Today's lithographed boxes still show the comically-dressed Punch enjoying a cigar while his faithful pet stands by, questioning why he is wearing a rainbow-coloured collar.
Punch is one of the oldest Habanos brands. It owes its creation in the early 1840s to Manuel Lopez Femandez, the head of the Juan Valle Company at that time, who had set his sights on producing a brand to suit the taste of his biggest market - Great Britain.
He chose the same name as an irreverent, satirical magazine, which had just been launched in Britain and was fast becoming all the rage. His cigars prospered too reaching their peak at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. The brand still holds the record for the biggest order ever taken by an importer from a single customer when, in 1915, seven million Punch were ordered by the British Army in France to see its officer corps through the duration of hostilities.
In 1925 Manuel's successors sold the brand to Palicio & Co., who already owned La Excepción, Belinda and Hoyo de Monterrey. At that time Cuba had a particularly unpleasant President named Gerardo Machado. To curry favour with the tyrant, the Palicios created a new range of Punch sizes especially for him. They were called Punch Macanudos.
The name Macanudo lives on today, although not as a Cuban cigar, because the Palacios used it to found a Jamaican brand during World War II that would allow them to circumvent the dollar restrictions, which temporarily halted all imports of Havanas to Britain. It is for this reason that the box designs for Punch and Macanudo are virtually identical.
After Fidel Castro's revolution, the Palicios left Cuba but the production of Punch continued in Havana. It was moved from the old factory in Rayo Street to the La Corona factory in Zulueta Street, opposite the President's Palace, where it is still made along with Hoyo de Monterrey.
Ten different hand made sizes of Punch are imported to the UK out of a total thirteen that are made in Cuba. (Machine made Punch, which can be found in other European markets, are not imported to Britain.) Four sizes are available in tubes and fives sizes can be found in the rare Cabinet Selection bundles of 50 cigars.
The latest addition to the range is the Ninfas, a 7 inch by 33 ring gauge vitola.
Punch is the 10th largest selling brand of Habanos in the world out of a total of 33.
In 2000 Punch was the 6th biggest selling Habano in Britain out of the 18 brands that are imported into the UK, behind Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, H. Upmann, Cohiba and Bolivar.
The brand's star size is the Punch Punch, a 5½" by 46 ring gauge Corona Gorda, which accounted for 20% of its UK sales last year. Its second biggest seller was the Coronation, a 5" by 42 ring gauge, Petit Corona in a tube.
Price wise, Punch falls into the mid-priced category of Habano brands alongside Romeo y Julieta, Bolivar and H. Upmann. It is less expensive than Montecristo and Cohiba, while it is more expensive than brands like El Rey del Mundo, Rafael Gonzalez and Sancho Panza.
In common perhaps with other long established Cuban brands, there has been a tendency of late for smokers to forsake Punch in favour more exotic marques. However the brand has maintained a notable degree of consistency in recent years that has started to attract the recognition it deserves.
The latest edition of the French annual 'Le Guide Havanascope', which reviews all Cuban brands and sizes, picked Punch as its 'Big Winner' for 2000. It cited consistency as a major justification for its accolade but also felt that the brand was producing cigars with more pronounced flavours particularly in its large Double Corona and Churchill sizes.
The Americans too have acknowledged the brand's current quality. Cigar Aficionado, in a recent tasting of Double Coronas, gave the Punch 96 out 100, the highest mark it had awarded to any cigar for six years.