15 Jan Sigari Toscanelli: A Symbol of Italianità and Authenticity
By Barbara Colacci
Ask any Italian the top three things for which Italy is known, and unless they are cigar aficionados, rarely are cigars mentioned. After all, to the uninformed, aren’t all cigars made in Cuba?
But that is not the case. Italy is an historical cigar producer with the first cigars manufactured in Tuscany as early as 1815. As the story goes, Manifattura del Granducato, a popular Tuscan cigar producer of the time, accidentally left tobacco out to dry, and then came the rain followed by a hot Tuscan sun, producing a fermented tobacco leaf that could only be used for one thing. Rather than discarding the precious leaves it was decided to prepare mediocre cigars to distribute in and around the city of Florence. This is where the Toscano was born, affectionately known as il stortignaccolo due to its irregular shape.
The history of Italian cigars continued and in the mid-1850s saw the rise of additional producers in the city of Lucca, and later, southern Italy, in Cava de’Tirreni. Through time the Toscano cigar, gradually became a symbol of Italianism and an integral part of Italy’s history and culture.
The Birth of the Toscanello
But how did the Toscanello cigar come about? Toscano cigar smokers always had the custom of cutting their Toscano in half, thus the name Toscanello connotes a smaller version of the same. The practice of the halved cigar began as a form of saving, but it really took-off after WWII when tobacco and cigar deposits in Italy were filled to capacity. That’s when producers decided to cut cigars in half to favour sales and market a smaller version of the cigar.
Interesting fact: The creative Italian language always finds an adjective or description in defining a different way of doing things. So, when the cowboys of the Maremma region in Tuscany found it pointless to dismount their horses to cut their cigars in half, they simply decided not to. This way of smoking the uncut cigar, came to be known as alla maremmana, and it is a term still commonly used today when smoking the cigar whole.
An Italian Success Story
The success of the Toscanello cigar was attributed to the fact that its smaller size and price made it accessible to the majority of smokers. So much so that over the decades, the manufacturers have satisfied a demand that, despite aggressive anti-smoking campaigns and laws, is still thriving and impressively marketed. The brand has more than 10 different cigar flavours and varieties catering to different tastes: vanilla, anis, hazelnut, coffee (espresso and lungo), and limoncello, to name a few. Intensities range from mild to full and include full bodied or full flavored, which is often preferred by veteran smokers.
The true Italian-made cigar is comprised of tobacco grown in Italy. Although its American name may be misleading, Italian Kentucky tobacco is considered a niche agricultural product, making up just 1% of tobacco production in the world, and actually making Italy the primary producer of tobacco in Europe, with over 300 farmers specializing in this type of tobacco leaf from north to south of the Italian peninsula. The difference with this type of leaf is that it must be cultivated and harvested by hand as identifying mature leaves is a specialized task one can only learn from years of working in these fields. In fact, each hectare of land on which Kentucky tobacco is cultivated requires an average of 700 hours of labour.
From Rags to Riches
Though the Italian cigar was initially considered “the cigarette of the poor” because it was made with lower grade tobacco and distributed for a lower price compared to the cigarettes of the era, its star has risen in the modern cigar world. Today, although the manufacturing process has changed little, with the distinguished cigars still being prepared with tobacco leaves prepped and rolled by hand, a new type of consumer has risen. Especially in Italy, it appears that the hand-made cigar continues to represent, like many made in Italy products, authenticity and quality, to the point where the growth of Toscano and Toscanelli smokers’ clubs have flourished throughout the country. It is fair to say, the Italians’ appetite for superior quality goods is always at the forefront of choice, and the fact that Toscanelli has adapted to the times is witness to the fact that quality truly never goes out of style.