T Nation

Cuban Cigars

On a trip up to Canada a few years ago and had my first cuban. They’re so much better than any cigars sold in america. Since I don’t go to Canada very often, does anyone have some online sources for cubans with a good price? PM me if need be. Thanks

[quote]TTewell342 wrote:
On a trip up to Canada a few years ago and had my first cuban. They’re so much better than any cigars sold in america. Since I don’t go to Canada very often, does anyone have some online sources for cubans with a good price? PM me if need be. Thanks[/quote]

You can’t say, “cuban cigar” as if they are all the same, excellent cigars. There are quite a few cigars that can be purchased in America that are better than a lot of the Cubans on the market today. Cubans have a myth built around them that just won’t die, even as their quality continues to decline.

http://www.cigaraficionado.com/Cigar/CA_Archives/CA_Show_Article/0,2322,219,00.html

The Decline of Cuban Cigars
Only a few brands still rate outstanding
By Marvin R. Shanken

Ever since my love affair with cigars began, I have been an aficionado of cigars made in Cuba. Some of the most memorable smokes of my life have been the benchmarks of the Cuban cigar industry: a Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona, a Partagas Lusitania, a Montecristo No. 2 or a Punch Punch. And who can forget the Davidoff cigars that were produced in Cuba prior to 1992? To this day, the great Dom Perignon and the Davidoff Anniversario 80 are simply some of the greatest cigars ever made.

But truth be told, it has been a while since I’ve encountered the mind-blowing experiences that those cigars delivered in earlier vintages. Over the last couple of years, I have smoked some cigars that I couldn’t believe were Cubans. They drew poorly or the tobacco was raw. Then, in a blind tasting, I smoked a cigar that, unknown to me, was from one of Cuba’s greatest brands. After discovering the origin of the cigar, I argued that it had to be a counterfeit. But I was told that it came from one of the most reputable Cuban cigar dealers in the world. When my encounters with substandard cigars reached their peak about six months ago, I asked my editors to put together a graph, plotting the scores of the highest-scoring Cuban cigars we had ever rated, and then track them over the past nine years. We also decided to go out in the market and buy today’s version of the cigars that have scored the highest in our tastings over the years.

The results proved a point that, at least in part, supported my original impression: the overall quality of Cuban cigars has declined during the past nine years. Almost without exception, the graphs of the nine cigars we smoked show that the highest scores were given out in the early years of Cigar Aficionado. And, in more recent years, the scores have fallen significantly. Although certain cigars still have some outstanding scores, the majority are now ending up below their earlier performances.

What happened? And what’s the outlook?

The causes have been well documented by Cigar Aficionado’s European editor and Cuba expert, James Suckling. He has visited Cuba repeatedly over the past few years, and spent time in the fields with tobacco growers and some of the most respected people in Cuba’s cigar business. Those in the Cuban cigar industry succumbed to the same pressures that affected cigarmakers everywhere during the peak of the cigar boom in the mid-1990s. They planted tobacco in areas that were not suited for it. They sped up the curing and fermentation processes. They used tobacco in cigars before it had been properly aged. They rapidly trained new rollers in the factory, and rushed them onto the production line before they could consistently create a great cigar. In short, they tried to increase production before they had all the pieces to the puzzle worked out. Throw in just one bad crop, and suddenly they not only had mediocre tobacco being rolled by ill-trained people, but they lacked the full range of tobacco varieties necessary to create the full-bodied blends associated with Cuba. No wonder everyone has had some bad cigars from Cuba in recent years.

But the Cubans in the past year have finally been willing to admit their shortcomings. They are decreasing their cigar- production targets. They are beginning to return to traditional methods of curing and fermenting tobacco. They stopped using some hybrid tobaccos that weren’t right for their fields. And they are working hard to reimpose stringent quality controls in the production process. Behind all the new efforts is the presence of Altadis, the company created from the merger of Spain’s Tabacalera S.A. and the French tobacco company, SEITA. Altadis also purchased a 50 percent stake in Habanos S.A. last year, and its executives are now installed in Havana to help oversee the renaissance of the Cuban cigar industry.

Will it work? We all know that cigars are not created overnight. From the time decisions are made about the tobacco plantings to the finished hand-rolled cigar coming out of a factory, production can take more than two years. We’re still at least a year away from seeing the full impact of the changes in cigars reaching the marketplace. On a recent trip to London, for example, I sampled some new cigars, a Partagas Pyramid and a Montecristo Robusto, which has been released as a Millennium cigar. The first couple I tried were terrible, with extremely poor draws and very harsh tastes. But out of different boxes, we tasted some that were much better. It shows that while some good tobacco is now being used, construction problems remain and the Cubans still use plenty of raw tobacco. But at least we know someone is paying attention.

For this “Best of Cuba” issue, we decided to go into the marketplace and buy the cigars that have received the highest scores in Cigar Aficionado. We chose nine cigars based on those scores and, in part, based on what was available today in the market. Four editors then smoked those cigars in a blind tasting.

There was at least one good example of what Cuba can still do: the Cohiba Robusto scored a 94 in the tasting, its highest rating in six years. The cigar exhibited great depth of flavors, perfect construction and a silky, attractive wrapper. This score didn’t reach the peak of 1992, when the cigar received a 96, but all the elements are in place for that brand to climb back to its previous glories.

On the flip side is the Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona. This cigar received the highest score ever given in a Cigar Aficionado tasting: 99 in 1992. In the recent test, the cigar received an 87, a shadow of its former depth and flavor. Furthermore, many of the larger cigars in this tasting had to be tasted twice because the draw was too tight. The London retailers I spoke with said this has been an all-too-common problem with the bigger sizes in recent months.

