Strictly speaking, this series highlighting Davidoff and its various cigars was conceived to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Davidoff’s first shop in Geneva.
Still, given the importance of Zino Davidoff (who died in 1994 at the age of 87) as a person for the development of the brand and the cigar world as it is today, we would like to introduce the legendary Zino first.
Zino Davidoff, Cuban Cigars And The Humidor
Born in 1906 to a tobacco merchant in Kiev, Zino’s family fled political turmoil in their home country and immigrated to Switzerland in 1911. A year later, Zino’s father opened a tobacco shop in Geneva, which would ultimately prove to be the foundation for one of the most successful cigar brands in the world. Growing up in a world of tobacco, young Zino Davidoff wanted to learn more about the products and trade, which led him to travel to Latin America after graduating from high school in 1930. This trip was formative for the developing gentleman and the future of his unique cigar career path. When he returned from the Americas, he took over his father’s shop and installed what many believe to have been the first ever humidor in Europe. A true innovation and major storage improvement, humidors maintain ideal humidity and temperature of the cigars stored within them.
This humidor and his early sense of innovation may have also been important factors, in addition to the store’s location in the neutral Switzerland, when the traders of Cuban cigars in Paris decided to transfer all their remaining stock (we are talking about millions of cigars) to
his shop before the Nazis could reach the French capital. All of a sudden, Zino Davidoff was the only European tobacconist with a significant stock of Cuban cigars. Cigar connoisseurs from all over Europe traveled to Geneva in order to purchase one of the rare cigars.
Having become the most famous tobacco merchant in Europe, Zino started to leverage his extensive knowledge about tobacco and cigars to develop his own range of products after the end of the war in 1946. A series of high-quality cigars were named after the most famous wine estates in Bordeaux and turned out to be an enormous success. In 1967, production for the “Grand Cru” series was moved to Cuba and stayed there until 1991.
During this period, Zino Davidoff was one of the most important advisors to the Cuban government helping to restore the quality reputation of Cuban cigars after the revolution. The survival of many well-known Cuban cigar brands (such as Upmann or Punch) was the result of Davidoff’s intervention, reversing Fidel Castro’s initial decision to merge all brands into one national cigar brand.
Unfortunately, like many long-term relationships, the marriage between the perfectionist gentleman Zino Davidoff and the Cuban government came to an abrupt end in the late 80’s. After Zino Davidoff burned thousands of Cuban cigars publicly for their supposed lack of quality in 1989, the partnership was officially terminated in 1991. Most fortunately, Zino had long ago found a much more stable partner and eventually sold his business in 1971 to the Oettinger Group, today known as Oettinger Davidoff Group, a Swiss distributor of tobacco products. He remained a brand ambassador until the end of his life.
After termination of the contract with the Cuban government, production of Davidoff cigars was moved to the Dominican Republic, where it can still be found today. Many actually argue that Zino Davidoff enabled the Dominican Republic to become today’s number one producer of cigars. Once again, he had proven his sense of innovation, further strengthening the Davidoff brand. As you may know, Davidoff’s constant strive for quality has also inspired a collection of accessories, cosmetics and spirits. In a sense, Zino Davidoff is still helping gentlemen to live the good life today.