Are Cuban cigars really better?
May 19, 2015, 11:57 p.m.
The comparison of Cuban vs. non-Cuban cigars is an interesting debate.
Cuban cigars for many years were known as the best of the best. However, when the Castro’s took the farms from the farmers, many of the best producers immediately left the country–for Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominican Republic, etc. Those families–the Fuente’s, the Padron’s, etc.–have now had more than 50 years to hone their craft in these other countries. Just as there are cheaply made cigars (and cheap tobacco used) in any country, the same holds true with Cuba.
I have read reports stating that approximately 70% of all cigars sold as Cuban, aren’t even Cuban cigars, just cheap cigars re-banded to take advantage of non-educated tourists. That being said, I would put many cigars from other countries up against a Cuban, and they would likely win, depending on the brand, taster’s palate, etc.
Regarding the question of if they’re better or not:
Like any cigar, your favorite will be different from my favorite. Are there terrific Cuban cigars? Of course. Are there terrific Nicaraguan cigars? Yes. Same with Dominican cigars, and Honduran sticks, etc. However, many people believe that ALL Cuban cigars are better than their counterparts. This is just inherently false.
Why are Cubans perceived as better to the general public? One main reason: Supply and Demand. You can’t get them here, therefore they’re “cool”. It’s like Prohibition in the ’20s. You were a star if you had some liquor in your basement. And now it’s the same with Cuban cigars. There are some outstanding Cubans out there–don’t get me wrong. But true aficianados know that they are outstanding Nicaraguan and Honduran cigars, as well.
Some things to think about regarding Cuban cigars:
1. The embargo has NOT been lifted. Only Congress can do that, not the President, and they haven’t. What you CAN do, is bring $100 worth of cigars back into the US if you happen to travel to Cuba without being penalized. On average, that equates to about 4-5 cigars.
2. The farms are state-owned. So by purchasing those Cuban cigars, you are, in fact, supporting the Castro regime.
3. Cuba is a poor country and the Castro’s are greedy, so normal farming techniques may not be utilized in the interest of quick dollars. This means quality may suffer. And this is my main fear should the embargo be lifted. Cuba will flood the US market with as many cigars as they can pump out–aging, resting fields, quality control, etc. be damned.
4. Many of the older rollers in Nicaragua, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic learned their craft in Cuba. They teach the younger rollers that technique. So, the rolling of a cigar someplace other than Cuba doesn’t make it a less desirable cigar.
El cigarro perfecto
My perfect cigar changes almost daily. I look at cigars a lot like wine. Sometimes I want something I know is good and I’ll enjoy. For me, currently, that is the Fuente Signature, the Rocky Patel 2003 Cameroon, or the Liga Undercrown. However, I love to try new cigars to see what flavors and nuances I may be missing out on. It just depends on my mood and the environment. I smoke different cigars when I am with my friends on a back porch vs. mowing the lawn.
The most interesting impact of lifting of the Cuban embargo (if it happens) will be this: The blends that American cigar smokers will get to experience. Imagine a cigar with Dominican and Honduran filler, a binder of Nicaraguan tobacco leaf, and a Cuban wrapper. Or Cuban filler with Nicaraguan binder and wrapper. It has potential to be very intriguing