It could be the stuff of a great example of comedy in advertising to revise the balcony scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to depict Juliet’s balcony speech – “Romeo, Romeo; wherefore art thou Romeo” – with a response from Romeo that he will join her when he has finished enjoying the smoke from one of his Romeo Y Julieta Cigars (who knows; maybe it has been done already?).
Romeo Y Julieta Cigars were so named in 1875 by two of the smaller Cuban cigar makers – Inocencio Alvarez and Manin Garcia – they really did choose that name in honor of the Shakespeare play. Their new brand rapidly gained distinction in international cigar tasting exhibitions; but, it really rose to fame after one of the largest cigar factories in Havana acquired it in 1903. This was the Cabañas company of Jose “Pepin” Rodriguez Fernandez; who often travelled the world; both in the role of a rich owner of racehorses and as a promoter for his Cuban products that now included the range of Romeo Y Julieta Cigars; which were being made in different sizes (known as vitola; or factory name); but all to the original recipe and quality. Mixing as he did with the cream of American society and the aristocrats and new found “captains of industry and commerce” in Europe; Rodriguez was well positioned to introduce the cigars to the world’s wealthiest people and the brand became very successful. Proof of this popularity can be seen from the number of purchasers who requested a unique (to them) band be placed around the cigars that they ordered and many even requested that their order be produced to a unique vitola. Possibly the best known example of this is the Romeo Y Julieta Cigars especially made for Sir Winston Churchill (which went on to become the flagship for all Romeo Y Julieta Cigars).
Politics Changes Even Cigars
The Cuban Revolution and subsequent nationalization of the cigar industry obviously disrupted the lives of the owners of the big factories. Rodriguez died in 1954 (at age 88); the Cuban Revolution began in July 1953 and finished with Castro’s victory on 1 January 1959. Rather than submit to post revolution nationalization, the Cabañas heirs moved to the region around La Romana in the Dominican Republic; taking their brand of Romeo Y Julieta Cigars with them (where they are still made today). The Cuban State Company called Habanos S.A.is also still making them at the original factory in Cuba.