Judy Krause
Do You Have Any Cubans ?

Before the Cuban embargo was relaxed, we heard that question every now and then. Now we hear it at least once a week. The short answer is, "No, we do not." The more lengthy answer is, "Not yet, and not in the near future."

For those of you who have been wondering, here is why: Firstly, while the embargo has been relaxed, it has not been entirely lifted. It will take an act of Congress to lift the embargo. Considering our current political environment, I do not see anything happening on that front in the near future. Currently American citizens visiting Cuba are allowed to bring $100.00 worth of alcohol and tobacco products back to the U.S. That translates into 1 - 2 boxes per person, hardly enough to supply tobacco distributors and retailers.

Another reason involves distribution rights. Cubatobaco, Cuba's state-run tobacco company, and General Cigar have been fighting in the U.S. Courts for over 16 years for rights to the Cohiba trademark. Each company has won their case over the years only to lose on appeals by the other claimant. Currently Cubatobaco is the victor in the dispute, allowing them to file an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. That application still has to be approved. I doubt that General Cigar will let the issue die easily. Other Cuban brands with duplicate frontmarks distributed in the U.S. by General Cigar include Bolivar, Hoyo de Monterrey, La Gloria Cubana, and Partagas. It will be interesting to see if litigation develops concerning these brands.

In other quarters, Imperial Tobacco Group owns half of Habanos S.A., the marketing and distribution company for all Cuban cigars. ITG acquired its holdings through the acquisition of Altadis S.A. which owns the distribution rights to such brands as Romeo y Julietta, Montecristo, St Luis Rey, and H. Upmann. It will be much easier to sort out the distribution rights for these popular brands once (if) the embargo is lifted.

There is a certain mystique that goes along with anything forbidden. While Cuban cigars are good, there are other cigars that are just as good, more available, and often less expensive. Many of the master blenders and their families fled Cuba during the revolution and took their businesses to the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Honduras where they established new plantations and factories. Most of the cigars legally available to U.S. smokers are products of these factories and many are as good, if not better, than their Cuban counterparts. I'll admit I wonder how long smokers in the U.S. will embrace Cuban cigars should they become readily available, and how many will simply try them a few times before falling back on their current favorites. In my household we will probably add a few Cubans to our humidor once we have the opportunity, but they won't take it over.

The current issue of Cigar and Spirits magazine has an excellent article on "The Cuban Thaw". If you can't get your hands on a copy, we have one at the store. You're always welcome to come in, sit back, light up, relax, and enjoy reading our copy.

Category:   Cigar Certified Tagged in:   Cigars Low Country Pipe and Cigar

Comments

    • KodaDog on April 24, 2015
    • Very Informative, I had no idea it was that complicated.

    • Bruce P on April 25, 2015
    • Despite the thaw in relations, I don't expect a flood of cigars any time soon. Too many fingers in the pie.

    • George Graham on April 25, 2015
    • As a Canadian, this isn't really an issue for me. (I'm working my way through a few boxes of Cohibas purchased last February.) But I suspect most Americans are unaware that Cuban quality control isn't that great, and that includes their premium brands. What makes Cuban cigars attractive to tourists is that they are inexpensive. There is also the cachet that goes along with smoking a real Cuban cigar. But seriously....Americans aren't missing much.

    • Frostymedic on April 28, 2015
    • I asked myself recently if the appeal of Cuban cigars was primarily based on the forbidden fruit aspect of them...this article does a lot to answer that, and to answer other questions I had bouncing around my noggin concerning the topic. Thanks for the information!

    • Andrew W on April 28, 2015
    • Agreed. Right now, I'm pretty content just smoking my Gran Habanos.

    • Phil on April 29, 2015
    • Working overseas I had the opportunity to smoke several Cuban brands.

      I'll stick to my Dominican friends rather than waste my efforts looking for the "forbidden"

    • Carlos on April 29, 2015
    • I live in Mexico where Cubans are freely available. I promise you all, they are nothing to write home about: overpriced and a mere shadow (I am told) of their former quality. Pure snob appeal. You're not missing a thing.

