17 SMOKE ON THE W ATER a brief history of the cigar Since the early ‘90s, cigar consumption has significantly increased around the world with an explosion of brands, accessories and shapes born from this rise in popularity, including the reemergence of the coveted Cuban puro into the United States thanks to the removal of restrictions that limited their import into the country. The word cigar is originally derived from the Mayan sikar, meaning, “to smoke rolled tobacco leaves.” Historians generally believe that the cigar was invented by the ancient Mayans, who would wrap the tobacco in a palm or a plantain leaf and smoke it. Archaeologists have even discovered an ancient Mayan pot from the 10th century that depicts a Mayan man pu¡ng on one of these early iterations. Centuries later, when Christopher Columbus and his men arrived in Cuba, the native Taínos smoked a primitive form of the cigar, with twisted, dried tobacco leaves rolled inside other leaves, such as palm or plantain. The local Indians showed him how they smoked the tobacco leaves and Columbus and his lieutenants quickly adopted the habit. When they brought the idea back home, smoking became quite popular in Spain and Portugal. The French ambassador to Portugal, Jean Nicot later popularized cigar smoking in France and the term, “nicotine” draws its origin from him. It was around this time that manufacturers in Spain started wrapping the dried tobacco in papers rather than leaves. After that, many companies started to grow tobacco and the mass production of cigars began. Cuba became a very popular location to grow the tobacco plants, due to the fertile land and the warm climate. The Cuban tobacco industry was soon established, and ships began to distribute the island-grown commodity across the pond to Europe and even as far as Asia. Columbus had claimed Cuba for Spain and during this time the Spanish dominated the entire industry, even placing a monopoly on the crop until 1817, forbidding any Cuban growers to sell to anyone but them. By the mid-19th century, the United States consumed some three-hundred million cigars and many Cuban cigar makers migrated to nearby Florida, where Tampa eventually earned the moniker, “Cigar City” in the early 20th century. While the boom was partly lit by the cigar’s a§ordability, they soon became a must-have accessory for debonair gentlemen and even royalty. King Edward VII, upon assuming the British throne in 1901, famously announced a break with the smokefree policies of his mother Queen Victoria by uttering the words, “Gentlemen, you may smoke.” Both past and current celebrities, from Ulysses S. Grant and Winston Churchill to Michael Jordan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, have elevated the cigar as a status symbol. Today, both sophisticated women and men are seen at dinners and smoking clubs enjoying high-quality, premium cigars. The purity of the premium cigar — handmade by experts from a choice blend of top-quality tobaccos and aged to perfection — is all the rage. The Dominican Republic has made a name for themselves in this regard, producing almost half of all the hand-made cigars sold in the United States. Needless to say, the cigar is alive and well, and here to stay.