The famous Bolivar box featuring a portrait of the 19th Century Venezuelan revolutionary Simon Bolivar, liberator of much of South America from Spanish rule, is one of the most instantly recognizable of all Havana brands.
It was founded at the dawn of the 20th Century in 1902, some 70 years after the great man’s death, by José Fernandez Rocha and first registered for sale in Great Britain where Bolivar had been a popular figure. It was registered in Cuba in1927.
Cifuentes y Cª, the owners of Partagas, bought the brand in 1954 and moved its production to Havana’s famous Partagas factory where it has been made ever since. At one time, Bolivar had the distinction of producing the smallest Havana: the Delgado, measuring 1⅞ inches by 20 ring gauge and, in the 1920s, even made a miniature box of cigars for a dolls’ house in the royal nursery at Windsor Castle.
Bolivar’s are among the fullest-bodied and richest tasting of all Havanas with a distinctive flavour that comes not, as might be expected, from a predominance of ligero leaf, but because more seco than volado is used in the blend in comparison to, say, Partagas.
For the last seven years, the companies that distribute Habanos in different territories around the world have been invited by Habanos S.A. to bid for the chance to develop their own special sizes in the less well-known Habanos brands, which will be made in limited quantities for sale only in their own markets. They are known as Regional Editions.
Regional Editions are a Limited production of a standard Habanos vitola that is new to a particular brand. They can only be requested in non-global brands and since 2006 they have been available in numbered boxes. They are only sold to customers in the Distributor’s area.
In 2005 Hunters & Frankau helped to pioneer the project with the Ramon Allones Belicoso Fino. However the Regional Edition concept has since been refined by the addition of numbers on all the boxes and a second band to identify the region for which the cigar has been made. In 2007 H&F was granted the Por Larrañaga Magnifico for which a special century-old cigar band was recreated.
For 2008 Hunters & Frankau was awarded two cigars. One was the Gloria Cubana Glorioso for which not only was a special vintage band re-created, but also an antique box label to be placed inside the lid. The other was the Punch Serie d’Oro No. 1 (Gold Series No. 1), which came in a style of box that had not been seen for over forty years.
The two 2009 UK Regional Editions were the Juan Lopez Seleccion Suprema, which had a special band made for it, and the Rey del Mundo Choix de L’Epoque, a short, stubby size that is ideal when the time available to enjoy a cigar is limited.
2010 saw the release of the Por Larrañaga Regalías de Londres and the Flor de Cano Short Robusto which eventually arrived in 2011. Both had special bands
printed for them.
Punch Medalla de Oro, or Gold Medal, will join the Bolivar Británicas in 2012 to complete the UK’s 2011 releases.
The factory name “Británicas” is applied to a unique shape in the world of Havanas. It can best be described as a “Perfecto”, but it has the distinction of a wider aperture at the foot than is customary for cigars of this type, which makes it easier to light up and get going.
Why and when the name “Británicas” was chosen by the Cuban industry is unknown, but it seems certain that it was first made for the British market. The shape survived to the present century because it was adopted by Romeo y Julieta for a cigar named the Celestiales Finos, which ceased production in 2002. The original vitola measured 5⅜ inches (137mm) by 46 ring gauge, but the Bolivar Britanicas has had two extra points added to its girth, which strictly speaking makes it a “Británicas Extra”.
This very rare size has been specially made for the UK at a factory situated in the Santa Clara region of central Cuba under the supervision of the Partagas factory in Havana, which has the responsibility for the Bolivar brand wherever the cigars are produced.
Hunters & Frankau commissioned a reprint of a special label, known as a “papeleta”, which was last used on Bolivar boxes over forty years ago, to wrap over the side of the box.
In his “Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Post Revolution Havana Cigars’, Min Ron NEE describes the Bolivar as having ‘earthy, subtle “tangy” fruity flavours’. He goes on to add: ‘Bolivar is one of my favourite brands. If I was condemned to smoke only one brand, I have no hesitation that Bolivar would be the choice’.