Is the Cuban Cigar Hype Justified?
Over 335 million premium cigars were imported to the United States in 2007, most from the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Every time I see that figure-which is up about 8% from 2006-I wonder how many more entered American soil under the radar of Uncle Sam.
The amount of "black market" cigars in this country has to be astronomical given the U.S. government's hypocritical trade embargo against Cuba. Just think of how many enthusiasts you know who have stashes of Cubans, or ponder all the websites that sell outlawed sticks to Americans, or consider how poorly U.S. Customs examines each bag coming in from a foreign country. Since these activities aren't accurately documented-at least not publicly-coming up with a solid figure isn't easy.
Let's just say a lot of Cubans are imported annually, and let's just assume you've smoked at least several. What I'd like to know is, generally speaking, how do Cuban cigars stack up to their Dominican, Honduran, and Nicaraguan counterparts?
Make no mistake about it, Castro's oppressed island nation produces some fine stogies, from the Partagas Serie D No. 4 and the RyJ Short Churchill to the Cohiba Siglo VI and the Monte Petit Edmundo. We've published 15 full reviews of various Cubans here at StogieGuys.com since our founding in May 2006-and we've reviewed over 200 others from a myriad of other countries.
Our average rating on the Cubans we've examined is just over four stogies out of five, above the total overall average of about three and a half stogies. But take that with a grain of salt; we've never been big fans of bringing numbers into cigars.
I personally question whether all the Cuban cigar hype-and the excessive prices that come with black market goods-is justified. I think many of us give sub-par Cubans a pass simply because we're not supposed to smoke them. The forbidden factor unquestionably makes them more attractive.
Also, don't forget that we live in a golden age of cigars with countless non-Cubans that are nothing short of exceptional. Those of you who "only smoke Cubans" (I've seen this many times in correspondence with readers in Europe) are seriously missing out. Seriously.
After thinking on this broad, esoteric subject for many months, my conclusion is this: The world's finest non-Cuban cigars can stand up to most of Cuba's best, but the world's standard stogies are no match for Cuba's average. I'd love to hear your thoughts on my pseudo-hypothesis in the comments below.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008