They are made in two versions: one still produced on the island of Cuba for Habanos SA, the Cuban state-owned tobacco company and the other produced for the U.S. market (due to the Cuban embargo) in La Romana, Dominican Republic, for the Franco-Spanish tobacco monopoly Altadis SA, now part of Imperial Tobacco.
H. Upmann is among the oldest cigar brands in existence, dating back to the 1840s. Around 1840, banker Herman Upmann opened a branch office in Havana, which provided ample opportunity to send cigars home to Europe. The possibilities of a commercial endeavor became clear to Upmann and in 1844 he invested in a cigar factory and the H. Upmann brand was launched.
Upmann is sometimes credited with the invention of packaging cigars in cedar boxes to give to their customers. These original boxes were labelled with the H. Upmann name and contained other manufacturers' cigars, most likely as an advertisement for the operation, until the Upmanns bought their own cigar factory in 1844: the famous H. Upmann Factory, now known as the José Martí Factory, in Havana. In another version of the story, it was the Upmann brothers' nephews, German and Alberto, who founded the factory and the cigars became associated with it.
Through the late 1800s, the H. Upmann brand gained international recognition at various exhibitions and won seven gold medals which still adorn the lithographed art on today's H. Upmann boxes, along with Hermann Upmann's original signature.
Failure and re-emergence
In 1922 both the H. Upmann Bank and the cigar business went bankrupt, the bank because of speculation in German marks and Mexican oil properties. A British firm, J. Frankau & Co., bought the brand name and continued production until 1935, when the company was sold to the recently established Menéndez, García y Cía Co., makers of the Montecristo brand. This new ownership group continued production of H. Upmann cigars until the nationalization of the tobacco industry after the Cuban Revolution.
The favourite cigar of US President John F. Kennedy was the H. Upmann Petit Upmann (sold under the name Demi Tasse in the United States). The night before the Cuban embargo was signed, he had aide Pierre Salinger procure every box he could gather from Washington, DC tobacconists, totalling 1,200 cigars.
After the revolution, Menéndez and García moved the brand first to the Canary Islands, then the Dominican Republic, where production continues for the American market (due to the Cuban embargo) under the ownership of Altadis SA, while the original brand remains in the original factory, now known as the José Martí Factory, in Havana, still using tobacco from the premium Vuelta Abajo region.
The Cuban-made brand still remains a popular cigar in the world market, where it is made in a variety of totalmente a mano, tripa larga (translation: totally handmade, long filler) hand-finished and also machine-made vitolas. In 2002, when Altadis SA bought a controlling share in Habanos SA, numerous changes were made to the Upmann lineup. The vast array of Upmann sizes was rationalized, with redundant and poor selling sizes among the company's more than 30 vitolas eliminated. By 2006, according to the company, the H. Upmann line had been whittled down to just 16 vitolas.
In 2005, Habanos SA made an uncharacteristic move by releasing a new H. Upmann size as part of their annual Edición Limitada release. This was odd because the rule of the past has been that only the five globally distributed marques (Cohíba, Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, Partagás and Hoyo de Monterrey) have been used for Edición Limitada releases, whereas H. Upmann is a multi-locally distributed brand. This limited edition size was the large Magnum 50, thought to be an enticement to smokers with whom the Magnum 46 is very popular. Shortly afterwards, Quintero was demoted to a multi-local brand in the Habanos portfolio and H. Upmann was raised to a global brand, with distribution in every nation that imports Habanos cigars.
Vitolas in the H. Upmann line
The following list of handmade vitolas de salida (commercial vitolas) within the H. Upmann marque lists their length in order, in Imperial (and Metric) and ring gauge and then their Factory name and a colloquial description of size/shape:
- Half Corona -- 3.5" (90 mm) x 44. Corona, a petit corona
- Epicure -- 4.3" (110 mm) × 35. Epicures, a short panetela
- Corona Junior -- 4.5" (115 mm) × 36. Cadetes, a short panetela
- Corona Minor -- 4.6" (117 mm) x 40. Coronitas, a petit corona
- Connoisseur No. 1 -- 5" (127 mm) × 48. Hermosos No.4, a corona extra
- Petit Corona -- 5.1" (129 mm) × 42. Marevas, a petit corona (the favourite cigar of US President Kennedy)
- Regalias -- 5.1" (129 mm) × 42. Petit Coronas, a petit corona
- Corona Major -- 5.2" (132 mm) × 42. Eminentes, a corona
- Connoisseur A -- 5.5" (140 mm) x 52. Genios, a corona
- Majestic -- 5.5" (140 mm) × 40. Cremas, a corona
- Magnum 46 -- 5.6" (143 mm) × 46. Corona Gordas, a grand corona
- Upmann No. 2 -- 6.1" (156 mm) × 52. Pirámides, a pyramid
- Monarcas -- 7" (178 mm) × 47. Julieta No.2, a Churchill (discontinued 2009 but still available)
- Sir Winston -- 7" (178 mm) × 47. Julieta No.2, a Churchill
- Magnum 50 (release date 2005) -- 6.3" (160 mm) × 50. Double Robustos, a double robusto
- Magnum 48 (release date 2009) -- 4.3" (110 mm) × 48. Magnum 48, a petit robusto
- Robusto (release date 2012) -- 4.8" (122 mm) x 50. Robustos, a robusto
- Anwer Bati, The Cigar Companion: The Connoisseur's Guide. Third Edition. Philadelphia and London: Running Press, 1997; pg. 115.
- Wall Street Journal, 2 May 1922.
- "Review of H. Upmann Corona Major Cigar: JFK's Favorite Cigar". About.com. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
- Habanos SA's website.
- Min Ron Nee and Adriano Martínez Rius, An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Post-Revolution Havana Cigars. Hong Kong: Interpro Business Corporation, 2003.
- Official website of Habanos S.A.
- Reviews of H. Upmann Cigars
- H Upmann Cigars on the Cuban Cigar Website
- Video of Pierre Salinger on JFK's cigars