cuban cigar seal

Cuban cigars – have they ever been more popular?

With President Obama allowing United States tourists to legally explore the streets of Cuba, the native Cuban cigars have elevated to new heights of desire.  However, to be clear, that doesn’t make it any easier for Americans to acquire them online (at least legally).  Unfortunately, cigar lovers still have to go to Cuba to purchase these high-end cigars, much more reasonable prices compared to what you may find.

However, if you are still trying to decide what all the fuss is about, or if you or a friend has acquired a box of Cuban cigars and are trying to decide the legitimacy, you’ve found the right place.  Our guide walks through some of the most common questions about Cuban cigars, as well how to identify fake Cuban cigars:

Why Are Cuban Cigars So Popular?

cuban cigar factory worker

Many Cuban cigars are widely considered to be some of the finest cigars on the market.  At some point, you may have stopped and asked yourself… “wait, why exactly are Cuban cigars so popular?”

The answer: it’s a combination of three factors:

  1. Perfection in the rolling technique
  2. The soil and climate of Cuba
  3. A fair amount of hype

Cuban cigars are made through an extensive process that has been perfected over many generations which results in a quality cigar almost every time. To make matters even more perfect, the geography of Cuba itself allows for ideal growing conditions of tobacco. Couple these two factors, honed day-in and day-out, and it’s a heck of a one-two punch! 

Another main reason Cuban cigars are so popular is due to hype. Not that the hype around Cuban cigars isn’t warranted, but it does play a major factor in the desirability of Cuban cigars. With the United States embargo on Cuba in the early 60’s, getting your hands on a Cuban cigar has become much more difficult. They became a forbidden fruit, plain and simple. Remember when your mother told you not to touch the cake?  Many times when lighting up a Cuban cigar in front of someone, they’ll ask “how’d you get that?!”  I admit, it does feel kind of cool…

Lastly, the embargo had another effect too…  It caused prices to increase because it was much harder to get Cuban cigars in the States. As prices increase, so does the perceived quality of the product in most cases. 

What Makes A Cuban Cigar So Great?

cuban tobacco field worker

We may have an idea of why these cigars are so popular, but what truly makes a Cuban cigar so desirable? The true greatness of a Cuban cigar lies in the quality of the product. First, the tobacco isn’t a blend of a few different types of tobacco; it’s 100% pure Cuban tobacco. Many cigar lovers consider Cuban tobacco second to none these days. 

Second, it’s not just about the quality of the tobacco plant but how and when it is harvested. Cuban tobacco farmers have been rolling cigars since the 1500’s and they know exactly what they are doing with harvesting their leaves. By harvesting the tobacco leaf at just the right moment, they are getting the best possible taste for the cigar.

What Are The Best Cuban Cigars?

best cuban cigars - bolivar cuban cigar

To be honest, it’s hard to pin-point one cigar as the one true best cigar in all of Cuba.  It’s truthfully a matter of preference and you have to “learn to burn”. That being said, there are a few favorites that we know we can recommend.

Here’s a short list of some of the best Cuban cigars you should most certainly try (and buy a box or two):

  • Cohiba Behike – these are the most iconic Cuban cigars, with the notorious yellow, black and white label. 
  • Partagas 898 – a favorite by many; I once had a friend that only smoked these, nothing else! 
  • Bolivar Coronas – you may recognize this cigar from Simón Bolívar’s face on the label.  Sweet, floral smoke. 
  • H. Upmann – one of the oldest cigar brands in existence and the favorite cigar of John F. Kennedy.

How Do You Spot A Fake Cuban Cigar?

real cuban cigars vs. fake cuban cigars

Naturally, with the hype around Cuban cigars and all of the money pouring into Cuba tourism, the counterfeiters have joined the party.   Unfortunately, they have gotten very good at their craft and it’s harder to spot a fake Cuban cigar than ever.  Here are some suggestions to help you avoid getting ripped off and identify fake Cuban cigars:

  • When in Cuba, or any other country, don’t buy cigars off the street.  No matter how sweet the deal!
  • Look for label or seal imperfections; the legit cigar companies are meticulously detailed with labeling, there will not be any sloppiness
  • Familiarize yourself with the Habanos seal and the Cuban warranty seals so you can identify them on the boxes of cigars 

For more information on how to spot a fake Cuban cigar, there is a great guide over on Cigar Aficionado which we would highly recommend. Most of what we cover here will keep you protected but if you already have a box then their Cuban cigar counterfeit gallery is a valuable resource. 

Where Can I Buy Cuban Cigars?

cohiba cuban cigar box

Cuban cigars can be purchased in many places, but ultimately the very best place to purchase a Cuban cigar will be Cuba. If that’s not in the cards for you, then try traveling to a country where Cuban imports are allowed, such as Canada or Mexico. There you can purchase a Cuban cigar and transport it into the United States.

The golden rule: if you are planning on visiting another country besides Cuba, only purchase from the La Casa Del Habano.  If you are a tourist, you likely will be approached on the street and offered what looks to be very legitimate Cuban cigars. However, don’t fall into the trap!  La Casa Del Habano is the only way to know for sure that you are purchasing legitimate Cuban cigars.

A final option will be to purchase your Cuban cigars online.   However, it’s worth noting that the new rules from President Obama, did not lift the restriction for purchasing Cuban cigars online. That being said, if you are in the United States, you could risk the cigars being seized by US Customs.

The other downside to purchasing Cuban cigars online is the delay in shipping.  These cigars are normally delivered from Switzerland or the Caribbean so it does take time.  Therefore the cigars will need a good amount of rest before smoking them.

If you would like to order Cuban cigars online, try one of the following:

  1. CigarOne – Marc from CigarOne always has some great specials on Cuban cigars
    • Be sure to try a sampler to have a variety of taste profiles
  2. iHavanas – This is a great alternative to CigarOne that is relied on by many cigar aficionados
    • Keep in mind, shipping is included in all prices!

How to Store Cuban Cigars

cuban tupperdor example

If you’ve been lucky enough to land some Cuban cigars, you’ll want to make sure they get some rest before smoking them. Cuban cigars typically age very well and many recommend keeping them on hand for at least 1 – 3 years before smoking.  Follow our humidification guide to make sure you’ve got the right gear to store them properly.  Cuban cigar lovers typically keep their humidity a tad lower in the 63 – 65% range.

For more information on Cuban cigars, feel free to shoot us an email with a question, or join the conversation on one of our social media sites.