By now, you all know I'm living in Mexico. Over the last nine months, I've had the good fortune to meet some serious cigar smokers here in my new hometown, Querétaro. For the most part, they are Cuban cigar smokers. They know a bit about Dominican and Nicaraguan brands, and some of them have smoked brands like Padrón and Fuente Fuente OpusX. But more often than not, they have only heard of those brands, partly because they have such a wide audience around the world.
So, whenever I get the chance, I have been giving my new friends some of the cigars that inhabit my humidor at home. It's an eclectic group of non-Cuban cigars. I'd be a liar if I said they weren't sharing more space today with Cuban cigars. But that's OK. I can do that now without any fear of retribution. Some Cubans I have acquired since arriving here in Mexico, others have been migrating from their temporary home in Havana every time I come back to Mexico from a trip there.
Just so you don't think I'm becoming totally spoiled, Mexico has some of the toughest smoking laws in the world, and some of the highest taxes on cigar imports. So, a decent Cuban cigar, while not quite as expensive as some high-tax countries like Canada, is still very pricey. And, if you're traveling back to Mexico from abroad, you are limited to one box of 25 cigars, duty-free. You can't just load up on cigars and bring them into the country. Therefore, I'd say my home humidor still consists of about 80 percent non-Cuban cigars.
And, when I say eclectic, I do mean it. I have lanceros from Herrera Esteli, Casa Magna and La Flor Dominicana, Davidoff Nicaraguas and some Davidoff White Labels, Coronados by La Flor Dominicana, Padróns of various types, My Father and Flor de las Antillas, some old Ashton VSGs, and, yes, a nice selection of Fuente Fuente OpusX, (including a box of Double Coronas, a former Cigar Aficionado Cigar of the Year) as well as a whole little cubby full of old Tatuajes. There are even a few old La Aurora 100 Años and a nice little batch of very old El Jockos, from La Flor Dominicana. And I have some Macanudo Vintage 2000 and Partagas Homage, which are smoking quite nicely. In other words, I'm not suffering with my home inventory.
What have people liked? Well, my friend Fernando loved the My Fathers and a Padrón. And, a guy I just met last week named Rodrigo loved the Coronado by La Flor Dominicana. I could tell it was the cigar of the evening at the table where I was smoking a Cohiba Pirámides and another friend was puffing on Fuente Fuente OpusX. All three were great, but the Coronado was a standout. (In the October issue of Cigar Aficionado, in the Connoisseurs' Corner section, I gave that cigar 97 points, so I'm going to have be careful about not getting too generous with them.)
My point is pretty simple. In a setting where the usual cigar of choice would be from Cuba, the best cigars from the rest of the world are not only holding up well, but they are showing the uninformed how good they can be. And, I'm getting a lot of pleasure from shaking up people's expectations.
It's a good lesson that every cigar smoker should be learning. Like wine, great cigars are being made today in a lot of different countries, and it is worth your while to keep exploring. I think you'll be surprised.