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The Davidoff Legacy

The world-famous brand's former Cuban cigar remains a highly sought-after collectible
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Emeril Lagasse, Sept/Oct 2005

(continued from page 2)

The cigar guru always compared his cigars to the great reds of Bordeaux, emphasizing that his smokes were produced to improve with age. The fact that these cigars are still great after decades of box age underlines that Davidoff's departure from Cuba was never a question of quality. I remember Davidoff looking me straight in the eye and saying that the company had to leave Cuba because it could no longer be assured of the quality of the cigars it was getting. Zino even went on French television in the late 1980s and condemned the Cubans for poor quality. He burned 130,000 cigars in a huge bonfire, claiming that the cigars were unsalable.

However, I don't believe a word of this. It just can't be true in view of all the great Cuban Davidoffs I have smoked. The real story of the departure may be the conflict with Cuba over ownership of the brand, but the story of that dispute varies depending on which side you speak with. But that's business. And the mystery around the end of Davidoff's Cuban production does nothing to explain why the Cuban Davidoff blend was so outstanding.

I once spoke to the former manager of El Laguito factory in Havana about the blend. It was there that Davidoff had his No. 1s and No. 2s made as well as the Ambassadrices. The Cuban said that Davidoff basically followed the blend of Cohiba, but went for a slightly lighter wrapper to make the cigar smoother and more refined.

Who knows for sure what actually went on? In addition to El Laguito, Davidoff Cubans were made in the La Corona and Partagas factories. Some were also made outside of Havana. But the Cubans somehow maintained the blend whether it was a 5,000 or a Chateau Latour. They made about three million sticks per year.

Davidoff's annual production today in the Dominican Republic is three to four times that figure. The company is making some excellent cigars, but it can't emulate the magic it had in Cuba.

Schneider disagrees, of course. He said that even his sons-in-law were skeptical of the change from Cuba to the Dominican Republic when Davidoff made the move. "They were sure that we couldn't produce something as good or better than the Cubans," he recalled, getting ready to leave the Davidoff cigar shop in London. "But I took them to the Dominican Republic and they smoked the cigars themselves, and it wasn't long before they were convinced otherwise."

Some people may prefer Davidoffs from the Dominican Republic, but that doesn't take away anything from the legendary smokes under the same name that were once produced in Cuba.

For ratings on Cuban Davidoffs and other cigars, click here.

To read about Davidoffs in Hong Kong, click here.


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