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Fake Cigar Central

I just returned from the Tobacconists of America show in the Bahamas. While I was there, I took a little walk down Bay Street in Nassau. Bay Street is a busy place with endless markets. You can buy just about anything there: diamonds, clothes, liquor, coedeine without a prescription and plenty of Cuban cigars. I can’t vouch for the drugs and booze, but the cigars ain’t real.

The Bahamas are a key place for fakes due to the tourist trade, and Bay Street is tourist central. The massive cruise ships dock right there, and eager tourists spill out ready to buy. Sadly, the cigar items for sale are not worth the money.

In a span of all of ten blocks I saw four stores selling cigars, and they all looked like counterfeits. All the stores had Montecristos and Romeos and most had Cohibas. I even saw a fake Cuaba Salamone. There were plenty of Cohiba Siglo VI cigars in tubes, priced at $12 (Bahamian or American. They’re of equal value and U.S. greenbacks can be used for all purchases here.) This is a cigar that sells for more than double that in legitimate shops, depending on where you are in the world, so either this is the deal of a lifetime or the cigar is as phony as $10 Rolex.

A counterfeit Edición Limitada was laughable—the Edición Limitada band was about twice the width it should have been, and the words were written in yellow type on a black background. Lord knows where that came from.

I saw a fake I had never seen before, a Cohiba cigar made with a barber pole style wrapper. It looked hideous. Didn't catch the price on that one.

The other day I asked Paolo Garzaroli, who makes Graycliff cigars here in Nassau, about the local counterfeiting problem. He estimated that 95 percent of the Cuban cigars sold here are fakes. Seeing what I saw today, I can believe it.

There were problems with the packaging on most of the cigars, and none of the bands looked quite right. The cigars didn't have that Cuban look, the style of Cuban leaf or the construction of a typical Cuban cigar. But the sad fact is that with so many tourists, so much foot traffic and not enough knowledge of the real deal, people buy those cigars everyday. The shops wouldn't be there if the business wasn't there.

The next time you're in Nassau, be careful if you buy a "Cuban" cigar.
sheldon weiner Calabasas, Ca March 15, 2007 4:22pm ET
The Cuban cigars in the retail stores and the ones that the street vendors sell in Nassau have been fakes or counterfits for many years now. This should not be new news. It's the same story in Mexico on both east and west coasts. You should always remember if the price is cheaper than what you thought it should's more that likely fake!
Ken Coleman Paris March 16, 2007 4:27am ET
"a Cohiba cigar made with a barber pole style wrapper. "and you didn't get it? What a conversation piece! What a collectors' item.
DAVE Savona New York March 16, 2007 7:53am ET
Ken, somehow I turned that one down. Of course, I can always buy plenty of them when in next in the Dominican Republic, where I'm sure they were rolled.Funny--the one thing I didn't see were Cohiba Crystals, the glass-top or lucite-top Cohibas that are very common fakes. Thought that would be a big deal there.
Anthony Grant New Rochelle, NY March 16, 2007 1:41pm ET
Absolutely in Mexico. I was on my honeymoon in Mazatlan and wanted to buy a couple cubans. Not only did they look fake they were pricey and the wrappers were dried out. Good thing I had a few Work of Arts left over from the wedding to enjoy poolside...BUYER BEWARE....
Paul Johnson Florida March 16, 2007 2:23pm ET
I think the glass tops are losing popularity. I was in Jamaica a little over a year ago and saw lots of stores selling "Cuban" cigars but not one real Cuban cigar. I too expected to see the glass tops, but did not (in fact I haven't seen one since a trip to Costa Rica six years ago). What surprised me in Jamaica were the number of shops selling "Cohibas" in boxes that weren't the right size! I saw a box of torpedoes that couldn't close because somehow the cigars inside were too big for the box. Another shop had robustos in what looked like a churchill box packed with loose tobacco to fill in the extra space (a la Drew Estates). It's hard to believe people fall for it, but like Dave said if it didn't work, they wouldn't be in business.
Matthew Caruso Jersey March 16, 2007 3:47pm ET
I love the guys in Mexico that try to sell you the "changing labels" trick. "Muchacho, for $20 more, I will change out the labels so you can get through customs. Come back in a half hour."Oh yeah, they change the labels...and the cigars too.Welcome to Web 2.0 Dave! This looks promising.Matt Caruso
Barry Kamen NY March 19, 2007 12:51pm ET
I too was in Nassau about a week ago. I think saw you on Bay Street. I was told that John Bull had some genuine Cubans, but with the multitude of fakes I didn't even bother going in. Unfortunately there are so many uninformed tourists stopping in these port cities that you could get away with selling just about anything that resembles a cigar. Maybe I should use my collection of genuine Opus bands. I could wrap them around Marsh Wheelings and sell them as prepunched Opus Panatellas on the streets of Grand Cayman (Grand Kamen??).
DAVE Savona New York March 19, 2007 2:20pm ET
Barry, no offense to Marsh Wheeling, but I don't think Carlos Fuente Jr. would approve of your plan.
Michael Rosen Brooklyn, NY, USA, January 3, 2011 12:12pm ET
I recently was offered 2 boxes of siglo VI cigars. The box looked authentic, the cigars looked great, the bands looked like the real thing. The box had no box or date code, no hologram, the seal and habanos sticker were in the box, not attached to the box.

