Cigar Aficionado

Cigars of the Week

Cuba tests one's ability to keep track of what you've been smoking. Forgive me. I didn't note down the price or the box date of everything I smoked last week and in more than one case, I was given the cigars by others. But take it as a general rule that most singles in a cigar shop in Havana run between 5 and 8 CUCs, which converts to about $6 to $9.50.

I'd also be a tad suspicious of relying on box dates from an open box in a cigar shop; who knows how long that box had been open, or whether singles from other boxes had been combined in that box. For the most part, the bulk of the boxes on shelves right now are from '09 and early '10-you can stumble across some 08s and there are also a lot of late '10 boxes out there right now too.

The Behikes were more expensive. The BHK 52 sold for 18 CUCs, or about $21. (For reference, don't be misled by the announcement of parity with the dollar; the exchange houses still take a 13 percent cut of every dollar transaction, so to get your dollar equivalent from these CUC prices, multiply by 1.13.) But as you'll read below, it may be worth it. The biggest Behike, the 56, sold for proportionally more, nearly 26 CUCs. We didn't see a 54 anywhere.

Nearly every Casa del Habano, and every other cigar shop we entered, had substantial number of boxes open for single sales. That was fun. It was easy to pick through the boxes looking for your favorite shade of wrapper and pick the ones you wanted. Here's a list of some of the cigars I smoked.

Trinidad Reyes: A nice mellow smoke with a solid core of coffee notes. Smoked perfectly.

Partagas Lusitania: Close to the days when it was one of the greatest Cubans made. Full bodied and full flavored with spice, cocoa notes and a long earthy finish. Note: I bought two, and one turned out of to have a thick vein in the filler down one side, and it simply wouldn't burn evenly.

Bolivar Belicoso Fino: Delicious medium-bodied cigar that performed great. Some sweet, earthy notes.

Behike BHK 52: A delicious, perfectly balanced smoke. In fact, that's what I take away from this cigar. It is smooth, and maintains that perfect balance of spice and earth without ever giving way so that one element dominates. A knuckle burner. FYI, both the ones I bought were perfect and nearly identical.

Romeo y Julieta Churchill: I selected this over a current favorite, the RyJ Short Churchill, because back in the day, this was my favorite cigar. It had been a decade since I had one I truly appreciated. So, I thought, why not give it a chance. Wow! It was great. It perhaps didn't quite reach the levels of those early '90s earthly cocoa bean bombs that I loved, but it was a great interplay of some light earth, some delicate sweetness and it performed great. Need to get a box of these.

Cohiba 1966: With the now traditional dark wrapper of an Edición Limitada, this cigar presents as a brooding powerhouse. It delivers. There are some of those sweet earthy notes that I tend to taste in the ELS, but it also has a smooth leathery flavor on the mid-palate and fairly long, spicy finish. Note: This was a prototype, and still isn't on store shelves.

Cohiba Siglo VI: This may be my favorite of the week. An earthy, leathery but well-balanced cigar that delivers some cedar notes as well as spice. Complex and full-bodied, but not overpowering.

Montecristo Maravilla: A monster in every aspect. Not sure how much this cigar compares to the special edition that was made around 2005. Turns out a factory manager loves this size, and he has one of his rollers prepare this especially for him and VIP guests. Great cigar, whatever its origins. It's big, sort of a grand cañonazo, which is a bit shorter than an "A" and a thicker 50 ring gauge. But it is packed with nutty and spicy flavors, and has a smooth, easy smoking character.

Believe it or not, that's not every cigar I smoked. There was a farm cigar from Hirochi Robaina that knocked me on my ass. A Casa del Habano  cañonazo form Conde de Villanueva. And a 'Monsdale" from the Club Habana Casa del Habano made especially by the in-shop roller (he's on a tour of Canada starting this next week)-it has a pigtail head with a slightly thicker ring gauge than a lancero size, but to my eye, not quite a lonsdale ring either-delicious blend with the earthy power of some ligero but perfectly balanced with a nice sweetness.

Whoa. I didn't realize just how many great cigars I had the privilege of smoking last week. Next time, I promise to do a better job of keeping more precise notes on dates and prices. But you get the idea. Dave and I did nothing but suffer last week while we took ones for the team, over and over and over again.

"A very good friend of mines is travelling to Cuba soon on Business. He is a non-cigar smoker. I smoke cigars i prefer Mild to Medium Maduro wraps. What types/ brands should i have him purchase for me? " —July 12, 2011 21:16 PM
"Gordon, thanks for all those tips. I will probably be flying to Cuba in June and definitely will try some of those cigars you listed here, starting with the BHK if... I am lucky to find it." —May 12, 2011 10:57 AM