Bolivar happens to be the brand name of two very different cigars. One is produced in Cuba the other in the Dominican Republic for the United States cigar market. Even though they consist of different cigars, marketing, and ownership they both originated from the same man, José Fernández Rocha.
Around 1902, José began producing cigars for the Bolivar brand. The brand is named after the famous General Simón Bolívar. The general is known for his strong and powerful character. Which helped him lead several South American countries to freedom from Spain.
José died in 1954 and his family sold the brand to the Cifuentes family, along with La Gloria Cubana. The Cifuentes moved production to the famous Partagás factory in Havana. The production of the Cuban version remains mostly there to this day.
The Cuban government had asked Ramón Cifuentes to serve as head of the nation’s cigar industry. But he refused which marked him as someone against the government’s wishes. The Cifuentes family fled Cuba in 1961 to avoid the trials of the revolution.
The production in Cuba, since 2004, is completely handcrafted and the tobacco is sourced from the esteemed Vuelta Abajo region. Bolivar is considered multi local by Habanos SA, the state run tobacco company in charge of the brand. Despite their pedigree, the Cuban Bolivar cigars continue to gain accolades across the world. Including cigar of the year in 2016 by Cigar Aficionado.
The non cuban brand is no stranger to critical acclaim either. With multiple premium cigars from the line receiving 90+ ratings from Cigar Aficionado. Which culminated in the Bolivar Churchill reaching the number eleven spot in the annual Top 25 Cigars of the year.
The Bolivar Churchill was lauded for its balanced profile. Reaching a nuanced profile with abundant sweetness. Thanks in part to its distinctive Ometepe tobacco.
The Cuban product line is simple, with little variance and full strength. There have been special releases since 2002, including cigars catered for German and Russian markets. The cigars aim to mimic the bold, robust character of the General it is named after.
The name Simon Bolivar itself is no accident. The line is named in tribute to one of the heroes of South and Latin American history. Sometimes called the “George Washington of South America”, Simon Bolivar was born into a wealthy family in Venezuela. Suffering After traveling for much of his life, Bolivar became convinced of the injustice of Spanish rule in the Americas.
Despite an early defeat in the Venezuelan War for Independence, Bolivar would return from exile to liberate the nation. He didn’t stop there though. Simon Bolivar would go on to fight to liberate Ecuador, Panama, Peru, Bolivia, and what would become Colombia successfully.
In many ways, smokers owe a debt to Simon Bolivar. Without his leadership, these countries may have never become independent. This means they may have never become known for the tobacco we gratefully smoke today. Next time you enjoy a cigar with a luscious Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper, be sure to thank Simon Bolivar!
In 1978, Ramón sold the brand name to General Cigar Company. Along with the prestigious Partagás brand. General Cigar Co.’s first blend of Bolivar was mild and completely unlike its Cuban ancestor.
At first, It was not a very successful cigar venture. In 2005, the blend was remastered and re launched as a full bodied cigar. Transforming into a cigar worthy of its Cuban pedigree.
In 2015, General Cigar Co. gave Bolivar to the creative workings of Foundry Tobacco Company for their Heritage Series. Which aims to revive storied cigar brands. Michael Giannini changed not only the blend but the packaging.
Now, the design of Bolivar cigars pays homage to their Cuban root. With a bolder blend and a design that features General Simón Bolívar. A fitting tribute to a great man.
Giannini refers to the rebranding as a “passport to forbidden tobacco”. There is no certainty on what is “forbidden” about the tobacco, however, the new blend includes tobacco from 6 different countries. The original Bolivar cigars have pigtail caps and uncut feet as part of the revamp. While the brand as a whole now includes a wide variety of blends.
Bolivar cigars cater to the bold at heart. Those who know the importance of freedom and are not afraid to fight for it, no matter the cost. The rich history behind these cigars entices the noblest cigar connoisseurs. While at the same time turning many everyday smokers into noble connoisseurs.