Cuba is always on the minds of cigar smokers, and with the Obama Administration's recent changes to the laws pertaining to Americans and their ability to legally obtain cigars from Havana, Cigar Aficionado's well-traveled editors took to the stage on Saturday to talk about the latest in Cuban smokes and to guide the audience in what has changed in recent months.
Senior contributing editor Gordon Mott, who visits Cuba several times a year, joined executive editor David Savona on stage.
"Gordon lives in Mexico now, so he's been practicing his wall-climbing skills," joked Savona, as they started a slideshow of new Cuban product.
They began with the Cohiba 50 Aniversario cigar and humidor, a pricey, limited edition that was unveiled earlier in the year at the Habanos Festival. Mott spoke about how the first humidor was sold for a dear price at auction, and described how vendors around the world were dividing up the rare pieces. The cigars, a first for Cuba at 60 ring gauge, were expected to sell for $3,000 apiece.
There were more obtainable cigars in the presentation, including the trio of Edición Limitadas for 2016. Vendors around the world were already carrying the Romeo y Julieta Capuletos (which rated 91 points in Cigar Insider), and the Trinidad Topes had also been seen in some markets, but there is still no sign of the Montecristo Dantes. Savona noted that it's common for new releases to be quite delayed in Cuba, and pointed to the Montecristo 80 Aniversario cigar, which took more than a year to reach cigar stores after its preview at that year's Habanos Festival.
These delays often mean that the Cuban cigars can taste different from the time they are first debuted to the public at the annual Habanos Festival.
"I have a rule," said Mott. "I don't smoke any of the cigars that they hand out at the festival."
Mott also pointed out that when he was in Cuba, he learned that the past three years of tobacco harvests on the island have been less than stellar. In particular, the yield for quality wrapper leaf has fallen short of expectations.
"It could mean a real problem bringing bigger cigars to market," said Mott.
After the showcase of new product, the editors quizzed the audience on the new rules of Cuba, and the audience proved quite adept at the new regulations. "If you travel to London or Paris," asked Savona, "can you come back with Cuban cigars?" A resounding yes came from the crowd—this audience was well versed in the rules.
A question-and-answer session followed, and many were curious about what could and could not be done. One audience member asked if he could give away Cuban cigars he brought back from a trip (the answer was yes) and others asked about buying via mail-order from abroad (the answer was no).