In a BBC radio broadcast from London on October 1, 1939, Winston Churchill called Russia “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” The same can perhaps be said of the man. Most folks’ impression of Mr. Churchill has been formulated from motion pictures, popular fiction, and the occasional television special (such as HBO’s The Gathering Storm and Into the Storm). But to glean definitive facts about Winston Churchill, one has to devote some time to reading and research. Two of my favorite books on the subject matter are William Manchester’s three-volume biography titled The Last Lion and the fairly recently published No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money by historian David Lough. Outlined below are a few tidbits—
- Winston Churchill smoked his first cigar in New York City in the middle of November, 1895. Nearly twenty-one years of age, he was given the cigar by Bourke Cochran, a wealthy Irish-American lawyer and politician. Churchill stayed a week with Cochran as a guest at his sprawling apartment on Fifth Avenue. After sightseeing during the day, Winston spent the late evenings with Bourke in his large library—drinking brandy, smoking, and discussing world events. In addition to igniting the young man’s love of cigars, Cochran’s oratory during their fireside chats greatly influenced Churchill’s future political rhetoric. After his visit, Winston went to Havana as a war correspondent for the Daily Graphic, writing dispatches on the ongoing insurrection in Cuba. And smoking more cigars.
- Churchill’s favorite Cuban cigar brands were Romeo y Julieta, La Aroma de Cuba, and Por Larrañaga, though he often enjoyed others. His hoard eventually grew to well over three-thousand cigars, which were stored on shelves in a tiny room between his bedroom and his study at Chartwell—Winston’s beloved country estate and home.
- Churchill rarely used a cigar cutter, even though he kept one on his watch chain. His lighting routine was to moisten the cap, pierce it with a long match, blow through the foot to clear the passage, and then ignite the cigar from a nearby candle. Winston would perform this ritual around a dozen or more times a day.
- If one of Churchill’s cigars became damaged or frayed, he would wrap it in gummed brown paper. He called this fix a “bellyband.”
- Winston spent a sizable amount of his income on cigars. In 1914, he owed his cigar supplier, J. Grunebaum & Sons, nearly 800 pounds—equivalent to approximately $100,000 in today’s money.
- Interestingly, Churchill probably never smoked one of his namesake vitolas. Romeo y Julieta did not begin using the “Churchill” designation on their 7 inch by 47 ring gauge cigar until a few years before Winston’s death in January, 1965.
In 2007, Davidoff introduced the Winston Churchill—a line of cigars to tribute the former British Prime Minister. This new blend consisted of an Ecuadorian sun-grown wrapper, with binder and filler leaves from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. The cigars were fairly expensive and did not perform especially well at retail. After a few years, Davidoff then set out to rectify the situation. At an event held in New York City in December, 2014—an appropriate location choice, since this was where Winston smoked his first cigar—Davidoff unveiled an improved version of the Winston Churchill with a new blend, a new logo, and new vitolas. The blend is composed with an Ecuadorian Rojiza wrapper, a Mexican San Andrés binder, and five filler tobaccos from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. It was well received by both fans of Davidoff cigars and the media.
At the 2017 IPCPR Trade Show in Las Vegas, Davidoff highlighted a new addition to the Winston Churchill line—The Late Hour. Winston’s great grandson, Randolph Churchill said, “The late hours into the early morning was the time when Churchill would gather all those resources together and commit himself to working, whether it was on his books with his research advisors or with his military people deciding the course of action. So, the late hours and the dark hours were when Churchill was his most productive in life. And he was never without a cigar.”
Winston Churchill The Late Hour Breakdown
- Wrapper: Ecuadorian Habano Marron Oscuro
- Binder: Mexican San Andrés Negro
- Filler: Dominican Olor Viso | Dominican Piloto Seco | Dominican San Vicente Mejorado Viso | Nicaraguan Esteli Viso | Nicaraguan Condega Viso (aged in scotch barrels)
- Factory: Cidav Corp, Inc. (Cigars Davidoff – Dominican Republic)
- Production: Regular Production
- Vitola: 5″ × 52 Robusto
- Price: $17.50 (MSRP)
The Late Hour is the first “black label” blend for the company’s Winston Churchill marque, a similar style to the Davidoff Nicaragua, Davidoff Nicaragua Box Pressed, Davidoff Escurio, and Davidoff Yamasa. This line of cigars is offered in three sizes—the Robusto (5” x 52, $17.50 MSRP), the Toro (6” x 54, $19.10 MSRP), and the Churchill (7” x 48, $20.10 MSRP). The vitolas are shipped in twenty-count, black boxes with a sliding lid. Outside of the United States, the cigars are also available in cardboard four-packs.
The cigars are composed with an Ecuadorian Habano Marron Oscuro wrapper surrounding a Mexican San Andrés Negro binder. Five distinct leaves from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua are used in the filler blend. The viso tobacco from the Condega region of Nicaragua was aged in single-malt, Speyside scotch barrels for a total of six months—after the first three months, the tobacco was rotated for additional fermentation during the final phase.
