Fake Cigar Central
Posted: Mar 13, 2007 4:49pm ET
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.
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