Any chance they're real?
Josue Lopez March 9, 2011 10:25pm ET
Hahahahaha. I love the changing label trick. I've never been to Mexico, and when I go I won't buy Cigars. I'll be in Havana this Sunday, god permitting. Looking forward to smoke Behike. Anyone knows how to rescue cigars, I have a Batch of Sublimes and Esplendidos that lost a lot of flavor, but when you smoke them half way you start to get that flavor.

Any advice? I have a Solid Cedar Humidor and they are sitting with cedrillos in between each cigar to help ventilation, I hope this at least impregnates them with that aroma again.
Manuel Pinto Madrid, Spain, April 4, 2011 1:49pm ET
The next time you are anywhere be carefull !! Any deal on cigar is that the cigar is a fake. Boxes with no seal on the back are an instant give away on cuban cigars. Even in Spain where habanos are extremely well priced the fake cigar industry is present. Buy from your local retailer, in the long run he will show you the real deals, not only in price but in taste. And if you travel....carry your "aficion" with you.
Dennis King Keizer, OR, United States of America, May 16, 2011 12:58am ET
If I'm in Nassau, I'm going to get some Graycliff's at the resort and then drink some scotch from their collection. Only buy from a Casa de los Habanos when in a tourist area. enough said.
Josh Rizzuto Audubon, Pennsylvania, United States of America, May 19, 2011 9:53pm ET
My friend came back from the Bahamas sporting two "Cuban Don Diegos". There's two problems with these cigars. First, and most obviously, to my knowledge, Don Diego's aren't even the slightest bit Cuban. Second, when he attempted to smoke the cigars. the wrapper literally disintegrated in front of his and my own disbelieving eyes. If only more sensible people went on cruises...
Bob Kiley Orlando, FL, USA, October 27, 2011 7:26pm ET
About 90% of the "cuban cigars' in the bahamas are fake. Period. The only way to get a real one is to do your due diligence, and research the hell out of ONE specific cigar, from ONE specific company; find out all you can about it, and see if there is a dominican (or other) that is the same, but with different tobacco, that you can inspect at a local store. Then, once you know everything about that cigar, and you go to the bahamas, you have a 50% chance of getting one of the 10% of real cubans. I went down there a few weeks ago and wanted a cohiba reserve, I managed to get my hands on four that I thought were real (correct labels, correct look of the wrapper, correct everything) I bought 2 from each place. 2 were real, 2 were definitely fake. I smoked on from each group, the fake one I smoked a few puffs of and threw both away. The other one I smoked entirely, and saved it's brother. So I am now the proud owner of ONE (1) cuban cigar. Not worth the trouble, but if you really want one from Nassau, that's about the only way to do it.

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