The famous Bolivar box featuring a portrait of the 19th Century Venezuelan revolutionary Simon Bolivar, liberator of much of South America from Spanish rule, is one of the most instantly recognizable of all Cuban brands.
It was founded at the dawn of the 20th Century, some 70 years after the great mans death, by José F. Rocha for Great Britain where Bolivar had been a popular figure. Some debate exists over whether the brand was first registered in Britain in 1901 or 1902 (it was not registered in Cuba until 1927). However it has been decided to celebrate the brand's centenary in 2002.
At one time, Bolivar had the distinction of producing the smallest Habanos: the Delgado, measuring l 7/8 inches by 20 ring gauge, and in the 1920s even made a miniature box of cigars for the dolls' house in the royal nursery at Windsor Castle.
Cifuentes y Ca, the owners of Partagas, bought the brand in 1944 and moved its production to Havana's famous Partagas factory where it has been made ever since.
Bolivars are mid-priced amongst handmade Cuban cigars. They are the fullest bodied and richest tasting of all Habanos with a distinctive flavour that comes not, as might he expected, from an unusually high proportion of ligero leaf, but because more seco than volado is used in the blend in comparison to Partagas.
They are probably not for beginners, but appeal greatly to many seasoned smokers and enjoy a reputation for ageing well.
Twelve sizes are imported into the UK in boxes of 25, the widest range available anywhere in the world. Three of these sizes are also available in cabinet selections of 50 and one in a cabinet of 25. Four of the sizes are packed into tubes.
It should be noted that production of three sizes has been discontinued in Havana since the start of 2002 - the Churchill in tubes, the Lonsdale and the Regentes - although limited stocks are still available in Britain.
The 2002 edition of Havanoscope, the French cigar guide, gives no less than four
Bolivar sizes its top five cigar ring rating: the Churchill tube; the Coronas
Gigantes; the Inmensas and the Lonsdale.
Cigar Aficionado Magazine awarded Bolivar sizes the following ratings out of 100 during 2001: the Belicoso Fino 90; the Corona Gigante 89; the Churchill 88; the Corona Extra 87; the Lonsdale and the Corona 86.