So I just realized my other opinion piece had a similar title. Just bashing on American’s left and right over here. However, this is another topic that is always heavily played out within cigar lounges and currently in popular culture. Cuba, man. Let me start this off by saying there are a lot of things I like about this country. There’s a huge cigar culture there, I like cigars. They produce rum, and I like rum. So right off the bat, we’re off to a good start. Now comes my childlike tirade on this topic as it stands in modern day cigar culture.
As a retail tobacconist, there isn’t a day that goes by that someone doesn’t mention “Cuba” or “cuban cigars” in the shop I work at. Whether they are bringing back a glass-top box they purchased on the beach in Mexico, or how they know a guy who knows a guy, whose cousin’s brother-in-law’s dog sitter works at one of the factories in Havana, it never ends. Again, this is an opinion piece so the information I’m about to share has been told to me, and I have no reason to believe any of it is false.
I lived in Madrid for a total of about a year. In Spain, there is one tobacco store that sells cigars called an “Estanco,” which you can find located throughout Spain. In that shop you will find Cuban cigars. Throughout Europe, Asia, North America, and South America you can visit a “La Casa del Habano,” where you will find Cuban cigars. So if you know where to look, and you know what to look for, they aren’t hard to find around the rest of the world. However, the number of cigar companies and lines that exist in the non-Cuban market exceed those of the Cuban market by a number I can’t even fathom. So for the average American smoker, it is much easier to frequent your local Brick & Mortar, or even go online than it is to risk trying to find Cuban cigars. With that being said, I do find myself buying Cuban cigars from reputable contacts I have made and established. I enjoy the flavor of some of their lines, as Cuban tobacco is different than any other tobacco in the world.
I have a lot of issues with the Cuban cigar market and its following. The customers coming into Brick and Mortar’s asking for a Cuban cigar, who are clearly unaware of the current restrictions regarding products from Cuba, have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. They’ve smoked 10 cigars in their life, two of them being a Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real or an Arturo Fuente, and the other 8 being short-filler Cohiba Limited edition 2023’s that they purchased on the beach in Cancun or Punta Cana. They come into local shops like aficionado’s and look at your selection like they’re all cigarettes because they’re not Cubans. And when you explain that Cubans are still illegal, their follow up question normally goes like, “Well, then where are your Acid’s?” Yeah, ok bud.
Let’s go on a limb and say you’ve had an authentic Cuban. So you’re pretty excited about the potential for the American market to receive Cuban cigars at some point. Here’s a few pointers for people that don’t know much about Cuban Cigars.
- Cuba only uses their own tobacco in their cigars
The majority of the cigars on the non-Cuban market contain tobacco’s from a variety of different countries. It’s not uncommon for you to smoke a cigar that has tobacco from four or five different countries in the same cigar. That is not the case in Cuba. That’s not to say that Cuba is incapable of producing different types of tobacco, but that it limits them to using only their own tobacco. That means that for the 27
brands that are currently in production, they have to grow enough tobacco to produce each line and supply the entire world. As it stands now, Cuba is having enough of a problem producing tobacco for the rest of the world, however there is a greater percentage of cigar smokers in America than there is in any other country. There are statistics that even say that America is the number one market for consuming Cuban cigars. But if the embargo ends today, that means Cuba has to roll at an even higher rate, which will inevitably lead to poorer quality control as well as other issues.
- Cuban cigars are rolled fresh (with some exceptions)
There is only a short period of time after the leaves are harvested and then cured that the tobacco grown is on its way to the factory. Cuba places box dates on the bottom of each box that leaves the island, letting the smoker know when they were rolled. That is an important date for Cuban cigar smokers. As the cigars are rolled fresh, ammonia starts to build up in the cigar. That is common with all fresh tobacco, not just Cuban tobacco. If you were to smoke a Cuban cigar within the first year or so that it is rolled, there is good chance you will taste some of that ammonia. The cigar is too young or “green.” This is something you hardly see in the non-cuban market, because most tobacco’s grown in other countries are aged. Padrón, Fuente, Davidoff, all the top dogs in the non-cuban market have years and years of tobacco in inventory. They have the capability of aging their tobaccos, which like fine wine gets better with time. Cuba doesn’t have that luxury. The demand is so high that not long after the tobacco is harvested, it finds its way into a box to be shipped. As a society, speaking on behalf of American’s, we are lazy. We live in an instant-gratification world. Cigar smokers are no different. When you visit a Brick & Mortar you pick up a cigar out of a humidor, cut it, light it, and smoke it right then. That’s not to say there aren’t people out there that age their cigars, or take good care of them. But for the most part, there is comfort in going somewhere and having that taken care for you. Or even better, going on your computer, clicking a few buttons, and having the cigars show up right on your porch two or three days later. Do you really think that if the embargo ends today, and young Cuban cigars start showing up in La Casa del Habano’s in the United States, that your average smoker is going to take that box of $400 Cohiba Robusto’s and store them in their humidor for a full year? They are going to fire that cigar up on the way home, and either trick themselves into believing the cigar is great, or wondering what the hell they just put in their mouth. Go ahead and tell your average American cigar smoker to be patient and wait on the cigar that he or she purchased.
This isn’t an article to dissuade you from buying Cuban cigars or being excited for a potential end of the embargo. This is an informative article on what to expect should we see that day come sooner than later. Don’t expect these cigars to be absolutely incredible right off the rolling table, and don’t think that because the cigar you bought didn’t meet your expectations that it means that all Cuban cigars will be like that. There’s just a different process and a different approach you need to take once they come out.
Peace and Broadleaf