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What Was Winston Churchill's Favorite Cigar?

J. Bennett Alexander Alexander's picture

J. Bennett Alexander

It’s not clear these days what you’d have to do to get a cigar named after you. Even so, would it become an iconic shape adopted by pretty much every cigar maker? There’s La Flor Dominicana’s El Jocko (yes, it’s named after a real person), but the standard is the Churchill, named for the British prime minister, Winston Churchill. And the honor is well deserved.

Churchill visited Cuba in 1895 to learn of the island’s efforts to liberate itself from Spain. That’s when he began his love affair with the Habano. It wasn’t until a later trip, in 1940, that the cigar known as a Julieta No. 2 in most factories and the Romeo y Julieta Clemenceau became the Churchill. Some say it wasn’t until 1950, after World War II. Today, Cuba’s Romeo y Julieta line has expanded to include the short, wide and petit Churchills, ignoring the traditional size and capitalizing on the familiarity of the famous name. In practice, almost any cigar between 6.75 and 7.5 inches long with at least a 47 ring gauge risks being called a Churchill these days.

Sir Winston (which is the name of an elegant Cuban cigar made by H. Upmann) was an avid cigar smoker, consuming either by puffing or by chewing about 10 cigars a day. The legendary London cigar shop, James J. Fox, has records of Churchill buying hundreds of thousands of cigars, including more than 1,300 in a six-month period in 1964, the year before he died. And Fox was not the only store selling him cigars. Churchill did not smoke only the 7 inch by 47 ring gauge cigar named for him.

While history shows that the Romeo y Julieta and La Aroma de Cuba brands were Winston Churchill’s favorite cigars, he tended to buy based, to a degree, on his budget. He would buy numerous brands at a time, the Fox store reported. The prime minister’s home in Kent had a cigar storage room that held between 3,000 and 4,000 cigars. By all accounts, he didn’t leave many behind, though a box of Romeo y Julieta’s he owned is on display at the Fox store.

Winston Churchill’s legacy is strong and upheld by the cigar industry to this day. The non-Cuban Romeo y Julieta Churchill comes in many lines, but I favor the 1875 Reserve with Honduran filler and a Nicaraguan wrapper. At 7 x 54, it’s a lot of cigar for about $7.  And the La Aroma de Cuba Churchill from Pepin Garcia is a medium-bodied cigar with Nicaraguan filler and a Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, a little fatter and a little more than $6. For a slightly stronger version, go with the La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor in a San Andrés wrapper for about $8.50. The best La Aroma de Cuba cigars produced today reflect a wealth of Cuban nuances in terms of strength and complexity. Davidoff makes a Dominican ‘Winston Churchill’ in an Ecuador Connecticut, and also an Ecuador Habano wrapper. These are in the $20 range.

While you smoke one of these Churchills, do what Sir Winston would. Have a large glass of Scotch and let your thoughts run to glory.

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