Patience is a virtue, especially in the cigar business. Cigar tobacco doesn’t like to be rushed, and going from seed to smoke takes years. But if you’ve been waiting on Cuba’s new version of the Vegueros brand, your patience has been stretched to the limits.
The cigars, jazzy new remakes of a quiet brand that dates back to 1996, were originally unveiled at the Habanos
Festival in February 2013, with the intention that they’d be on sale that fall. In February 2014, with the cigars no where to be found, Habanos S.A. officials told Cigar Aficionado Vegueros would be out in April. But it wasn’t until May that the cigars finally began to trickle to retailers. As of this writing many still don’t have the full line, and some have none at all.
Vegueros has always stood out among Cuban cigars because of where it’s rolled. Nearly all Cuban smokes are made in and around Havana, but Vegueros cigars are rolled in the Francisco Donatién factory (a former prison) in Pinar del Río, the Western region known for tobacco growing. The brand was decent if not exciting, known for a couple of nice panetela shapes but never one to make waves with critics or consumers.
The original version was discontinued and completely remade, with a new look, new blend, new sizes and new prices that put them among the cheapest of handmade Cuban cigars. They are small: each size is shorter than 5 inches in length. The Mañanitas is 4 inches by 46 ring gauge, Tapados is 4 3/4 inches by 46 ring, and Entretiempos is 4 3/8 by 52. They come in packs of four or in bright, upright boxes containing 16 cigars apiece with a vibrant new look.
Canada seems to have been the first to get them, with shipments hitting Montreal in May. “They are priced to sell,” says Antonio Marsillo, general manager at the Casa del Habano in Montreal. “They are kind of in-between the lower end Quintero machine made…and the higher-end regular line. We’ve been selling a lot of them.”
In Mexico, Vegueros cigars first arrived in August. “They have been selling,” says David Tourgeman, proprietor of the Casa del Habano in Cancún. “They are moving because they came in at a low price.”
Prices range by market due to local taxes. In Germany (which didn’t get them until almost September) prices range from 4.70 euro ($6) for the tiny Mañanitas to 6.80 euro ($8.80) for the Entretiempos. In Mexico the smallest Vegueros retails for $7, while the other two sizes are $10 and $11. In Canada, where tobacco taxes are high, Vegueros begin at C$12.90 ($11.70) and go as high as C$20.90 ($19), a bargain in a country where single cigars can sell for $100.
The robusto-sized Entretiempos was the first to arrive in many markets. The Casa del Habano in St. Barth’s, the island paradise in the Caribbean not known for bargain shopping, received the Entretiempos size in late August. The cigar is the least expensive one in the shop (other than miniatures) with a retail price of about $7. The other sizes have yet to arrive.
The Vegueros Entretiempos was rated in the September 9 issue of Cigar Insider, our twice-monthly publication covering the cigar industry. The cigar scored 90 points, with a tasting note pointing to its hearty and rich flavor, with plenty of earth and spice character balance.
Still, in some spots, there just are no Vegueros to be had. Retailers across Great Britain still had no sign of the cigars as this issue was being sent to press.