Out Of The Humidor
As a charter subscriber to Cigar Aficionado in 1992, I've observed over the past quarter century that Cuban cigars have become less dominant in the top ratings every issue, mainly due to product from Nicaragua and/or the Dominican Republic. The best-tasting cigars I ever purchased were a box of Cuban H. Upmann No. 2s in 1994 from the Davidoff store in London. Some of the most mediocre to awful cigars I've ever purchased have also been Cuban Upmann No. 2s over subsequent decades from Davidoff stores in Canada and Mexico. I'd like to think they weren't counterfeit, given my modicum of expertise as a consumer and Davidoff's reputation.
So part of me had hoped that Gordon Mott's article in the February 2017 issue, "The New Rules on Cuban Cigars," was going to be a primer on which Cuban cigars were now worth the premium price. After reading it, I understand the thrust being the recent relaxation of import rules for U.S. citizens bringing Cuban cigars purchased abroad into this country.
That said, and given the incomparable experience that Cigar Aficionado has on the quality of Cuban cigars, it occurs to me that you would be doing your readers a tremendous service with an article chronicling the evolution and quality of Cuban cigar tobacco over the past 20 or so years. My experience has led me to the theory that a declining Cuban economy over this period, combined with the need to provide government-subsidized cigarette rations to the Cuban populace, has resulted in more tobacco being diverted to cigarette production and less for higher-quality cigar manufacturing. Bolstering this theory is the Castro-mandated cessation of subsidized rations to those citizens born after 1956 in the past few years.
Whatever the case, my question (and request for insight from your publication) becomes: Does the average Cuban cigar today remain the Holy Grail for smokers of fine cigars, thereby justifying the continued mystique and premium price?
David B. Kee Jr. M.D.
Pinehurst, North Carolina
Editors' Response: A superb question. If you turn to Greg Mottola's analysis on page 133, you will see how Cubans rated collectively as a country against cigars from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and elsewhere in our 2016 blind tastings in Cigar Aficionado and Cigar Insider, our twice-monthly newsletter about cigars. The short answer is: quite well. However, there are great Cuban cigars, there are good Cuban cigars and there are poor Cuban cigars. A cigar smoker would be misinformed indeed if he or she thought that picking up any cigar of Cuban origin would guarantee a great smoke. Just because a cigar is Cuban doesn't mean it will be of high quality.
Thank you for the Editors' Note "Government Meddling at its Worst" [December 2016]. The abusive burden placed on many businesses by the outgoing U.S. federal administration is only one reason for the result of the 2016 presidential election. As with the abuse of Gibson Guitar Co., the overreach by meddling administration minions crippled many hard-working business owners and their children for years to come. Now it is the agribusiness of cigar manufacturing that is being targeted by the outgoing abusive socialist. One address to the abusive burden is noted in the Declaration of Independence: "He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance." In Cigar Aficionado we read the cry of a free business republic restating the declaration so noted more than 200 years ago. Such rejection of administration socialist overreach is now made witness with the county-by-county majority vote of the republic. We see this past vote unseating dozens and dozens of tax-spend-and-regulate socialist politicians in D.C. and across the United States.
Remember, without protected open economic commerce there can be no other freedom; because the fertilization of free conduct is in the financial ability of the individual to act upon a desire.
To enjoy a fine cigar is an opportunity for repose. Hand-rolled cigars made by hard-working members of the business community need not be vilified by federal or state administration. Such jackbooted conduct by the outgoing administration is a reminder of those words so stated in the Declaration of Independence. Yes, in the 2016 elections U.S. citizens rejected the abusive communist platform in favor of freedom. At hand is the freedom of those boutique businesses and the unfettered opportunity for the ineffable right of the individual to go about enjoying life in even the most simple of things as a good hand-rolled cigar.
To that end, many rejoice for the rejection of the communist abuse. Rejection now is enforced by a peaceful voting process and not a second heavy blood sacrifice like that paid more than 200 years ago. On a personal note, I am grateful Cigar Aficionado continues to champion the simple pleasure of an individual to select and enjoy a fine cigar.
J. Bradley Oakes
The only way [your Arnold Schwarzenegger photo shoot] would get any better ["You're Fired," February 2017] is if he was holding a rifle in one arm, flexing the bicep with the other arm while on the tank, with the cigar in his mouth. That would be just too much.
Your December issue was exceptional, covering all the bases: travel, cigars, chefs, etc. Good work!