The easiest way to identify what cigar someone is smoking would be to take a look at their cigar band. Most modern premium cigar brands use cigar bands, but this hasn’t always been the case. In fact, the exact origin and purpose of the cigar band is debated by historians! However, it is agreed that by the mid 1800’s most brands were shipping their cigars with bands and registering them with government organizations.
If you go by Russian history, Queen Catherine the Great would be responsible for the creation of cigar bands. She ordered that all of her cigars be wrapped in silk to keep her hands free from tobacco stains. Not much consideration is given to this story, as she had documented poor hygiene practices and little influence on the cuban cigar industry across the world.
England also lays a claim to the creation of the cigar band, as high society English also sought protection from tobacco stains (though they wore white gloves when smoking). Zino Davidoff did include in his book The Connoisseur’s Book of the Cigar that Spanish cigar wrappers were colored by a gum that did tend to stain fingers if you weren’t careful. However, this issue was not widely documented. In fact, many historical images depict smokers holding the cigar on the naked tobacco and not on the cigar band itself - further discrediting this story.
While Cuban cigars were known for premium quality, in the early 1800’s the largest supplier of cigars was actually Germany. Typically sold for a penny, German cigars were vastly cheaper than the 12-15 cent Cuban cigars. Manufacturers came to realize that by banding the cigars with Cuban names they could command a higher price point. This impersonation was so rampant that it was estimated that for every 2 million Cuban cigars imported to Europe, 6 million cuban cigars were sold.
Most Cuban historians point to factory owner Gustave Bock, who ordered a paper ring with his signature be placed on every cigar that was to be exported. While past claims have stated that cigar bands were intended to keep poorly constructed cigars from falling apart, these have been largely disproven. Old instructions to banders at the Partagas factory stated that the bands should not constrict the cigar in any way. These instructions fall in line with etiquette at the time which was the band was to be removed prior to smoking.
When should I Remove my cigar band?
The practice of removing your cigar band has changed over the years. In the past, certain circles thought it was distasteful to advertise which cigar you were smoking (this is no longer the case). Cigar bands that cover the foot of the cigar should be removed before smoking. Bands that are placed closer to the head of the cigar can be left on until the burn line approaches. The heat loosens the glue holding the band together which makes for easier removal. If the cigar band is removed too soon the wrapper can be torn by band removal. While we might not be able to lock down exactly who created the cigar band first, it is interesting to learn more about the history of the cigar industry!
Want to learn more about cigar history? Check out this piece we did on cigar boxes here!