The Romeo y Julieta Churchill Reserva has now been released in the UK. Originally slated for a 2012 release, it is now widely available through the UK network of Havana Cigar Specialists.
This is the first time that Romeo y Julieta has been selected to produce a Reserva cigar and they have chosen the Churchill, undoubtedly the brands most iconic vitola (size) to represent it. Named in honour of Sir Winston Churchill, this medium bodied cigar measurers 7” (178mm) x 47 ring gauge and will be made available in extremely limited numbers. Just 5,000 numbered boxes containing 20 cigars each have been produced for the global market.
All of the tobacco used to produce these remarkable cigars was harvested in 2008. Then, once it had been cured and fermented it was allowed to age in bales for three years before being handed to the torcedor (cigar roller) to make the final cigar. This extra age creates a well rounded, sophisticated and remarkably smooth version of one of Cuba’s most iconic cigars.
A Brief Brand History:
The Romeo y Julieta brand dates back to 1875 and takes its name from William Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers in his play that proved popular when read to the cigar rollers in Havana’s factories.
Despite being a popular brand from the outset, it was not until 1903, when it was purchased by Don ‘Pepin’ Fernandez, that its fame and commercial success really took off.
Fernandez, a talented promoter and well known socialite, is widely regarded as one of the first manufacturers to grasp the marketing potential of the cigar band. It is said that, during his heyday, up to 20,000 different bands were used in production.
Today Romeo y Julieta is the second most popular Cuban cigar house behind the all conquering Montecristo and last year accounted for around 16% of all cigars sold in the UK (duty paid). With a range of vitolas unrivalled by any of its peers and an inclusive medium strength, it looks set to continue to satisfy a wide range of smokers for many years to come.
The Churchill Name:
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was a prolific Cuban cigar smoker. During his lifetime it is estimated that Churchill smoked upward of 300,000 Habanos encompassing an assortment of sizes and brands. He also received, as gifts from international supporters and admirers, an astonishing variety and quantity of cigars, such was the fame of his love of a fine Habanos. Unfortunately during the Second World War most of these gifts were destroyed by anxious security services keen to protect the Premier from assassination attempts.
It is claimed by many sources, including Min Ron NEE, author of An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Post-Revolution Havana Cigars that Romeo y Julieta made the Julieta No. 2 exclusively for Churchill throughout the Second World War, but there is no evidence to support this.
In fact we know that Churchill’s war-time Habanos were supplied to him by a New York business man by the name of Samuel Kaplan. Kaplan was so impressed by Churchill’s single-handed stand against the Nazis that he resolved, at his own expense, to keep the British Prime Minister supplied with first class Habanos. There is also an intriguing letter from Churchill, thanking Kaplan for the cigars, where he mentions that:
“The bands on which you have had my name printed are regarded as souvenirs and gladly accepted wherever I go”.
This is the first record of a cigar bearing the Churchill name. It was neither a Romeo y Julieta nor a Churchill size. They were in fact large La Corona cigars, probably a Double Corona size.
In 1946 he made his historic visit to Havana. The legend has it, since this time his name has not only been commemorated on the band, but it has also served to describe the marque’s most famous size – the Churchill. However, there is no evidence of his ever visiting the Romeo y Julieta factory on the trip.
Peter Knight, a man whose family had been the UK importers of Romeo y Julieta up until 1990, is adamant that the cigar Churchill chose to buy (rather than the copious gifts he enjoyed), was the Romeo y Julieta Piramide No. 1, doubtless a torpedo measuring 6 1/8” x 52 gauge. A quick look through the heavy ledgers at JJ Fox, St James’s confirms that Churchill was a long time devotee to the Romeo y Julieta brand.
Why, then, has his name become synonymous with the Julieta no. 2 and Romeo y Julieta in particular? Well, Knight, recalls his father’s cousin, David Knight, together with John Croley of Robert Lewis, approached the Churchill family to ask permission to use the family name on a Romeo y Julieta cigar. The Churchills agreed and the size selected was the 7” x 47 ring gauge, Julieta No. 2. Thus the modern day Romeo y Julieta Churchill was born.
The exact date of this is, once again, open to speculation. However, the oldest box to bear the Churchill name that has surfaced in recent years dates back to 1956.
It is worth noting that the Romeo y Julieta brand has a history of dedicating this particular vitola to famous world figures having previously released the Clemenceaus, in honour of the French President and then adding the Prince of Wales to the range, both in the Julieta No. 2 format.
There are now several different Habanos brands that offer a Churchill and one (H. Upmann) that includes the Sir Winston among its range. It is difficult to think of a more fitting tribute to one of the most devoted Habanos smokers of all time.
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