Cigar Aficionado

Flattery and the Real Deal

I smoked a Cohiba Behike and an Edmundo Dantes Conde 109 the other night during a dinner at La Guarida, the best restaurant in Havana. The Behike didn’t have a band on it and the Dantes did.

Maybe you have forgotten about the Behike. But that is the mega-expensive limited edition smoke from Cohiba that came in Elle Blue humidors that were filled with 40 sticks. They sold for a minimum of about $18,000. They are already trading for about double that on the secondary market.

Only 100 humidors were made and each one was specially engraved with the owner’s name as well as each cigar was labeled with a numbered band.

The Edmundo Dantes Conde 109 is a limited-edition Churchill with a tapered head that was made for cigar maximo Max Gutmann, the agent for Cuban cigars in Mexico. It’s just hitting the market now.

Anyway, I am sure that both cigars I smoked at La Guarida were real. But the real of the real was the Edmundo Dantes Conde 109 because it had the real band. Does that make sense?

I was trying to explain that to my friends at dinner. “What if you had a Rolex Submariner and it was from the factory in Switzerland but it didn’t have the Rolex logo with the crown on the face,” I said as I was smoking the Behike. “Would it still be a Rolex? I don’t think so.”

I wouldn’t like to say where that Behike came from. But I have smoked a real one before. It came from the bench of the roller who made them at El Laguito, the Cohiba factory. And I received it the day the cigar was launched in 2006. Behike measures 52 ring gauge by 7 1/2 inches, or a hybrid of a Lanceros in length and Siglo VI in girth. And the cigar I had at La Guarida was the definitely it, with rich yet subtle aromas and flavors of ultra-clean tobacco, minerals and dried flowers. It reminded me of the great Esplendidos of the early 1990s from the El Laguito factory. But it didn’t have the band. I gave it 97 points the other night.

The Edmundo Dantes Conde 109 did have its two bands. One was the special one of the new brand. It resembles a Montecristo band. And then the second band is underneath which designates it is a regional edition and saying “Exclusivo Mexico.” I love this cigar. It reminds me of the 1492 limited editions from years ago. It’s so focused and clean with wonderful floral, cedar, cream and tobacco character. It is strong but balanced and will even be better in a year or two.

I know that Max had had the Edmundo Dantes Conde 109 made because he loves the 109 in the limited edition humidor made for the 150th anniversary of Partagas. And I think his new cigars comes very, very close in quality—96 points for me. Only 500 boxes are available. And I think they are going to sell for about $450 to $500 each.

By the way, regional cigars have apparently become the rage. Sources at Habanos S.A., the global distribution and marketing organization for Cuban cigars, say that every distributor now wants one. This year a half a dozen regional editions were made. Next year there are expected to be a dozen.

Anyway, I told Max that I also had a 109 without the band that someone gave me. “I don’t know where you got it but it’s not my cigar if it doesn’t have the band,” he said. He seemed sort of agitated.

Then I heard people are selling 109s in other markets without the bands. And that they are very popular. What’s the old saying? Imitation is the best form of flattery?

Tranquillo Maxito! Hiciste un buen tabaco!”

"I saw a box of regional-edition Edmundo Dantes cigars in the Duty Free in a Mexican airport yesterday. No 100% sure if they were Conde 109s, but they were churchill-sized and about $500 US for the box. Being Mexico, I was leery of ending up with expensive fakes. Now I will always wonder if I missed out on a truly great, exclusive smoke...Thanks for the great blogs, James." —July 31, 2009 11:10 AM
"You have obviously never had a Cohiba Lancero recent or otherwise, draw problems more often than not." —October 4, 2007 13:59 PM
"Dan, I'd be concerned of the origin of the cigars that are having the draw problems. I have not had a single draw problem on anything produced since early in the decade." —October 1, 2007 22:37 PM
"I must ask about the "draw" of Cuban cigars. Over the years i have read that Cubans have improved their rolling, and hence improved the draw -- I have NOT noticed any improvement! Valid question: am I sure I have authentic Cuban - i hope so. What are you currently expeiencely?? I know CA has previously written about improvement "draw."" —September 29, 2007 14:25 PM