Unbeknownst to many, the famous cheroot “sigaro Toscano” from Italy enjoys a history that spans over 200 years. In this piece, we’ll take a look at how the beloved cigar came to be, as well as query its Brand Ambassador Michael Cappellini, as to what makes it so very special.
‘The Greatest Disaster”
The birth of the Toscano cigar dates back to August 1815 to a factory in Florence, Italy where a recent massive downpour of rain had occurred.
The heavy precipitation had impacted several tobacco bales that were being stored within the Manifattura del Granducato tobacco factory. As a result, it had undergone fermentation as local temperatures became warmer with the arrival of summer.
Instead of disposing the ammonia-heavy tobacco in the nearby Arno river, the factory manager kept it out of fear of repercussion by the Grand Duke Ferdinando III.
He decided to salvage the crop and use it to make a cheap cigar.
After fermenting and drying out under the Tuscan sun, the tobacco was effectively repurposed as a rough-hewn looking cigar with a distinctly strong flavor. The cigars were an immediate success and quickly became favored by the people of Florence who began to call it “il stortignaccolo” as a result of its short, lumpy appearance.
Michael Cappellini: “Toscano became immediately popular following what I like to call “The Greatest Disaster”. This was the point in time that Toscano had been harvested and accidentally soaked after a massive downpour to rapidly become one of the greatest and strongest brands in the world. The rich thick leaves, coupled with its natural fermentation and fire curing processes produced a unique and powerful taste that the consumer fell in love with immediately”.
Shortly afterward in 1818, a factory was built for the sole purpose of making Toscanos.
Throughout its 200-plus years of history, Toscanos have been rolled almost exclusively by nimble, delicate hands of women.
“After fermenting and drying out under the Tuscan sun, the tobacco was effectively repurposed as a rough-hewn looking cigar with a distinctly strong flavor. “
Italian Kentucky Tobacco
Up until the mid-nineteenth century, Toscanos were made from tobacco that was shipped from Kentucky, USA.
After the period of Italian Reunification (1848-1870), these varieties of Kentucky tobacco began to be grown in Italian soil. This resulted in a massive surge in Italian tobacco production. Today, more of this Kentucky tobacco is actually grown in Italy than in the United States where it is more commonly used for pipe tobacco.
Michael Cappellini: “Toscano tobacco is generally a stronger tobacco – and it starts with the soil that the tobacco is grown in. For the most part, Toscano tobacco fields are comprised of gorgeous, nutrient-rich dark soil which affords the transfer of heat to the plant while in cooler temperatures. Let me explain: throughout the day when the sun hits the soil, the exceptionally dark soil absorbs a lot of the natural heat from the sun. This same heat is later released directly to the plant after the sun sets and temperatures cool off. It is also important to understand that Toscano tobacco is topped off at a very early stage, meaning we cut the flower of the plant very early in growth to ensure that all the desired nutrients go to the top of the plant. This tobacco leaf is used for our wrapper. Once harvested, the natural water fermentation of the leaves and the natural fire curing process – which takes place over oak in Italy and over hickory in the US – continue to provide a flavorful and powerful tobacco that has been peaking the curiosity of millions of consumers worldwide.”
“The rich thick leaves coupled with its natural fermentation and fire curing processes produced a unique and powerful taste that the consumer fell in love with immediately”
Ammezzato: The Friendship Cigar
Whilst in the throes of World War I, it became commonplace for Toscanos to be cut in half and smoked with a friend. Post WWI, it was common to find them being sold ‘ammezzato’ – in halves. For this reason, it is oft referred to as as “the friendship cigar”, for like much Italian fare (food, wine, etc.,) it is best shared in the company of others – and often in conjunction with sumptuous food or drink.
Michael Cappellini: “My personal favorite pairing involves having a Toscano Garibaldi [a cigar composed of southern-Italian tobacco from Benevento] with ‘The Godfather’ cocktail [a 1 to 1 mix of Amaretto Disaronno and bourbon – Michael prefers Maker’s Mark]. This particular pairing hits the palate in such a way that the sweetness of the Disaronno, mixed with the smooth oak finish of the Maker’s Mark enhances the creamy oak and leather notes in the cigar, while the drink cools the palate. It’s a match made in heaven that to this day, leaves first timers speechless and coming back for more”.
Born of pure happenstance and a unifying ability to be shared between anyone, Toscano grew to become a symbol that is representative of all walks of Italian life. Over 200 years later, Maniffature Sigaro Toscano continue to provide this classic Italian offering to the world, with a selection of varying sizes, flavors and strength.
To taste a little slice of Italy, make your next cigar a Toscano. Ciao!