Winston Churchill- History's Most Famous Cigar Aficionado?
Cigars are symbols of prestige and connoisseurship. Winston Churchill loved to smoke them, but he also used them to cement his brand in the public’s mind.
There’s a world of difference between smoking cigars and just smoking. Cigars are luxury items in that they don’t come cheap. Even after all these years, they’re still very special things. People tend to light up in select situations, such as celebrating the birth of a child or a victory in business.
Cigars are an age-old tradition, a common pastime for many people of culture. You see many famous actors and other public figures smoking their stogies with enjoyment. If you’ve ever watched one of those black-and-white films about the UK’s most famous prime minister, you know that he’s often seen with a cigar. Clearly, old Winston was a cigar aficionado with a good number of victories to celebrate.
Cigars as a Symbol of Success
Cigars are a symbol of success and celebration. They are lit at bachelor parties and weddings. People smoke them after great victories and successful business deals. But why and how have cigars become such a symbol?
First of all, cigars have been around for hundreds of years. However, they only became a symbol of wealth and success at the beginning of the 20th century. Conveniently, this is also when advertising became a big thing around the world. So, advertising had a hand in the popularity of cigars.
You could say the same for Hollywood, which has long portrayed the corporate mogul as holding a sizable cigar between his fingers. Did the cigar complete this caricature, or did the Hollywood portrayal lift the cigar to its modern-day symbolism? Nobody really knows which came first.
One thing’s for sure: you have to be successful to afford good cigars. They are not cheap.
But why are good cigars so expensive? That’s because they’re traditionally handmade in time-tested fashion. A lot goes into making a good cigar: good tobacco, proper storage, proper rolling technique. People train for many years to get everything exactly right.
All this makes cigars a fit subject for connoisseurship. Knowing how to select and treat a good cigar is an art form in itself. Winston Churchill was actually an important figure in this regard. He played a key role in making cigars popular in mainstream circles.
Churchill and Cigars – Love at First Sight
Churchill’s smoking habit didn’t start with cigars. Long before he became a prominent figure known for his cigars, Churchill was a troubled teenager. Although he was a bright kid, he wasn’t an ideal student. In fact, he went through a number of boarding schools before passing the Harrow entrance exam.
Amongst his school friends, Churchill took to tobacco like a duck to water. Cigarettes, however, couldn’t keep up with the young Churchill. He took a dislike to cigarette smoking soon after, and even refused to smoke them as an adult.
Then Winston decided to pay his dues in the military, where he thought he might be able to make a name for himself. He ended up serving in Cuba, a country known for its excellent cigars. After a mere couple of months, he’d picked up a new smoking habit.
This was where he developed a love for two brands that would stay with him throughout his life: La Aroma de Cuba and Romeo y Julieta. Several Havana dealers that he frequented continued to send him regular shipments for the remainder of his days. These cigars were popular gifts from his associates, friends, and family members, too.
Churchill was no casual smoker, either. He smoked as many as 10 cigars a day, which is an impressive number for anybody. However, he often left them burning, only taking a few puffs now and then.
He wasn’t simply wasting them either. Although no one can deny his love for cigars, there’s more going on here than that…
1. He Knew a Thing or Two about Branding
There’s a lot of photographic evidence that testifies to Churchill’s extensive cigar habit. Looking at those photos, you’d think that he smoked just about anywhere.
In reality, many of his cigars are situational. For instance, during his 1931 visit to New York, Churchill allegedly forgot that Americans drive on the right side of the road, and ended up in a car crash with minor injuries. Oh his way to the hospital, he was photographed strapped to a gurney in an ambulance, cheerfully smiling and puffing on his cigar.
This isn’t the only photo of Churchill using his cigars to show perseverance and joie de vivre. He knew all about becoming a notable figure. At least some of his photos were quite deliberately staged – and his cigars were an important accessory.
2. He Has a Cigar Size Named After Him
The Churchill size of Cuban cigars is 47 ring gauge by seven inches long. It’s impressive that a smoker managed to influence the creation of a new size class. But then, Winston was an impressive fellow by any definition.
So, was this was the only size he smoked? As an avid cigar smoker, Churchill smoked a variety of brands and sizes. He had his favorites, yes, but he was able to enjoy any and all cigars.
3. He Smoked All Qualities
You’d think that Churchill would only smoke first-class cigars. It’s true that he valued the good stuff, but he didn’t shy away from lesser quality cigars, either. Perhaps so he could afford his alcohol, food, and cigar budget on a prime minister’s salary, he was known to economize once in a while.
4. His Cigar Stocks Were Massive
Humidors are critical for keeping cigars fresh and their taste intact. Churchill had a top-quality humidor on his work desk, and a storage area for 3,000 to 4,000 cigars. That’s how dealers kept cigars back then. However, Churchill was no mere collector. He bought his cigars to smoke them. After he passed away, there wasn’t any need for a cigar auction. He only left a few behind.
The Value of a Good Humidor
Like all cigar lovers, Churchill knew he had to have a good humidor by his side. His office and home featured a large number of these cigar-preserving kits.
But what exactly is a humidor? It’s not just a prestigious-looking cigar box. It’s designed and built to keep cigars at an optimal range of relative humidity and temperature. A good humidor keeps the tobacco in the best possible condition.
Churchill was big on humidors because he knew the critical role they play. Adequately stored in a quality humidor, cigars can retain their best flavor for as many as five years. If not properly stored, they quickly lose their freshness and taste.
The two main components of a humidor are the hygrometer and the humidifier. The hygrometer measures the concentration of water vapor and relative humidity. The humidifier keeps up the required humidity levels.
Churchill valued his cigars and knew how important it was to keep them in top shape so they could give the ultimate pleasure.
Churchill – A True Cigar Connoisseur
It’s clear that Churchill knew his cigars. Sometimes going through as many as ten a day, he was a true expert. He was famous around the world for it and even had a size named after him.
Churchill also knew a thing or two about using his passion for cigars in his professional life. He knew how to utilize them as a symbol of perseverance and success. With a massive collection of cigars, he wasn’t reluctant to try all brands, regardless of their reputation. Churchill had his favorites, but he didn’t discriminate.
Most of all, Churchill knew that without his humidors, his cigars would quickly lose their savor.
If you like cigars, you could probably stand to learn a thing or two from Winston. You need a good humidor to keep your cigars fresh and full of flavor. Even better if the humidor looks the part.