Written by Puff Staff

Friday, 09 March 2012

User Rating: / 4

hand rolled cigars

Since U.S. smokers are forbidden to buy Cuba’s cigars—at least legally—who is fueling the boom? Habanos VP Javier Terres credited Spain, the Middle East, Russia, China and Brazil with purchasing the most cigars, adding, “We are selling our products in 150 countries, which allows us to compensate to a certain degree for sales declines in some countries with increases in others.” Spain is still the number one consumer, although sales have slumped due to economic troubles. Terres also pointed out, “When you talk about luxury products, that upturn is driven now by China. It’s booming.”

While the smoking bans just grow more restrictive over here, other countries are more lenient. Riad Bou Karam operates the Casa de Habanos outlet in Moscow and reports business is booming. “There’s no smoking ban in Russia. You can still smoke in bars, clubs and restaurants there.”




If you’re now ready to go out and pick up a box of Cuban cigars, slow down. The U.S. instituted a trade embargo with Cuba in October, 1960. That means you can’t import anything made in Cuba to the U.S., so not only are you not allowed to smoke cigars in many places over here, U.S. citizens are forbidden by law to purchase or even smoke a Cuban cigar while traveling abroad. Don’t even think of trying to bring any back into this country, or you’ll be facing fines and other penalties if you get caught. No cigar is worth going to jail over!

There is a Cuban cigar that you can legally enjoy on U.S. soil, and that’s one made before the embargo was instituted, over 50 years ago. Are cigars that old still any good? Yes, according to Brad Berko, general manager of Paradise Cigar Company, which distributes vintage smokes to luxury hotels as well as collectors of fine cigars. He told Fortune Magazine: “Like wine, if cigars are properly aged, they get much better over the years. Pre-embargo Cubans are for cigar aficionados who enjoy the best of the best.”

The best never comes cheap, and pre-embargo Cubans can run $150-300 each. If you find any for less than $150, they’re probably counterfeit, so only buy from a reliable source. As Berko points out, “Buying pre-embargos are like buying a diamond, you have to go to the right person.” One reliable source is the twice-yearly fine wine auctions at Christie’s in London. Their catalogs are posted online about three weeks before an auction. Another source is a vintage cigar dealer or broker, but be prepared to pay anywhere from $500 to $20,000 per box. Buying Cuban cigars off the Internet is not recommended unless you know you have a reliable source.



If that’s out of your price range, what’s the next best thing to a Cuban cigar? A top line Dominican or Nicaraguan one. They can cost about as much as a good Cuban cigar, and some may actually be better. Experts consider the very rare, very expensive Fuente FuenteOpus X to be the best Dominican cigar, while the Padron 1926 is rated tops from Nicaragua.

Also recommended are the Dominican Cohiba and Montechristo cigars, as well as Hoyo de Monterrey cigars, which are made in Honduras with Cuban seed tobacco. Depending on your individual taste, these cigars will match just about any Cuban—except the most expensive pre-embargo cigars.

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