Los Angeles, September 29, 2010 – Winston Churchill, perhaps the most famous cigar smoker of all time, was well known as a devotee of Havana cigars and especially of the Romeo y Julieta brand. But he was also a fan of Camachos, almost from the moment that Simon Camacho set up shop in Miami in 1961.
The connection between the two was a man named Antonio Giraudier, the owner of one of the most popular beer brands in Cuba - Polar Beer - in the 1940s. When Winston Churchill visited Cuba in 1946, he made sure he met the man he considered the greatest of the 20th Century.
Not only did he meet Churchill, but offered him the use of his private beach house outside of Havana (which Churchill gratefully accepted), and then began sending a lifelong supply of cigars to the then-former British Prime Minister.
According to Stephen McGinty's entertaining work, Churchill's Cigar, Giraudier sent cases of 500 Por Larranaga cigars to Churchill - at his own expense - every three months beginning in late 1946 and continued the practice until his brewery was nationalized and Giraudier had to flee with his family in 1961, first to Miami, then to the Bahamas and later to Florida for good.
But even in his reduced circumstances, Giraudier was not going to let his friend go without cigars from him, and he found a new source, according to McGinty: "Camacho Cigars Inc., who had obtained a stock of Cuban tobacco and had put their best men on the task of making 50 cigars for Churchill at a cost of just $62, the equivalent of £20."
The cigars arrived on July 4, 1962, as Churchill was recovering from hip surgery at The Middlesex Hospital and his personal secretary, Anthony Montague Browne, wrote to Giraudier that "I find that Sir Winston has tried both the green and mature cigars, and is enjoying them both very much. If anything, he has a slight preference for the green leaf." Imagine . . . Churchill a candela smoker!
Churchill left the hospital with an adoring throng on hand to witness the scene and is shown here in an archival photograph from the facility, smoking what might well be a Camacho, although he was known to also have a supply of both Ramon Allones and Romeo y Julieta cigars with him in his hospital suite!
Upon hearing of Churchill's satisfaction, Giraudier immediately ordered 100 more cigars from Camacho: 75 of the candela and 25 in colorado claro shade. They were shipped by sea to lengthen the aging time and Churchill was quite pleased. He wrote to Giraudier on December 12 that "I am most grateful to you for sending me more of those excellent cigars."
Churchill continued to enjoy Camachos, and he gave a Camacho Lonsdale - unsmoked - as a souvenir to a friend at a 1963 luncheon at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo that was later acquired by Forbes publisher Steve Forbes. It was sold at auction on June 2 of this year at Christie's of London for $3,069.
Churchill died in January 1965 at age 90, smoking his final cigar on January 9 before suffering a massive stroke that evening and finally passing on January 24. No one knows if it was a Camacho. ~ Rich Perelman