Although Davidoff is considered a Swiss brand name, few know that its founder, Zino Davidoff, was born in Kyiv in 1906. Zino’s father, Henri Davidoff, was a Jewish tobacco merchant in Kyiv, but pogroms and civil unrest forced the family to immigrate to Switzerland in 1911. In Geneva, Henri opened a tobacco shop which quickly failed.
After finishing school in 1924, Zino travelled across the Atlantic where he studied the tobacco business in Brazil, Argentina and Cuba. Returning to Europe, he rebuilt the Davidoff shop and specialized in catering to demanding customers. Success for Zino began during the Second World War and the German occupation. On the advice of Cuban magnates, a French tobacco organization gave him all their tobacco. In a few months, Zino’s store was the only place in Europe where you could find the highest quality products. After the war, Zino came up with the idea of naming his cigars after famous French wines: Chateau Latour, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, etc.
In his old age, Zino’s business hit a roadblock. As a result of a break in relations with Cuban suppliers, Davidoff was forced to find a new tobacco source and the product’s characteristic bouquet was lost. At the age of 85, Zino started all over. With the energy and daring of a young man, he decided to develop a new variety of cigars that could give the legendary Cubans a run for their money. Davidoff chose the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The climate was similar to Cuba’s and tobacco had been grown there for nearly 500 years. This move paid off, and Davidoff cigars began to receive higher evaluations by international commissions than Cuba’s prestigious Partagas.
“The ability to enjoy a cigar is the ability to live,” Davidoff once said. The founder of the legendary brand died in Geneva in 1994, just a few years before his brand would debut in his hometown of Kyiv.
Zino Davidoff was actually a failed violinist and rather poor before his workaholic nature and taste for the finer things helped him break into Europe’s cigar and cigarette market. Success on the world stage followed as did a collection of exclusive drinks, dry goods, watches and perfumes.