Rafael González Cigars
Since their inception in the “Roaring 20s”, Rafael Gonzalez cigars have held connections to aristocracy. While some Cuban cigars, such as Vegueros or Vegas Robaina, have been created to offer accessible smokes in honour of the ordinary folk who prepare the tobacco and roll our wonderful cigars, Rafael Gonzalez was created by an aristocrat with the intention of appealing to his landed and wealthy peers in Europe. Márquez Rafaël González was a member of the Spanish court who, in 1928, decided he wanted to cash in on the lucrative...READ MORE
Rafael González Cigars
Since their inception in the “Roaring 20s”, Rafael Gonzalez cigars have held connections to aristocracy. While some Cuban cigars, such as Vegueros or Vegas Robaina, have been created to offer accessible smokes in honour of the ordinary folk who prepare the tobacco and roll our wonderful cigars, Rafael Gonzalez was created by an aristocrat with the intention of appealing to his landed and wealthy peers in Europe. Márquez Rafaël González was a member of the Spanish court who, in 1928, decided he wanted to cash in on the lucrative English cigar smoking obsession. He enlisted the help of 2 English entrepreneurs to fulfil his distribution, and a new Havana brand was born.
Over the course of 45 years the brand went through something of an evolution, changing name twice while under the ownership of the Rey del Mundo company before officially becoming Flor de Rafael Gonzalez Marquez in 1954 – the name which survives today. In contrast to the humility of the discreet white-on-brown bands which have always graced the sticks in each box, by the 1960s it was considered one of the greatest brands available, commended by none other than the great Zino Davidoff as one of 2 brands which must be present in a collection if the owner were to consider themselves a true connoisseur. High praise indeed, when considered in the context of the quality of Davidoff cigars themselves.
One of the reasons Rafael Gonzalez cigars were, and are, so prized by collectors is their potential for aging. Each box carries an inscription, written in English to appeal to their original target market, explaining that cigars should be smoked within one month of their despatch from Havana – if this were not possible, they should be aged at least a year. The strength of the blend is mild, and the flavour notes typically sweet and light, so time gives the cigars opportunity to mature and further infuse their flavours. This makes them an even more appealing proposition to the seasoned cigar aficionado.
Despite its popularity, the vitolario of Rafael Gonzalez has gradually shrunk over the years. Only 4 cigars are now offered – one of Tripa Corta (short filler) and the rest of Tripa Larga (long filler) – with all being handmade in the same factory as its old companion El Rey del Mundo.
Rafael Gonzalez Panatelas Extra: The short-filler option, offering an extremely affordable smoke for everyday enjoyment. 5 inches long by 38 ring gauge make for a very elegant cigar, and one which can easily be enjoyed with a double espresso as part of a morning ritual without overwhelming the palette.
Rafael Gonzalez Petit Coronas: Marevas of 5 ⅛ inches by 42 rig gauge – by far the most common Cuban vitola – and the most common popular of Rafael Gonzalez. Smooth and mellow flavours of almonds and milky coffee, with just a hint of black pepper spice.
Rafael Gonzalez Perlas: A mere 40 ring gauge by 4 inches, and presented in handy cardboard packs of 5, this tiny little stick is perfect for smokers on the go. All the flavour of the brand in one short burst.
Sadly missing from the list of current production is the magnificent Lonsdale size. Now used only for the Montecristo No. 1, and even then with increasing rarity, this elegant long panatella was once an exceptionally popular style for many brands, and was first used by Rafael Gonzalez. Up until its removal from catalogues in 2006, the Lonsdale had been a fixture of the brand’s portfolio since the early 1930s and is still missed today.
The use of the name “Lonsdale” for one of the first shapes they made was another sign of Rafael Gonzalez’ commitment to attracting the attention of English upper-class clients. Hugh Lowther was the fifth Earl of Lonsdale, and an avid cigar smoker. His reputation for extravagant living was the stuff of legend while he was alive, and eventually the cause of his family fortune’s exhaustion, but he left a legacy after his passing. As well as his name being adopted by his (allegedly) favourite cigar vitola, it was also taken by a sportswear firm in honour of his commitment to the sport of boxing. In 1909 he awarded the first Lonsdale belt to a British champion boxer, eventually donating 20 such belts to different weight classes. Lonsdale was also known for being part of an outrageous wager with famous banker JP Morgan involving a man in an iron helmet attempting to travel the globe unidentified. The sum they were said to have staked would amount to around £2.5 million today.
Today, the Rafael Gonzalez brand is almost as anonymous as that iron-clad traveller, receiving very little fanfare from Habanos SA. A slight revamp of the bands in early 2022 is the only real attempt at modernisation; only three Regional Editions have ever been produced, including the sublime Rafael Gonzalez 88 for Asia-Pacific in 2016. Despite this, Zino’s old advice still rings true: a cigar collection is only complete when it includes Rafael Gonzalez.
Brand Founded: 1928
Construction: Handmade, Tripa Larga & Tripa Corta
Continuous Production Cigars: 4