Zino Davidoff was born on March 11, 1906 in Kiev in what is now Ukraine, then a part of Czarist Russia. He was the eldest of four children born to Jewish tobacco merchant, Henri Davidoff. Even in his own autobiographical writings, the facts on Zino's youth are a bit hazy, as he was quite young during this time and could only piece together the some stories of his youth. His parents were either cigar merchants or cigarette manufacturers in Kiev. Fleeing the political turmoil and anti-Semitism prevalent in Russia, his parents left some of their family behind and emigrated to Geneva, Switzerland in 1911 for a better life and opened their own tobacconist shop in 1912. Finishing school in 1924, he went to Latin America to learn about the tobacco trade, spending time in such places as Argentina, Brazil, and finally Cuba where he spent two years working on a plantation and first encountered Cuban cigars.
Returning to Switzerland around 1930, he took over his parents' shop. What had originally been a modest tobacco shop grew into a rich business during and after World War II. Neutral Switzerland was spared much of the havoc wreaked elsewhere in Europe and became a haven for wealthy tobacco customers. Zino was particularly successful in marketing the Hoyo de Monterrey Châteaux Series of Cuban cigars created for Zurich cigar distributor A Dürr Co. in the 1940s and named after great Bordeaux wines. Around this time, Zino is also credited by many as having invented the first desktop cigar humidor, in order to preserve cigars at the same conditions of humidity and temperature under which they were rolled in Havana. Davidoff also had success writing several books on cigar smoking and Cuban cigar brands.
In 1970, Zino sold his small but highly successful tobacco shop in Geneva to the Max Oettinger Group. Zino stayed on as Davidoff’s ambassador until his death in 1994 at the age of 87. He was survived by his wife and daughter, who remained in Switzerland and by his siblings that had since moved to other parts of the world, mainly North America. Till his last moments, Zino an avid family man, sought out to find his lost family history back in what had been the Communist U.S.S.R. Unfortunately, many historical documents had been lost and so had his search. Not much information exists on their whereabouts, but through saved notes by Zino, it has been speculated that many had defected to North America in the early to mid 70's, some under new identities and family names.
Cuban Davidoff cigars
In 1967, Davidoff was approached by Cubatabaco, Cuba's state tobacco monopoly after the Revolution, about creating a personal brand of cigars for his stores. The cigars were rolled in the newly-established El Laguito factory in Havana, which had been established to roll Cuban President Fidel Castro's own private cigars, Cohíba. In 1969, the first productions of Davidoff cigars were released, which included the No. 1, the No. 2, and Ambassadrice (which all shared the same sizes as the early Cohiba line) and the Châteaux Series (now no longer under the Hoyo de Monterrey label, but exclusively made for the Davidoff marque).
In the 1970s, the Mille Series, a milder blend than the rest of the line, and the Dom Pérignon, named for the famous champagne, were released on the market. In 1986, a special limited release of 80 Aniversarios cigars were made to celebrate Zino's 80th birthday.
In 1982, the Château Yquem cigar produced by Davidoff was discontinued after the owner of Château d'Yquem wine protested their unauthorized use of the trade name. The Château Mouton Rothschild came out shortly after, though with a different blend and slightly different size than its predecessor.
The Cuban Davidoff Line
Apparently after numerous disputes over quality and ownership rights over the brand, Zino Davidoff and Cubatabaco decided to end their relationship. Leading up to this, Zino had publicly burned over one-hundred thousand of his cigars that he had deemed unfit to sell and of low quality in August of 1989. The Cuban Davidoff line was official discontinued in 1991 and an agreement was signed that no more Cuban Davidoff was sold in Davidoff shop worldwide, a Dominican-made Davidoff cigar having already hit the market in November of 1990, where production of the same sizes formerly made in Cuba continues to this day.
Former managers at El Laguito have claimed that the Davidoff blend was very similar to Cohíba, except with a lighter wrapper leaf. The bands used on Davidoff cigars themselves are of the same format as personalized diplomatic cigar bands had been in previous years. Adriano Martínez, a former executive of Habanos SA, confirmed in Min Ron Nee's Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Post-Revolution Havana Cigars that the Cohíba Línea 1492 was made to fill in the gap left by the discontinuation of Davidoff.
The huge success of the Davidoff brand is considered to have been instrumental in making Dominican premium cigars the number-one bestsellers worldwide.
Zino Davidoff passed away on January 14, 1994 at the age of 87. He was survived by his wife, a daughter and his three siblings. Not much information exists on their whereabouts, but through saved notes by Zino, it has been speculated that many had defected to North America in the early to mid 70's, some under new identities and family names.
Davidoff Products Today
In August 2006, Imperial Tobacco acquired the worldwide Davidoff Cigarettes trademark from its owners, Tchibo Holding AG for £368 million. Imperial Tobacco Group had been the licensee of the worldwide Davidoff Cigarettes trademark since its acquisition of Reemtsma in 2002.
The cigarette range includes the Magnum, Supreme, Classic, Mild, Lights, Magnum Lights, Slims, Ultra lights, Menthol and Gold. Rothmans, Benson & Hedges of Canada began importing Davidoff cigarettes for sale in the Canadian market in April 2007.
The Oettinger Davidoff Group owns the worldwide Davidoff trademark for tobacco products other than cigarettes. Davidoff cigars continue to be produced in the Dominican Republic, under the direction of cigar blender Heinrich "Henke" Kelner. Since moving, Davidoff has added an Aniversario series, a Millennium series, and a Special series of figurados to its lineup. Davidoff also produces a line of cigars known as "Zino" and a line of cigarillos.
Beyond tobacco products, Davidoff has expanded to include under its brand such items as pipes, humidors, watches, neckties, wallets, briefcases, pens, cognac, coffee and cologne.