The results suggest that buyers must still be very careful when purchasing Cuban cigars. If you’re in Havana, check out the box codes, and look for older cigars. If you can’t find any older ones, be sure to check the boxes for consistency of color, and carefully check the cigars for overfilling and tight spots. In the next 12 months, we should begin to see better tobaccos getting into the cigars, and if the quality-control issue can be rectified, the cigars should get better.

I can’t wait. I want to go back to those glory days of 10 years ago when you could pick up one of the great Cuban brands and know that you were going to have a great smoke.

First, if you smoked a “Cuban” cigar in Canada, it was almost certainly fake. Counterfeit cigars outnumber geniune Cuban cigars in Canada by at least ten-to-one.

Second, whenever someone says “Cuban cigars,” I laugh my ass off. While Cuban tobacco has a unique flavor, blends vary significantly by brand.

Third, importing Cuban cigars into the United States is illegal. Why are you asking people to help you commit a crime?

Fourth, if you think my third point is silly, note this: Customs has recently cracked down on the importation of Cuban cigars, and many people have received, “We know what you bought, and we’re coming to get you” letters. So knock it off!

[quote]TTewell342 wrote:
On a trip up to Canada a few years ago and had my first cuban. They’re so much better than any cigars sold in america. Since I don’t go to Canada very often, does anyone have some online sources for cubans with a good price? PM me if need be. Thanks[/quote]

yeah id love to know what type it was.

thats true about the letters. technically, being a US citizen, by buying a cuban cigar, even if youre doing it “legally” such as in the cayman islands for example, youre still breaking the law and subject to the penalties.

that being said, ive heard that you can come across authentic cubans in the cayman islands. ive also been told that the cohiba’s are of very good quality, even if they are charging you $50/each for them. so ive heard.

my favorite smoke is a romeo y julieta that a friend brings me back from florida. it comes in a silver tube with i believe black writing, and the label is red and gold…or maybe the writing on the tube is red and the label is black and gold…im not sure, whatever color the writing is on the tube, its not the same color as the writing on the romeo y julieta tube at my local cigar shop, and the label is a different color too.

and i know that the ones that come from florida for me are a much better smoke, draw, etc., and quite frankly, its a much better buzz. the one from florida also has the same, consistently sweet resin on it, all of that combined makes for a very good smoke.

ive had a few h. upmans recently too, i wish i knew the model names for all of these, as thatd be more helpful…but sorry!..but yea the h. upmans ive had recently have been a fairly decent smoke, nice little buzz, consistent draw.

in the beginning of the summer i was out in vegas, picked up a handful of davidoffs from the cigar shop in the venetian…those were quality smokes as well, but im pretty sure my local shop does not carry them. other than my romeo y julieta that comes from florida, and whatever cohibas may be in the cayman islands, the davidoff is a favorite.

its got a really nice flavor, great draw, has a hint of that sweet resin on the wrap, and smoked for an hour or so, maybe an hour and fifteen or so- not sure, the last one i smoked i was out in the pool with a floating cooler, drinking and crying like a puss because my brother was packing up his moving truck.

used to have a nice punch that i liked, but the quality seemed to be going down for a while. from what i hear, they are coming back up, so maybe ill give them a try again soon. that is, if i can stop dipping…ugh, damn free samples at motorcycle events.

anyway, those are my top picks.

Thanks for some info. Now I know at least a little of what to look for. I figured I’d get flamed for not knowing the brand name. I WISH i did. I don’t claim to be an afficianado.

LOL. I was too cranky. Here’s the deal…

There are a few sites that will ship to the U.S. I don’t order from them, but I many others do. (For me, the legal risk is not worth it.)

Know this: MOST (as in 90%) Cuban cigars are fakes. Most sites are selling fake Cuban cigars. NEVER order from Canada. Even the “official” (i.e., licensed by the gov’t) ones peddle fakes. Also, don’t order from the U.K. - too expensive.

I would give you a link, but I don’t want to encourage lawlessness. PM and I’ll give you the search terms to use to find what you are looking for.

[quote]TTewell342 wrote:
Thanks for some info. Now I know at least a little of what to look for. I figured I’d get flamed for not knowing the brand name. I WISH i did. I don’t claim to be an afficianado.[/quote]

My first job in college was working a a cigar store started in the “Boom” days of the mid-90’s.

I smoked thousands of cigars at work, too much is made of “Cuban” cigars.

Dominican and Honduran cigars made with Cuban seed by Fuente and Hoyo are at least very, very close in taste and feel.

I know this other guy, let’s call him ArlingtonAttorney, who has smoked a few cigars in his time, including some real Cubans (purchased in various other countries) and a few fake Cubans – and he told me that the real Cubans do have an extra kick, though the quality of the wrappers and the craftsmanship of the cigars is definitely lesser than a good Honduran. He told me that it wouldn’t be worth it to bother going on a goose chase trying to find Cubans on the internet – just buy the good brands, e.g. Romeo et Julieta, Partagas, Davidoff, etc., that make excellent Honduran or Dominican smokes and use good ol’ U.S. Connecticut tobacco wrappers – they will be better constructed and offer a great smoke, with none of the associated illegalities. He also suggested saving your Cuban searches for foreign vacations, and also suggested that you will never get a “bargain” on a real Cuban.

[quote]CaliforniaLaw wrote:

Know this: MOST (as in 90%) Cuban cigars are fakes. Most sites are selling fake Cuban cigars. NEVER order from Canada. Even the “official” (i.e., licensed by the gov’t) ones peddle fakes. Also, don’t order from the U.K. - too expensive.

[/quote]

can you please site your sources. because 90% is a really high percentage? and it doesnt really make since to me why there would be such a high percentage of fakes at a cigar shop(since that would be illegal). the only times your gonna run into fakes is off some dude on the street. at most the ones in the shops would be seconds, but not fakes.