- Zino Davidoff A life dedicated to cigars


Zino Davidoff A life dedicated to cigars


The life story of Zino Davidoff is a biography with a constant theme: from beginning to end, it was dedicated to tobacco.


When Zino Davidoff was born on 11 March 1906 in the Ukrainian city of Kiev, the first smell to greet him was the aroma of the oriental tobacco from which his father Henri secretly rolled cigarettes for friends and acquaintances in the family home despite official bans. At the age of five, Zino and his family fled from the pogroms in czarist Russia. At the end of a hazardous escape, the Davidoffs reached Geneva in 1911, where his father immediately opened a small tobacco shop on the Place des Philosophes that rapidly became a popular meeting point for exiled enemies of the Czar. One of them stuck in the young boys memory, because he did not pay for his cigarettes and his father did not dare to demand the money for them. The impecunious connoisseur was called Wladimir Illjitsch Uljanow, who later adopted the name Lenin.


After leaving school, Zino decided he would prefer to see the world rather than attend university. Armed with an introduction from one of his fathers friends, he set sail for South America, moneyless and with just a dinner jacket. Shortly after arrival in Argentina, Davidoff a stateless person had his League of Nations passport stolen. The local authorities, unfamiliar with this document, took Davidoff to be diplomat from his easy, confident manner and issued him with new ID documents without further ado. Thats how Zino gained his Argentinean citizenship that was later to be followed by the Swiss citizenship.


For five years, starting in 1925, Zino worked in tobacco plantations and cigar factories in Argentina, Brazil and Cuba, where he discovered his great love of tobacco that was to last all his life. In Havana he learnt everything about the cultivation, storage and exploitation of the incomparable Cuban Puro. On his return to Geneva in 1930, he wasted no time in expanding his fathers business with a cigar department and a special cellar, in which the valuable tobaccos could be stored without loss of quality. This forerunner of todays humidor was the first of its kind in the world. The same year Zino married the daughter of a family friend who later bore him a daughter.


In the years that followed, Davidoffs tobacco shop earned a reputation mainly through the import of Cuban cigars. In the Great Depression of the 1930s, business was at first still slow, but the shop in Geneva was soon regarded as the worlds premier address for Havana cigar lovers. During the Second World War, Davidoff benefited from his good relationships with the Cubans. They allowed him to take charge of their large cigar warehouse in Paris before the Germans invaded France, with the result that for a considerable time Davidoff was the only dealer able to supply Havana cigars. During the war, aficionados paid regular visits to Geneva to purchase their preferred cigars from him. 


After the end of the Second World War, the Cubans set out with Davidoff to conquer the  European market, which was dominated by German, Dutch and Swiss manufacturers. Zino surprised his partners in Havana with the idea of naming selected cigars after the Grand Cru wines of Bordeaux. With a view to a select international clientele, he named his first line after the legendary G.C. appellations Château Haut-Brion, Château Lafite, Château Latour, Château Margaux and Château Yquem. With this began the rise of an empire that even the Cuban revolution in 1959 failed to disturb. In recognition of his great service, his Cuban friends offered to produce his own line for him in 1970. This was the moment the renowned Davidoff No. 1, Davidoff No. 2 and the Ambassadrice were born. However, Zino Davidoff never met Fidel Castro, El maximo lider.


Around that time, in 1967, the first edition of the now renowned The Connoisseurs Book of the Cigar appeared, although at first, Zino wanted nothing to do with the request to publish a type of philosophy for cigar aficionados. However. when the publisher loaned him the services of a ghostwriter, Davidoff exhibited boundless knowledge, expertise and charm. The compendium became a standard work for cigar smokers with more than 200,000 copies sold in different languages.


At the peak of his career in 1970, Zino Davidoff ensured the continuation of his company and sold the business to the old-established family company Oettinger from Basel. Its head, Dr. Ernst Schneider, continued to work closely with his friend Zino and nominated the charismatic founder as Ambassador of the Davidoff brand.


In the early 1990s, following an evaluation of various tobacco-growing areas, the two friends decided in favour of the Dominican Republic. The new generation of Davidoff cigars was born.


On 14 January 1994, Zino Davidoff passed away in Geneva at the age of 88 and was buried among his close family in the Jewish cemetery there. In his obituaries, the world mourned a man who had dedicated his life to tobacco and cigars from beginning to end. A bon vivant with a fine sense of humour and a highly developed sense for the finer things in life. An aesthete, who understood and respected people. Zino Davidoff never lost sight of his goal, to enrich life through pleasure. He remained faithful to it and his principles, even as a successful businessman. He believed in the original and in pleasure. Nothing expresses this lifelong attitude better than his credo: "Smoke less, but better and longer - make a cult of it, even a philosophy!"


((Box)): Biographic Data



Born 11 March in Kiev, Ukraine


Escapes to Geneva with his family

Schooling and school leaving examination in Geneva

Helps out in the family tobacco shop


Emigrates to South America

Spends time working in the Argentinean, Brazilian and Cuban tobacco industry


Returns to Geneva, expands the family business with a cigar department and a special cellar for the optimum storage of cigars



Acquires the stock of Havana cigars from Paris. Zino Davidoff is the only dealer able to offer Cuban cigars during the Second World War


Launch of the Davidoff Grands Crus


1st edition of the The Connoisseurs Book of the Cigar in French (Le Livre du Connaisseur de Cigare). Translations in German, English, Italian, Dutch and Spanish followed later.


Launch of the future classics Davidoff No. 1, No. 2 and Ambassadrice with the white band now renowned throughout the world

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