The Story of... JFK's night of 1,200 Cuban cigars

It's often said that everyone who came of age during the 1960s can remember where they were when US President John F Kennedy was shot.

Cigars lovers, however, are perhaps more likely remember where they were the day Kennedy made Cuban cigars illegal in the United States.

Cuba and the US had always enjoyed close economic relations. But this legacy soured when the Cuban Revolution gave Fidel Castro power on January 7, 1959.

H Upmann was, according to many,
JFK's favourite Cuban cigar brand

Tensions grew - not helped by growing relations between Cuba and Soviet Union - until Cuban cigars finally earned a place in the history books on February 7, 1962.

In order to cut ties between the US and Cuba, and rob the latter of its customer base and a great deal of revenue, Kennedy implemented a trade embargo banning all American's from purchasing Cuban Cigars.

One look at the figures shows that Kennedy had hit Cuba where it hurts. Just four years previously, 67% of Cuba's exports and 70% of their imports involved the US.

Surely enough, the Cuban Government lost $70bn as a result of the embargo, compared to a $1.2bn loss suffered by US exporters.

To this day, after four decades, American cigar lovers have been unable to procure what are said to be the finest smokes on the global market.

As a result, Cuban cigars hold a status of perpetual wonderment among US smokers unable to enjoy one of life's greatest pleasures.

And, according to a story which emerged in later years, they weren't the only ones reluctant to see their country bereft of Cuban cigars...

Kennedy's loyal Whitehouse aide,
Pierre Salinger, in the '60s

For years, a popular legend did the rounds. That, the night before Kennedy signed the embargo, he had ordered Whitehouse aide Pierre Salinger on a very urgent errand.

Salinger - a keen smoker himself - was apparently charged with the task of locating and gathering every box of H Upmann Petit Upmann, Kennedy's favourite Cuban cigar, in the Washington DC area.

That night, Salinger's mission was success. He incredibly managed to gather 1,200 H Upmann Petit Upmann cigars for the President.

The next morning, he went into the President's office and told him the news. Kennedy immediately pulled the embargo from his desk drawer and signed it.

Many dismissed this story as untrue over the years - often contending that Kennedy's favourite cigars were in fact from the Philippines.

However, in the above video, you can see Pierre Salinger recount the tale himself - of how, the night before the Cuba embargo was signed, he procured 1,200 Cuban cigars for the US President.

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