    • The Wolf on May 1, 2015
    • This is a very interesting topic and I would like to share my personal experiences with you all and put a few minds at ease. I reside in Perth West Australia and here in Australia we have unlimited access to everything Cuban. Up until a few years ago when I discovered the Smokingpipes website, everything I smoked was Cuban. Non-Cuban cigars are hard to find over here and just as expensive as the ridiculously priced Cubans, (thanks to our absurd import taxes and stamp duty), so for many, many years I have spent a fortune smoking Cuban cigars and have tried pretty much every cigar from every manufacturer. The Cubans do produce some beautiful cigars and over the years I narrowed down my list of favourites to approximately 10 cigars, the price of which is ridiculous, averaging around AU $30 - 50 each. The quality control with Cuban cigars is atrocious. They are very inconsistent and suffer major draw issues, even with the top of the range expensive brands. I have lost count of how many times I have taken to a cigar with a wooden kebab skewer and reamed a hole through the middle just to get some air flowing and at times having to accept defeat and throw a beautiful cigar in the bin because it could not be smoked. On several occasions I paid in excess of AU $500- (my VIP price), for boxes containing 25x cigars only to find that at least one in every three cigars could not be smoked, (like sucking a golf ball through a garden hose!). So..........are you folks missing out by not having access to Cuban tobacco? NO, absolutely not! In fact the cigars that I have been purchasing from Smokingpipes over the past few years are far superior in every aspect. They look great, taste great and not once have I had to reach for the kebab skewer because the draw quality is fantastic. My humidor is full of Non-Cuban cigars and I plan on keeping it that way! Happy smoking.........Adrian :)

    • KodaDog on May 4, 2015
    • Agreed. Right now, I'm pretty content just smoking my Gran Habanos.
      There's not much better then that!

    • Tony on May 16, 2015
    • I live in Toronto and have been to Cuba a few times on holidays and have friends who go there regularly and have offered to bring me back cigars. Yet the only cigars I smoke are Backwoods Cigars that I pick up at the gas station (!). You always want what you can't have. Me, I'd like to get my hands on some Penzance or Margate or a 30 year old tin of Balkan Sobranie! But I suspect that the desire for these things is almost sweeter than having that desire satisfied. Maybe it's better if you never get Cubans. :)

    • Philip D on September 28, 2015
    • Well, remember that Cuban tobacco tastes different than havana seed grown elsewhere in Latin America. It just does.
      I bought many boxes of Habanas from the late 80s until early 2000s. Purchasing them in Europe was much less expensive then in Canada Australia, or the UK. Buying them in the duty free shops, I paid less for Habanas the most of the cigars on this website.
      Yes some brands had quality problems. I had a box of Hoyo De Monterrey Churchills, one of the legends of cuban cigars. Half the cigars were plugged, and not smoke-able. I paid $250 for that box 15 years ago.

      A real Montecristo Habano, No. 3 is still the best cigar I've ever smoked and I have had hundreds. Partagas, Romeo Julieta , Sancho Panza, Rafael Gonzalez, were all great!
      The one "domestic" cigar that I love just as much is the La Gloria Cubana (Dominican or Miami). Also, think the Tatjuaje are superb.

      The problem is not havana cigars, it's the ridiculous prices. I've smoked all the great ones and NEVER paid more than $10. And that was for one of the last Cuban Davidoffs purchased at Harrod's. (Lovely!)

    • ImJustPeachy on July 30, 2016
    • I buy Cubans from time to time for special occasions, but truth be told, I prefer Nicaraguans. Cigars like the Davidoff Nicaragua, Tatuaje Fausto and Drew Estates Liga Privada #9 are far better that 90% of the cigars that come out of Cuba (in my humble opinion).

    • Antonio Mazza on November 3, 2016
    • Echoing what my fellow Canadian, George Graham has said, the quality of current-day Cuban cigars often leaves something to be desired. I am fortunate to have some old, aged Cuban cigars from about 20 to 30 years or more. They burn much better than present-day production. However, the flavour and fragrance of a Cuban cigar, even if it does not burn as well as the older ones, is unique and, in my opinion, more pleasant than many other cigars. That is my personal preference.

      One can also moan the demise of Brazilian cigars of over twenty years ago; they were different, sweet, fragrant and a great change of pace from Cuban, Honduran, Dominican and all other cigars. Oh, for the day of Brazilian Dannemanns, Pimentels, Brasilvas and Suerdiecks!

      It all depends on one's preferences. Smoke what you like, and like what you smoke. As for me, I hope that Cuban cigars will return to their former glory in terms of quality. The flavour is still certainly there. For now, I will enjoy my aged inventory of Cubans until either they run out, or I expire.


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