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pantsBoots

Senior Member
Jul 21, 2020
402
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Ain't no place I'd rather be
Moreover, the layers of trust that need be navigated to obtain Cubans in today's circumstances are ridiculous. I was told by pm by a member on a forum who thought I should know of a vendor in Hong Kong who dealt in non-counterfeit cigars. So I have to trust the member. Then I have to trust that whoever the vendor gets the cigars from is legitimate. Now I don't know the board member, the vendor nor the vendor's supplier. But there's one more level. The supplier has to trust his contact who works in the factory. So that's three or four levels of trust depending on how you add them. I won't meet any of these people. Unacceptable.

And have you ever read of what Cuban smokers go through to authenticate that the cigars they bought are genuine? There's a dozen or so marks including the date stamp, etc., on the box, and they change. So they not only have to find the mark and ascertain that it is correct but also the date range when it was used in that manner.

Counterfeiting Cubans is big business.

This was a circus that I learned to avoid when I smoked cigars, and it was made all the more easy to given that fine cigars are made in various locales. Maybe Cubans are better, but to me they weren't worth the trouble.
With all due respect, all of this concern is common for beginners, but not for those who regularly enjoy Cuban cigars. My first box, sure I checked the warranty seals and bands and box, even getting nervous that the embossing wasn't perfect on the cigars bands. It was a box of Ramon Allones Specially Selected and the appearance of it cost me several hours of stress, until I lit one up and had my first taste of Cuban terroir.

From then on, 15 years ago, I've bought thousands and thousands of Havana cigars and almost never checked the barcode or fretted over the way they looked (except for some showing substandard construction and wrapper leafs). In this day and age of the mighty internet, with its reviews and forums, it simply isn't worth it for an online vendor to proffer fakes. Even a box here and there could reduce their customer base significantly in a week or two. On the beach in Mexico, sure - you'll see fakes left and right. Online, they're pretty rare.
 

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saltedplug

Preferred Member
Aug 20, 2013
3,777
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When I read online about cigars, I found a good deal of material that said Cuba had depleted its soil and that as a result of Castro manhandling the industry during the boom to boost production,, quality had plummeted. What's your take on this?
 

dcon

Preferred Member
Mar 16, 2019
1,691
7,492
Jacksonville, FL
When I read online about cigars, I found a good deal of material that said Cuba had depleted its soil and that as a result of Castro manhandling the industry during the boom to boost production,, quality had plummeted. What's your take on this?
Nothing is what it “used to be”. Castro, has been dead almost a decade. There is no doubt that, after the fall of the USSR, economic necessity and the 90s increase in demand caused quality control problems. I have seen the ebb and flow of quality over the years. I have found that some cigars have been brought to market with less aged leaf over the years and with the inevitable demise of senior rollers, there is bound to be some issues until rollers have years of experience. Overall, I have seen fewer ”fakes” over the years and I find Cuban cigars (IMO) superior to any others. There is a reason that manufacturers still market as “Cuban” like. I buy from Casa del Habanos and other reputable Habanos dealers and their attempts at making sure consumers know what they are buying are admirable.
 
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pantsBoots

Senior Member
Jul 21, 2020
402
862
Ain't no place I'd rather be
When I read online about cigars, I found a good deal of material that said Cuba had depleted its soil and that as a result of Castro manhandling the industry during the boom to boost production,, quality had plummeted. What's your take on this?
The soil was an issue from what I understand during the boom in the 90s, but then they started noticing what the Dominican & Nicarguan farmers were doing & amending the soil with more than manure. This is most apparent in the color of Cuban cigar ash vs that produced in other countries. White-colored ash often goes hand-in-hand with good combustion of cigar leaf, whereas Cuban cigars used to be known for their dark grey or even black ash, especially before 2006. Once the Cuban farmers started added minerals to the soil (notably magnesium), burn rate improved.

As for Castro manhandling the industry, you have to remember that in exchange for all of the free government handouts like healthcare, housing, etc, Cubans must contend with very low wages. I don't know what the numbers are today, but ten years ago, cigar factory workers were bringing home something like $100 (equivalent) per MONTH. It's hard to give a crap about your job and QC with wages like that.

Beginning in 2006, in addition to continuing to create new hybrids of tobacco, the factories began implementing the use of draw-testing machines, freezing cigars post production to kill beetle eggs, and supposedly added some more QC/QA people to the team. Between the soil and the QC implemented around 05/06, quality began to rise. 06-08 were, to me, benchmark years. There have been others since then, including late 19/early 20 boxcodes. It is possible to get consistent cigars box to box.

As of a couple years ago, after a few years of terrible crop production due to storms and other weather-related issues (2014-2017), Habanos SA has revamped their marketing strategy, axed a bunch of affordable, classic sticks and started producing more special releases with high price tags (regionals, edicion limitadas, LCDH-only releases) and less regular production vitolas. In addition, they have begun releasing cigars with larger ring gauges, just like the Nicaraguan & Dominican manufacturers. While some say this is what the market wants, I am much more skeptical - assuming larger cigars allows higher prices and a greater ability to use volado-grade leaf, which has an excellent burn rate, but little flavor compared to other grades of leaf (ligero, seco, viso, etc). It allows them to sell more tobacco weight under one wrapper leaf.

All in all, I have tried lots of what's out there and have not found anything that can mimic the flavor of Cuban tobacco. A lot of manufacturers talk about their "Cubanesque" blends but I haven't found one yet that answers the call.
 
