpedo, but usually a little shorter.
Perfecto: The perfecto will have both ends closed.
Diadema: Traditionally, this is a giant perfecto, measuring at least 8" long.
Culebra: Three panetelas twisted around each other and held together with either ribbon or a large cigar band.
Colour also plays an important part in choosing your cigars. What you see when you look at a cigar is the wrapper and it plays a role in the flavour of your cigar. Usually the wrapper is described by it's country of origin or colour; Claro (light tan), Maduro (darkest brown), Oscuro (black), Colorado (reddish dark brown), Colorado Maduro (dark brown), Colorado Claro (mid brown). The wrapper should not be too dry or too firm or too soft.
The colour of a cigar's wrapper, the capa, is generally the key to it's flavour. The darker the wrapper, the more full-bodied and sweeter a cigar is likely to be, although the true determinant is the colour of the filler. Cigar wrappers can be classified into seven basic colours, although there are dozens of possible shades. The basic colours of wrappers range from Claro (pale brown) to Oscuro (black). There are about a dozen shades or so, all variations of these basic ones, listed from lightest to darkest: Candela (which is still green), Double Claro, Claro, Colorado, Colorado Maduro, Colorado Rosado, Maduro, and Oscuro.
The Cigar Band
The Dutchman Gustave Bock introduced the cigar band somewhat after the introduction of the cigar box and labels, and for the same reason: to distinguish his brand from the many others on the market. The band has another minor function that of protecting the smoker's fingers from becoming stained. The cigar bands of older brands tend to be much fancier (with gold leaf in abundance) than those of modern brands.
A Cigar called FONSECA
In the Vuelta, Abajo and Partido regions of Cuba, the one to the west of Havana and the other to the south, are found ideal conditions for growing outstanding cigar tobacco. All Havanas are produced with tobacco cultivated exclusively in these two regions. Added to this coincidence of nature is a long tradition of cigar making going back many centuries. The resulting depth of experience and skill at every level of the Cuban cigar industry supports the creation of the world's finest cigars.
All of the great Havana marques to which these cigars belong are unique, distinguished from one another by their flavour and character. Each has its devotees, to whom the inimitable flavour of their favourite brand is a constant source of pleasure.
The brands at the very top of the market are Cohiba, Dunhill, Montecristo, and Davidoff. The most popular Habana of them all worldwide is the Montechristo No 4. Today Bolivar is one of the marks most in demand in Great Britain. Cohibas are manufactured in a mansion in Laguito, a suburb of Havana, Cohiba was created in 1966 as Havana's premier marque for diplomatic use. From 1982 it was offered to the public. Only the pick of the tobacco crop, aged to perfection is used which means Cohibas are cigars to be taken very seriously.
Two Fonseka Habanos in the Author's collection
It was the Spaniard Don Francisco Fonseca who made the registration of the mark under his surname, in 1907. The factory was set up in several buildings in the capital city, until it was finally established in Quivicán, a quaint small town in the province of Havana.
Since the early years the Fonseca brand became renowned and cherished for the quality and appearance of its cigars. It is the only Habano in the market, which is wrapped, in very thin and almost transparent silky paper.
Today the Fonseca brand is more popular in Spain more than anywhere else in the world. Its medium strength flavour is appreciated by many cigar aficionados in that country. In UK it is sold at Selfridges and other specialty cigar stores in singles or in packs of 25 which range from 8.50 for a medium single to 135 pounds for a pack of coronas. Packs of 5 are available from suppliers in Spain. The Fonseca brand is also available from many online cigar suppliers on the internet. Import restriction may apply in your country. Do check with your customs authorities before ordering.
History of cigars adapted from information presented in the Internet by Simply Cigars, UK.