Have you ever wondered if Cuban cigars are worth their money? Part of the mystique about Cuban cigars is that they were hardly available in the US due to the embargo signed in 1962 by JFK. With the recent easing of restrictions, Americans can now buy Cuban cigars abroad and bring them into the country.
Cuban cigars are prestigious and with that, comes a higher price tag. So is it worth importing Montecristos or Cohibas into the US? Recently, a friend brought home Cohiba Robustos and Montecristo Edmundos so we had a chance to try them. Here is what we think.
Cuban Cigar Restrictions In The US
First of all, selling Cuban cigars in the US remains illegal. For the same reason, you can’t also buy them at online stores in America, however, you can bring back Cuban cigars from Cuba or from other third-party countries back to the US. The cigars you bring back are for personal consumption and for gifts only, you cannot resell them in the US. Interestingly, there are no dollar limits on how many cigars you can bring back. So if you’re now interested in bringing back Cuban cigars, please check out the FAQ section on the Department of Treasury website for more details. Please note that this is not legal advice.
Cuban Cigars vs Dominican Cigars
A Cohiba Robusto has a strength that is about four out of five. If you buy a box of 25, it breaks down to about 15 dollars per cigar. On the flipside, if you go with a Dominican Chateau Fuente sun-grown cigar, it costs about five bucks if you buy them in a case of twenty.
Both cigars have approximately the same strength yet the Cuban one is three times as expensive. In terms of flavor, the Arturo Fuente Robusto will give you notes of spices and chocolate. On the other hand, the Cohiba Robusto will have notes of wood, pepper, honey, and cocoa. Some also argue that it has some extra complexity compared to the Dominican cigar.
What Makes Cuban Cigars Special?
It’s definitely the strength and the flavor. A Cuban stogie represents, for most cigar aficionados, the ultimate experience. Known for their strength and flavor, they offer the smoker spicy, woody, and earthy tones that are just excellent. Sometimes, you can also have herbal notes but you’ll always enjoy a good intensity of the cigar. In blind tastings, the powerhouse cigars is usually a Cuban cigar. So yes, the big hallmark of Cuban cigars are strength and complexity. At the same time, there are also milder Cuban brands such as H. Upmann or Sancho Panza.
The Secret Of Cuban Cigars
Basically, it’s all in the Ligero which are the top leaves of the tobacco plant. More specifically, the medio tiempo leaves are smaller leaves that come up later in the plant and many growers don’t wait with the harvest until those medio tiempo leaves have developed and because of that, they are more sought after, more priced, and also more expensive to get. For example, some Cohibas such as the Behike line uses medio tiempo leaves.
It is a French word that encompasses lots of different things. Just like with any other agricultural product such as grapes, the quality of tobacco leaves and the final Cuban cigar depend on many aspects. Specifically, it’s about the climate, the temperature range, the rains, the wind, the soil, as well as the human hand. All of these aspects together make up for the terroir so even in the most exclusive Cuban tobacco firms such as in the Vuelta Abajo, in the region of the Pinar del Rio, you will find differences in the quality of some growers compared to their neighbors. For example, the leaves on the Vuelta Abajo Vegas which is a tobacco farm, are much superior to the Robainas Cuchillas de Barbacoa in San Luis.
Now there are also outstanding tobacco terroirs in Central or South America that are not in Cuba, for example, the tobacco used by Arturo Fuente for cigars like the Opus X, the Padron Aniversario, or the Serie 1926, or the Joya de Nicaragua are all of really top quality. Nevertheless, the fact remains that tobacco leaves from the Pinar del Rio region in Cuba remain the pinnacle of tobacco growing among the cigar aficionados in the world because they put out consistently good quality tobacco leaves.
Cons Of Cuban Cigars
Cuban stogies are not always consistent in their quality and can range from year to year. Because the demand for Cuban cigars is so high, they are sometimes pressured to produce more quickly which in turn means that the cigars can’t rest as long and that has an impact on the flavor. Generally, the leaves are edgier in flavor and it’s not as round as it could be if it would have rested for longer.
Also, just like other luxury products like the Montblanc Meisterstuck or the Rolex watch, Cuban cigars are also highly counterfeited and likely the most counterfeited tobacco products in the world. For example, Cuban cigar experts have more than 25 checkpoints on the cedar box of the cigars alone and of course, they don’t reveal them because otherwise, counterfeiters would pick up on them and it would be even more difficult to determine the real Cuban cigar from the fake counterfeit.
By investing top dollar in Cuban cigars, you may actually end up with a fake that doesn’t taste like the original product. Keep in mind that fake cigars are not just thriving outside of Cuba but also in Havana. So because of that, Cuban cigars should only be bought from trusted sources. As I mentioned among the pros, Cuban cigars are typically full flavored and strong.
As a tobacco or cigar novice, that may be overwhelming and off-putting. So as a novice smoker, it makes sense to start with something milder and then slowly but surely transition to these stronger cigars.
Are Cuban Cigars Worth It?
The answer is yes! The reasoning behind it is that the price is not cost prohibitive. Yes, a Cuban cigar can cost three times as much but at the of the day, the difference between a fifteen dollar cigar and a five dollar cigar is just ten dollars which is quite affordable for most people out there. If you get a Cuban cigar from a reliable source, you will likely end up with a more robust flavorful and complex cigar experience than you would with other cigars.
If you’re in a position right now where you can’t get your hands on Cuban cigars, it’s ok, you will eventually get your chance and in the meantime, you can figure out what’s easily available in the US on the guides in our website.