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lawdawg

Preferred Member
Aug 25, 2016
1,416
2,399
I would love to try some of those sampler packs from Small Batch, but alas, they are always sold out of everything that looks good. If they were able to maintain stock, then I'd visit their site more often when thinking of making an order.
 

hoosierpipeguy

Preferred Member
Jan 28, 2018
4,337
9,166
With all due respect, all of this concern is common for beginners, but not for those who regularly enjoy Cuban cigars. My first box, sure I checked the warranty seals and bands and box, even getting nervous that the embossing wasn't perfect on the cigars bands. It was a box of Ramon Allones Specially Selected and the appearance of it cost me several hours of stress, until I lit one up and had my first taste of Cuban terroir.

From then on, 15 years ago, I've bought thousands and thousands of Havana cigars and almost never checked the barcode or fretted over the way they looked (except for some showing substandard construction and wrapper leafs). In this day and age of the mighty internet, with its reviews and forums, it simply isn't worth it for an online vendor to proffer fakes. Even a box here and there could reduce their customer base significantly in a week or two. On the beach in Mexico, sure - you'll see fakes left and right. Online, they're pretty rare.
Agreed. There are plenty of reliable overseas shops to buy authentic Cuban cigars from. I would recommend steering away from the more well known brands right now and look at Saint Luis Rey, Rafael Gonzales, Vegas Robaina and Por Larranaga for the best deals and quality. Cohibas and Trinidad are still great but you'll pay dearly for them.

Domestically, register an account at egars.com to see their discount pricing.
 

saltedplug

Preferred Member
Aug 20, 2013
3,777
1,402
I really appreciate the replies. Hard to find good information. Odd how I still like to talk tobacco and pipes though I quit over two years ago. If my health could withstand smoking, there's no doubt I'de be spending money I didn't have on this surpassing merry-go-round. I have loved few things more than tobacco.
 
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saltedplug

Preferred Member
Aug 20, 2013
3,777
1,402
I didn't have the money to buy cigars, but I did it anyway by selling pipe tobacco and pipes. I smoked a lot of Nicaraguans and some Dominican, and as far as I was concerned, a good number of them were very good, and some excellent. I even learned the quintessential "Nicaraguan" taste, which I cannot recall nor describe here, but still a tasty taste.

So I pay attention when guys who've smoked Cubans say that they prefer Cubans. I say to myself that Cubans still have whatever it is that brought them praise for so long, which is good for me because I like to like Cubans.
 
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mso489

Preferred Member
Feb 21, 2013
32,003
19,022
I'm just an occasional cigar smoker. I bought Cubans on my business trips to Canada and smoked them there. As a perpetual beginner, I always had better luck with Dominican Republic products, much more than the Cubans I bought.
 
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danimalia

Preferred Member
Sep 2, 2015
2,740
10,780
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San Francisco Bay Area, USA
To be clear, I believe many of the cigars being made in Nicaragua and the DR are every bit as good as the best CCs. Even a Habanos zealout would likely admit that the Olivas, My Fathers and Fuentes, etc. of the world have surpassed the Cubans in terms of cigar construction and quality control.
I'm just an occasional cigar smoker. I bought Cubans on my business trips to Canada and smoked them there. As a perpetual beginner, I always had better luck with Dominican Republic products, much more than the Cubans I bought.
That was my initial experience with the Cubans I had when I first started smoking CCs. By all accounts, I was experiencing the last dregs of a down period making its way through the supply chain. For a long time, my favorite CC was a Partagas D4. Not because it tasted best, but because it seemed to be one of the few that was rolled well and smoked decently. In my experience, the Habanos of today are much higher quality than those of the early-mid 00s*. Up until 2014 or 2015 I counted myself in the "Habanos are way overrated," category though I always enjoyed that Cuban tobacco terroir. A great 10 count box of Hoyo Epicure Especiales changed my entire perspective and sent me on a journey through many great cigars. If I had to choose between Cubans and non-Cubans, well... I'm very glad I don't have to make that choice because I feel fortunate to have both options relatively available.

*You still have a higher chance of getting a plugged or wonky cigar from Habanos than from a top Nicaraguan or Dominican factory, but the success rate seems much higher.
 

hoosierpipeguy

Preferred Member
Jan 28, 2018
4,337
9,166
To be clear, I believe many of the cigars being made in Nicaragua and the DR are every bit as good as the best CCs. Even a Habanos zealout would likely admit that the Olivas, My Fathers and Fuentes, etc. of the world have surpassed the Cubans in terms of cigar construction and quality control.

That was my initial experience with the Cubans I had when I first started smoking CCs. By all accounts, I was experiencing the last dregs of a down period making its way through the supply chain. For a long time, my favorite CC was a Partagas D4. Not because it tasted best, but because it seemed to be one of the few that was rolled well and smoked decently. In my experience, the Habanos of today are much higher quality than those of the early-mid 00s*. Up until 2014 or 2015 I counted myself in the "Habanos are way overrated," category though I always enjoyed that Cuban tobacco terroir. A great 10 count box of Hoyo Epicure Especiales changed my entire perspective and sent me on a journey through many great cigars. If I had to choose between Cubans and non-Cubans, well... I'm very glad I don't have to make that choice because I feel fortunate to have both options relatively available.

*You still have a higher chance of getting a plugged or wonky cigar from Habanos than from a top Nicaraguan or Dominican factory, but the success rate seems much higher.
Agree. I'd just as soon smoke a Nicaraguan cigar as a Cuban. Nice sweet flavors, full bodied and stronger. Cubans have the edge for complexity.
 

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