A line of accessories was also developed to complement the Winston Churchill The Late Hour—a 70 to 90-count humidor called the Union Jack Ambassador ($2050.00 MSRP), a 25 to 35-count humidor called the London Primos ($1550.00 MSRP), a French porcelain ashtray ($390.00 MSRP), and a mouth-blown whiskey glass with two indentions to support a cigar ($95.00 MSRP for a set of two).
The Winston Churchill The Late Hour Robusto is an aristocratic looking cigar, which is befitting since it was named after a man born at Blenheim Palace. Its Ecuadorian Habano Marron Oscuro is quite smooth—with almost imperceptible seams, two veins, zero tooth, and an expertly applied cap. The color of the robusto is a mixture of smokey topaz and taupe, with a few dark splotches of onyx scattered across the face. A medium amount of oiliness gently reflects the high-noon sun, while providing a sleek sensation when held in the palm of the hand.
The Late Hour Robusto is encased with a die-cut and embossed primary band, printed in the colors of midnight black, metallic gold, and glacier white. A silhouetted profile portrait of Winston Churchill wearing a floppy fedora with a long cigar firmly clamped between his teeth occupies the center of the band, with the Davidoff logo residing beneath. A narrow rectangular sub-band identifies the cigar as The Late Hour. Firmly packed from the foot to the cap, the wrapper aroma combines aged natural tobacco with a milk chocolate sweetness, while the open foot smells of bailed hay, dried clay, light manure, and a touch of whiskey.
After the cap of the robusto is opened with a double guillotine cut—to ensure the maximum amount of taste from the wrapper, binder, and filler—the initial cold draw is reasonably open. Flavors of cocoa, coffee, caramel, and natural tobacco immediately touch the palate, while a tad of spiciness formulates on the upper lip.
After toasting and lighting the cigar with a soft, double-flame lighter, the Winston Churchill The Late Hour Robusto opens with luxurious notes of caramel, coffee, earth, oak, must, spice, and scotch. After a few additional puffs, a tingle on the tip of the tongue develops, which is indicative of the Dominican Piloto Seco tobacco used in the filler. Soon thereafter, the Mexican San Andrés Negro binder begins to influence the profile—delivering a bit of chocolate and slight increase in spiciness. The draw of The Late Hour is near perfect, with just a desirable amount of resistance, generating an intermediate amount of smoke output from both the cap and the foot of the cigar. Additional aromas and flavors of dried fruits, salted nuts, and worn leather appear in the mix on an occasional basis, while must, natural tobacco, and white pepper are dominant on the retrohale. As with most Davidoff cigars, frequent retrohaling is necessary to experience the full complexity of the cigar.
Room aroma is probably what one would experience as a guest at one of London’s finest men’s clubs—a heady mixture of pipe and cigar tobacco, Bordeaux wine molecules wafting out of a cut-glass decanter, slightly damp wool from large overcoats hanging in the foyer, and an assortment of whiskies in crystal tumblers resting on the mahogany bar. The burn line is razor sharp, holding over two inches of nickel ash, highlighted with streaks of Battleship gray between the stacks.
As the cigar enters its second half, the robusto displays the following general characteristics—medium in body, medium in strength, and medium-to-full in flavor. At this point, the barrel-aged Nicaraguan Condega Viso tobacco really begins to assert itself—tossing off the citrus, floral, honey, oak, malt, and mineral notes usually associated with single-malt Speyside scotches. These meld with the primary aromas and flavors to produce an outstanding and unique profile, which triggers all of the senses of taste—sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and the elusive umami. Retrohaling remains entertaining, with black pepper and an additional dram of scotch joining the mix. The Winston Churchill The Late Hour Robusto is smoked all the way down to its nub.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
The answer to that question is, “In a Piccadilly Circus minute.” I smoke a wide variety of cigars, both personally and as a reviewer, and many of their taste profiles resemble one another—this Nicaraguan puro is pretty similar to that Nicaraguan puro, and so forth. The Winston Churchill The Late Hour is not one of those cigars. By including the scotch-barrel-aged Nicaraguan Condega Viso tobacco in the filler blend, Davidoff has produced yet another cigar that is characteristically unique. It now joins the Davidoff Escurio and the Davidoff Yamasa in my monthly rotation. However, if you are not a fan of scotch whisky, you may not find The Late Hour quite as special.
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: double espresso, Johnny Walker Red (Winston’s favorite), any single-malt scotch, and these scotch-based cocktails—the Rob Roy, the Blood and Sand, the Penicillin, the Modern No. 2, and the Rusty Nail
- Purchase Recommendation: full box
- Outstanding construction
- Unique flavor profile
- High complexity
- Price point