Cigar Aficionado

Cuba, in Bullet Points, Part One

It's been almost two weeks since Gordon Mott and I returned from our trip to Cuba. We sat down this morning for a chat and compared notes. Here are some small details about the Cuban cigar industry and Cuba in general that we thought you'd enjoy. Gordon is going to follow up with some more items later on.

Not Every Cuban Cigar
One might think that traveling to Cuba would mean you could buy any and all Cuban cigars. That's largely true, but not entirely true. A reader asked in our blogs if the Regional Edition cigars from around the world were available in Cuba. They are not. The only Regional Edition cigar we saw on sale in Cuba is the one made specifically for Cuba, the La Gloria Cubana Delicioso, which is 5 inches long by 48 ring gauge and comes in a lovely white ceramic jar of 25 cigars. They were selling for 246.30 CUCS (about $308) per jar. Cuba was also low on Cohiba Behike BHK cigars. Several shops we visited had none in stock, others had a few boxes.

Fake cigars are still a problem in Cuba. We were only approached in one location, but it was quite blatant, as we walked into and out of the Partagas Cigar Factory. "Sir, I work here," said a man in a baseball hat. I was puffing on a cigar. "Good cigars, good price." Don't believe the stories, and suspect any cigar sold outside of a traditional outlet will be counterfeit.

Lots of Flights
People were shocked when we told them we were flying directly from the United States to Cuba. I'll admit, it was bizarre watching the silver 737 with the American Airlines logo coming in for a landing at José Martí Airport in Havana (it was a chartered flight). We were told some 60 charters a week are flying between the United States and Cuba, and the pre-Revolution peak was 70 flights. There are people going from the U.S. to Cuba and back, primarily people visiting their families back in Cuba.

No Booze/No Cigars
Just because there are lots of flights doesn't mean there are boxes of Bolivars and bottles of Havana Club coming back. One used to be able to come back to the United States on a direct flight to Cuba with up to $100 worth of Cuban goods. No more. You can't bring back a single item. "You can't even bring in a bottle of cologne this big," a Customs agent told me, holding his fingers all of a quarter inch apart.

"Hi, and Happy New Year from Norway!! I started smoking cigars just recently, and started with the Cubans. Been into the most usual brands. Just a couple of weeks ago I started to look closer into your site, and a several others. I came to understand there is a MUCH bigger cigar world outside Cuba. Different shapes, blends, wrappers, etc. So I decided to nosedive directly into your top lists:-DD. I'm sure there will be a lot of disappointments, ecstatic happiness, "so What", etc. But I'm convinced there will not be a single dull moment." —January 14, 2011 22:32 PM
"I suppose for Americans one has to puff-in as many Cuban cigars whilst down there. Or if you are planning say a few trips per year many cigar lounges/government stores are happy to rent a humidor locker to you. Thus one can lay down a few special boxes for themselves. Specifically I have in mind La Casa del Habano (Fifth Avenue), barrio Miramar where Enrique Mons did such a wonderful job. A true unofficial ambassador for Cuba and puros. Of course, there are other places and the rental/storage fees seem fairly reasonable, ask and shop around." —December 24, 2010 19:05 PM