This Article was written in 1995, and first published in Cigar
World the trade magazine of Hunters & Frankau Ltd.
Partagas Celebrates 150 Years at the Same Address
Partagas factory Director Ernesto Lopez considers the prospects for the future
Finishing touches are put to an 8-9-8 pesentation - 8 cigars on the top row, 9 in the middle and 8 on the bottom.
Lusitanias in production
In 1845 Don Jaime Paratagas's dream came true. He declared open the factory which he had spent two years building at No. 520 Industria Street right in the heart of Havana's booming business centre.
Eighteen years had passed since, as a young immigrant from Catalonia, he had started his first venture in tobacco.
It was a chinchal, literally a small, back-street workshop where, with a few skilled cigar makers, he had begun producing unnamed cigars form the best leaf he could buy on the open market.
His initiative coincided with the lifting in January 1827 of all the taxes on cigar production previously imposed by the Spanish Superintendent of Finances. Cigar manufacturing boomed
Soon Don Jaime's talent as a manager became apparent but he felt constrained by the quality of tobaccos he could obtain. So he decided to start buying as much prime tobacco land in the famous Vuelta Abajo region as he could afford from his hard-earned profits.
Thus it was that the building at No 520 Industria Street came into existence and it is now as much a landmark in the centre of Havana as the Capitol erected right opposite many years later.
This policy was pursued by his successors who by the early years of this century owned nearly 25,000 precious acres in Pinar del Rio.
The quality and consistency of his cigars improved as did his wealth, so before long he was able to plan the factory of his dreams.
It was to be a palace of cigar production, four storeys high and in the style of the best colonial architecture. It would be built to last because he had confidence in the future and in his product which, in 1843, he christened with his own name.
That it should have remained as the Partagas factory or Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagas (Royal Partagas Cigar Factory, to give it its fill title, for a century and a half would no doubt have delighted Don Jaime. He could take pride in the foresight of his investment which today enables 12 million Havanas to be produced, many still bearing his name.
Sadly he did not have long to enjoy the fruits of his labour as, sixteen years later in 1861, he died whilst on a visit on a visit to his estates in the Vuelta Abajo.
Members of his family continued to own and manage the business until the turn of the century when it was sold to Cifuentes & Co., who diversified into cigarettes and extended the range of cigar brands.
Over the years the rich, earthy flavours which characterise Partagas cigars have found many fans. Rudyard Kipling in his poem which includes the notorious line "And a woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a smoke" admits: "I have been a priest of Partagas a matter of seven years."
Evelyn Waugh, novelist and confirmed Havana enthusiast, mentions the brand in Brideshead Revisited and more recent devotees include Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos, Pierre Salinger, former press secretary to President Kennedy, and TV mogul Michael Green.
Today the factory is fully responsible for the production of four main brands: Bolivar, Ramon Allones, La Gloria Cubana and, of course, Partagas. They also make some Montecristo under licence, so to speak, from the H. Upmann factory and certain sizes of Cohiba, notably Esplendidos, Robustos and the Siglo range.
On 20th September 1995 Ernesto Lopez, the factory's present Director throw open the doors to welcome hundreds of guests, who had come from all over the world to celebrate the venerable building's 150th anniversary.
A special tasting was held of cigars made to the Dalia size (6 5/8" x 43) which as the 8-9-8, is the flagship vitola of the Partagas range.
The day's events culminated in a Magnificent dinner at the new Cohiha Hotel during which guests were invited to smoke the three star sizes of Partagas: the Lusitania, the 8-9-8 and the Series D No. 4. It was a night of glittering prizes too.
Habanos SA introduced two "Habanos Man of the Year" awards; one for commercial activities and the other for communications. Sr. Pedro Perez of Tabacalera SA took the former and Marvin Shanken of Cigar Aficionado magazine was awarded the latter.
Five people, who have spent over twenty five years in the Havana trade, including Hunters & Frankau Chairman, Nicholas Freeman, were each also honoured with a medal and a unique gift box of rare Figurado cigars.
Had there been an award for "Habanos Man of the 19th Century", few would have challenged Don Jaime's right to take it
El Real Fabrica de Tabacos Partagas at No. 520 Industria Street