Cigar Rant: Cubans vs. Non-Cubans
It should go without saying that Cuban cigars are considered by countless smokers to be the best in the world. Whether you’re checking ratings on Cigar Aficionado or talking to a cigar smoker who just got back from spending some time abroad, you’re bound to hear some great things about the fabled Habanos. Now I’m not here to argue that Cuba doesn’t grow some standout tobacco, or that their torcedores are incapable of rolling anything less than a perfect stogie. I do believe, however, that just like any cigar has the potential to be perfect, every cigar has the potential, given the wrong conditions, to be a total dog rocket.
As you may have learned from my last post, I just got back from the UK on Friday, and during my trip, I smoked a handful of big-name Cuban cigars. In particular, the three that I managed to get my hands on were the Montecristo Petit Edmundo, Cohiba Siglo I, and H. Upmann Coronas Junior. Aside from just wanting to try some tasty smokes I wouldn’t be able to come across in the states, I bought these cigars with a mission in mind: to find out how they really measured up against their American-marketed competition.
I’m as skeptical as they come, but I can’t lie; the Montecristo Petit Edmundo was one of the smoothest, most well-balanced cigars I’ve ever had. The H. Upmann was incredibly mellow and sweet, and the Cohiba was the spicy, full-bodied beauty that I expected it to be. But after smoking multiple sticks from each of these brands, I noticed something: Cuban cigars can fall victim to the exact same shortcomings as cigars from any other tobacco-producing country.
Let me give you some examples. The Montecristo I bought for my brother came straight out of a well-maintained humidor (according to the hygrometer at the shop, the temperature was just under 70 degrees Fahrenheit and the relative humidity was 66 percent), but it tunneled like crazy and went out no less than four times. One of the H. Upmanns I smoked had the tightest draw I’d ever tasted in a cigar. One of the Cohibas went out twice and turned extremely harsh and bitter halfway through, though it did taste damn good up to that point.
I’m not trying to bash any of these brands or Cuban cigars in general, because the good cigars I got out of the bunch were well worth the money, and I’d smoke them again in a heartbeat. What I’m trying to say is that no cigar, or cigar brand, is bulletproof, even if it’s Cuban. Every cigar is subject to a crappy roll, bad storage conditions, bugs, mold, cracks, soft spots, you name it, whether it’s a $2 mixed-fill or an $80 10-year-aged super-premium.
I know there’s a certain mystique about Cuban cigars in this country because of their unavailability, but seeing a few tobacco shops in the UK made me realize that we might even have it better here. Sure, you can get the 20-or-so different brands of Cubans in that you can’t get in the US. But what you can’t get, at least from what I saw, are hundreds, or even thousands of Dominican, Honduran, and Nicaraguan cigars, many of which are just as good. Literally the only non-Cuban cigars I saw in any cigar shop in the UK were made by Carlos Toraño, and sure, that probably does say something about how good their cigars are, but it also makes me realize how many great cigars I would never have smoked if I didn’t live in the good old U.S. of A.
So anyway, the bottom line is that given the chance, I would absolutely smoke some more Cuban cigars. Sure, they were expensive as all hell (£14.40 GBP or just over $23 USD for a Montecristo Petit Edmundo), but A.) they were tasty and B.) you can’t get them here. But stacked up against some of the cigars we have in the U.S., especially given the huge price difference, I can say pretty confidently that we’re not missing as much as we think we are.