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Cigar Lovers Hope Embargo Goes Up in Smoke

To some people, its about politics and liberation. To others, its about the cigars.

Fidel Castro's ailing health has aficionados of the rolled leaf dreaming of an end to the nearly five-decade-long trade embargo. It has them dreaming of Cubans - the real thing. "Right now there are more counterfeit Cuban cigars than there are counterfeit $20 bills," said Chris Moore of ABC Cigar Co.

It has been illegal to import Cuban cigars to the United States since the early 1960s. Often, smokers cross into Canada or bring them back from Europe, tucked away in their luggage and coat pockets. According to Moore, most cigar buyers looking for a Cuban are at the mercy of the seller and are paying top dollar for what might not even be a true Cuban cigar.

"The seller has the advantage because the buyer doesn't have anything to compare it to," he said.

Stephen Willett of L.J. Peretti Co., in operation since 1870, said the company once had its own Cuban brand in the late '30s and early '40s. But he confirmed that today, most people in this country have never smoked a real Cuban cigar.

"A lot of companies are geared up for the time when the embargo is lifted," Willett said. "It would be a phenomenal thing if it happened and would produce a cigar boom like there was in the 1980s."

Jose Agosto, owner of Gloucester Street Cigar Co., agreed with that prophecy.

"They'll be at a super premium," Agosto said of the Cuban smokes, expecting that a single cigar could cost at least $10.

Agosto, who admitted to having smoked plenty of Cubans, describes the cigars as having a "very rustic, robust, leathery smoke," but explained that the quality of the crop can fluctuate with the season.

However, Jim Walsh, who manages the David P. Ehrlich Co. and Churchill's Lounge, said he doesn't believe access to Cuban cigars will drastically impact the industry.

"They have to be aged properly," he said of the hand-rolled Cuban cigars. "You can't rush a human machine." But according to Walsh, under Castro's rule, many Cuban cigar makers defected to other nations, blurring the once-obvious national distinction. "Today, the Dominican Republic is turning out cigars just as good as Cuba," Walsh said.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Source: The Boston Herald

Cigar Lovers Hope Embargo Goes Up in Smoke