Habanos Blog: Cuban Cigars, Plain and Simple

Habanos Cigar Blog - The authority on Cuban Cigars. Dedicated to spreading One Man's passion and knowledge for Cuban Cigars and the good life.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Dominican vs. Cuban Brands

- So, uh, What's the Difference Between Dominican and Cuban Smokes?

The following is a comment I received and the subsequent repsonse. I thought that the comment brings up a few important points, even though it seems very simplistic.

"I've been comparing some of my favorite Cuban cigars with their non-Cuban counterparts and even though I live in Canada, I end up getting many of my cigars from vendors in the US. For example I could pay upwards of $20 Cdn. (approx. $17 USD) for a Montecristo #3 or I could pay $4 USD for it in the US. There is very little difference between the quality of the two. I doubt very many people would tell the difference in a blind smoke-test." - jkira

Well, my rule is that if you enjoy something it is good enough, no matter where it is from. Many people do enjoy non-cubans over cubans, and I am not one of those. But I must admit that since I have not smoked the 'Montecristo' brand that is available in the US I cannot really judge those particular cigars. Instead I will point out that the Non-Cuban Montecristo is not related to the Cuban brand, they merely stole the name because it is was not in use in the USA after the embargo. Imagine if you could start selling something called "Coca-Cola" in some other country where Coke didn't exist, and use all their branding power, that's kind of what's going on. So when you said you paid "$4 for it", the 'it' in question is not the same product.

You didn't make clear if the Cubans you have purchased were bought in Canada or in the USA, but I will assume, for educational purposes, that they were bought in the US. My opinion on this is that if you are buying cubans in the US you might be geting fakes. Even the people selling them to you may not know it because in the USA there is no legitimate supplier of cubans so there are literally no guarantees. Even in Canada there is only one supplier. So beware.

I do agree that very few people could tell the difference between cuban and non-cuban brands, because most people have no idea. Most people drink, eat, wear, drive and smoke things for reasons beyond the actual experience, it's called being pretentious. I can't claim to be free of all pretension myself but I will say that I smoke cigars for the taste, and that reason alone. And I smoke pretty much cubans exclusively. Like I said before, if you enjoy a particular cigar over another than that is what you should be smoking.

As for this question, if you ever get the chance and if you want to improve your knowledge and palate, try smoking one cigar directly after the other. I guarantee you will notice a difference (not saying which you will like more, but they will not be identical). And if you don't notice any difference you may not have enough experience smoking or you have smoked so much that you have no working taste buds!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Edicion Limitada's

As mentioned in a previous post, we have seen the arrival of some new EL's this year: The H Upmann Magnum 50, the RYJ Petit Pyramid, and the Montecristo "D". Now that these cigars are showing up in more and more shops I have begun to hear some feedback on them and even smoked a few myself. Some people say they are great, and some people say they are horrible - that the taste is unbalanced, or that the draws are bad. Well, both groups are right, and both groups are wrong. The Edicion Limitada's are not really meant to be smoked as soon as they are released. Now, like I have said before, who cares what they are meant for; Do whatever makes you happy. But these cigars are meant to be aged, so understand that before you open your wallet, and especially before you open your mouth to complain about them!

When you age a cigar, properly that is, it changes. Feel free to use the old wine analogy, as most cigars will improve with time. Your cigar contains Oil and Tannins, and both are generally unpleasant. The bad draws that many people experienece when smoking new EL's can be attributed to the oils. These oils will breakdown over time and leave you with a better burning cigar. I am not a chemist, so I won't try to explain why or how, but it happens! Also, the tannins in your cigar will breakdown over time, and will become more in tune with the flavours of the cigar, as opposed to being the primary taste of a younger smoke. It's the same sort of effect as letting a really oaky wine (lots of tannin) breathe in a decanter before you drink it, cigars just take longer. New cigars also have an ammonia like smell that can be detected in the first 1 to 3 years after they leave the factory. This comes from the fermentation that the tobacco experiences in the box as a result of being moistened when rolled. Each type of cigar is different in this regard but it effects them all to some degree. This can be removed quickly if cigars are left in the open, but then the overall quality of the cigar suffers.

Also, like wine, this improvement with age will only take place if cigars are stored properly during this aging. Cigars are a little less susceptable to temperature fluctuations than is wine, but humidity and packaging play a key role. So leaving a cigar all by itself in a hundred dollar humidor you got for your birthday doesn't constitute aging! Serious aging means that you need a full box of 25 or 50, and this is best done in a "Cabinet" style box (or hard wooden box where the cigars are packed 5x5). The "semi-plain" boxes are the ones where cigars are 13 on the top and 12 on the bottom, and they are just fine, but better suited for shorter periods of aging.

Aging cigars is another really large topic with much debate over the 'hows' and 'whys', much of which I don't understand. But I hope this brings to light some of the complaints about these potentially wonderful Edicion Limitada's. I would say that within 2 years the draw and taste problems of this years smokes will be gone, and within 3 to 5 years they will be some of the best smokes you can get. But as for now lets not criticize them too harshly.

Currently, if you can get your hands on the Cohiba Piramids Edicion Limitada of 2001, they are one of the best things available right now.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

NEW SMOKES - Ramone Allones Belicoso

So I hear that there are some new smokes coming my way. We should (In Canada) be getting some Ramone Allones Belicosos sometime soon. I haven't heard much about them, or when exactly they will be here. But if they are anything like any other Ramone Allones they will surely be fantastic. Globally, new smokes tend to get released at different times in different regions, and we aren't usually first, and aren't usually last. I find that european markets will recieve the first shipments (often Switzerland, for some reason?). Anyway I am looking forward to these smokes showing up one day when I come into work. If you know about them please write a comment.