Written by Puff Staff

Friday, 09 March 2012

User Rating: / 4

hand rolled cigars

cubanleadA Cuban cigar is like a fine gem—rare, expensive and hard to get. But despite the U.S. embargo against Cuba, sales of Cuban cigars worldwide rose 9% last year.

This country may be still mired in a recession, but the international market for luxury goods is growing. One of those items is cigars from Cuba, and this year’s 14th International Cigar Festival in Havana hosted by Habanos, a Cuban-British venture distributing Cuban cigars, attracted 1500 visitors from 60 countries, all bent on procuring the finest smokes in the world and willing to pay top dollar. Canadian cigar distributor Angela Giannoulis has visited the festival ten times and enjoys how it helps her keep up with the industry. “You get to try stuff before anyone else, so that's a nice perk, and it’s people united by the same passion. You can smoke anywhere, you can get them fresh out of a roller's hands. It really is an art to be appreciated.”

Cuban trade and foreign finance minister Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz was upbeat as he walked about the festival. “Things are going well. The cigar has been appreciated since Columbus landed here. And it will continue to be, because they are very good.” For the true cigar aficionado, that’s an understatement, since Cuban cigars are more prized and desired than any other.



If you’re in the U.S., they’re also the hardest to obtain.  Habanos co-president Jorge Luis Fernandez Maique explained, “The embargo is something that affects everyone. It affects us as a country, as a business, and it affects the American consumer. They can’t buy directly from Cuba, so they have no way of knowing if they are buying genuine Cuban cigars.” Since 220 million to 250 million cigars are smoked every year in the United States, the embargo cost Habanos approximately $79 million in sales last year.

So what makes the Cuban cigar so unique? For one thing, there is no place on earth more suited to growing tobacco than Cuba, with its year-round tropical climate. Tobacco is also grown in other areas such as Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, the Philippines and some eastern U.S. states, but the leaves grown in Cuba have a favor that can’t be matched.



For another, there are the skills of Cuban cigar makers, who have been rolling their product for centuries using the same method. The leaves are harvested and hung to dry in a barn before being rolled by hand into the final product. This produces a cigar that combines high quality with a distinctive taste that can’t be duplicated by the black market knockoffs. Habanos director of marketing Ana Lopez explained, “Smoke a fake cigar, and you will not find the right blend. You are going to find something totally different, and probably (you) will be disappointed.”

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