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The LifeStyle: Don Jaume Partagás Created His Brand 169 Years Ago

Partagás is among the oldest brands of cigars, established in Havana in 1845. The name is used today by two independent and competing entities, one produced on the island of Cuba for Habanos SA, the Cuban state-owned tobacco company; the other, containing no Cuban tobacco, produced in the Dominican Republic for the General Cigar Company, a subsidiary of Swedish Match.

The Catalan Don Jaume Partagás i Ravell son of Jaume Partagás (taylor) and Theresa Ravell. He migrated to Cuba and founded with the help of a Lloret de Mar businessman, Joan Conill, a small tobacco factory in Havana in 1827, before establishing his own factory, Real Fábricas de Tabaco Partagás in 1845, on 60 Industria Street in Havana, one of the largest of its time. The name, which translates as “Partagás Royal Tobacco Factory,” was supposedly chosen because of Don Jaume’s status as cigar supplier to various European and Asian nobility.

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Don Jaume owned many of the best plantations in the Vuelta Abajo tobacco-growing region of Cuba; being able to choose from among the finest tobaccos on the island made the brand incredibly successful. Don Jaume is also believed to have experimented with various methods of fermenting and aging tobacco and is legendarily credited with hiring the first lector to read to and entertain the cigar rollers as they worked.

Don Jaume was murdered (supposedly by a jealous rival he’d been vying with in one of his love affairs) on one of his plantations in either 1864 or 1868 and his son Josep Partagás took over the business. Later the factory and brand were sold to banker José A. Bance, who in turn sold to Cifuentes, Fernández y Cía in 1900. In 1916, Don José Fernández apparently left the firm and Ramón Cifuentes Llano joined with Francisco Pego Pita to form Cifuentes, Pego y Cía. In 1927, it acquired the rights to the Ramón Allones brand; at some unknown point the factory began to produce a brand in its own name, Cifuentes.

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Ramon Cifuentes died in 1938 and Pego in 1940, leaving the Cifuentes family solely in control of the increasingly prestigious factory and brand, which renamed the company Cifuentes y Cía. In 1954, the Cifuentes family acquired the Bolívar and La Gloria Cubana brands from José F. Rocha and moved their production to the Cifuentes factory. By 1958 it was second only to the H. Upmann company in exporting Cuban cigars, accounting for over a quarter of all exported tobacco goods.

Before and after the Cuban Revolution, the authentic Cuban-produced Partagás has been one of the most revered and highest-selling cigars in the world. By the middle 1990s it remained the second leading selling Cuban brand, following Montecristo, with annual sales of approximately 10 million cigars.

The old Partagás Factory in Havana, since renamed “Francisco Pérez Germán”, is still responsible for much of the annual production of the Partagás brand. It has proven a very popular tourist destination for cigar smokers vacationing in Cuba.

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After tobacco was nationalized following the Cuban Revolution, the Cifuentes family’s patriarch, Ramón, was initially offered the job of leading Cuba’s tobacco industry, but refused and instead emigrated from the country. A newly formed government marketing agency, Cubatabaco, took over the Partagás factory and the production of the brand there.

After a hiatus of almost seventeen years, the patron of the family, Ramón Cifuentes licensed the names Partagás and Bolívar cigars to the General Cigar Company, which in 1978 obtained a trademark and relaunched the brand for the lucrative American market. Initial production took place in Jamaica, but the following year production of the revisited brand moved to a modern factory in Santiago, the second largest city of the Dominican Republic.

In 2002, Altadis bought a controlling share in the Cuban government-owned cigar distributor, Habanos SA, and instituted a number of changes in cigar production. Among them was gradually turning the various brands of Cuban cigars to either all-handmade or all-machine-made lines, reducing the number of redundant sizes within a brand, and eliminating many low-selling cigars. Partagás, which has historically produced a variety of handmade and machine-made or machine-finished cigars, had several of its vitolas cut from production, much to the dismay of connoisseurs worldwide.

Partagas USA Brands

Partagas 1845
Partagas Black Label
Partagas 1845 Extra Oscuro

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