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Cigar Diary: Mexico's Cigar King

Max Gutmann is one of the world's great collectors of Cuban cigars as well as Mexico's official Cuban cigar agent.
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Armand Assante, Mar/Apr 2008

(continued from page 4)

CA: Are a lot of the fakes sold to American tourists?

Gutmann: Yes. In all the border cities and tourist destinations. Even in Mexico City, there are a lot of counterfeits. The only thing we can do is to try to educate people about what a real cigar is.

CA: What percent of your sales go to Americans?

Gutmann: I can't really tell you. But we have American customers all over Mexico, especially at beaches like Acapulco, Cancœn and others. It's perfectly legal to sell Cuban cigars to them in Mexico. I am sure Americans enjoy smoking a cigar here when they can't do the same in their own country. I don't know how much they take back with them.

CA: I guess that it's up to them what they do with their leftovers from holidays?

Gutmann: We tell them that they can't take them back to the States. It's not legal. But it's up to them. In Mexico, they can do what they wish. [Editor's note: Under the Trading With The Enemy Act, U.S. citizens are prohibited from buying Cuban products anywhere in the world.]

CA: There doesn't appear to be much Internet business out of Mexico?

Gutmann: I don't think so. Besides, I would never buy cigars over the Internet. I like to look at the cigars that I am going to buy. Wherever I am in the world, I like to go to a cigar shop and see the cigars I buy. Some people like dark wrappers, others medium wrappers and others light wrappers. I like to make the choice. That's why La Casa del Habano is so good. You have the service. Plus, the cigars are stored properly at the right temperature and humidity.

CA: You were, in effect, the creator of La Casa del Habano after building the first Casa in Cancœn in the mid-1990s. Tell me about that.

Gutmann: It was 18 years ago. You couldn't really buy Cuban cigars in Mexico then. The only Cuban cigars you could buy were at the airport. And even then you could only buy Montecristo No. 1 Especial.

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