Cigars: A Brief History

Most people believe that cigars originated from Mayan culture. This is because the term ‘cigar’ stems from the Mayan word “sikar”, which directly translates to ‘smoke-rolled tobacco leaves’. Over time, Spanish-based cultures used the word ‘cigarro’ to describe what we all eventually accept today as cigars. To discover more about the interesting historical journey of cigars, read on.


Ancient Mayans
Whilst the true origins of cigar-smoking are unknown, most historians believe that cigars initially began in ancient Mayan culture. This has been supported by the discovery of a ceramic pot in Guatemala which has been estimated to date back to the tenth century. Painted on the exterior of the historical artefact is a Mayan figure smoking a bunch of tobacco leaves that have been stringed together. Because of this artefact and due to countless anthropological studies, it is widely acknowledged that the ancient Mayans were the first culture to smoke tobacco leaves.


Introduction to Europe
During Christopher Columbus’ 1492 journey of the Americas, it has been widely proclaimed that Columbus is one of the first Westerners to be introduced to tobacco. During Columbus’ 1492 adventure, a few of his crewmen discovered tobacco when locals welcomed them into the island of Hispaniola (now known as Haiti and the Dominican Republic). As they ventured further along the Caribbean, Columbus and his crew encountered more tobacco, especially in Cuba, where Columbus and his crew decided to settle. Whilst on this journey, Columbus and his crew were taught by the locals, their traditional methods in drying tobacco leaves and how to wrap the tobacco in leaves. When Christopher Columbus and his men made their way back to Spain and Portugal, smoking cigars very quickly gained popularity.


Spreading in popularity in Europe
Jean Nicot, the French ambassador to Portugal is vastly noted by historians as being the reason why cigar smoking has become so prevalent in France. Nicot is not only popular for introducing cigars to France, but also for lending his name to what we know as ‘nicotine’. It didn’t take too long after tobacco was popularised in France that the admiration of tobacco spread across towards Italy, Britain and soon, the rest of Europe. It was also during this time that people started to explore tobacco as a medicinal substance.


Manufactured in Cuba, loved across the globe
Because of Cuba’s land fertility and optimal climate to grow tobacco, Cuba has been the location of choice for cigar manufacturing. Whilst many cigars are now rolled by machines, several cigar manufacturing companies still prefer traditional methods and for their cigars to be hand-rolled. Hand-rolled cigars from Cuba are widely accepted as being of the most premium cigar-types available and continue to be enjoyed by cigar lovers from around the world. To discover our range of Cuban cigars, click here!

Alexanders Cigar Merchants
517 Toorak Road
Toorak VIC 3142 Australia

Trading Hours
Monday to Friday - 10.00am to 6.00pm
Saturday - 10.00am to 5.00pm