Cigar Aficionado

When A Smoke Isn't Just A Smoke

Posted November 15, 2000, 5:30 p.m. e.s.t.

You have good taste. That's all I have to say for you. We asked you to post your 10 favorite Cuban cigars on our Web site, following my column on my 10 favorites, and the results came in at a hellish rate. Interesting stuff too.

For those of you who haven't seen it (where the hell have you been?), here is how you Cigar Aficionado Web site devotees voted:

Brand Percent 1. Montecristo No. 2 6.1% 2. Partagas Serie D No. 4 4.8% 3. Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona 4.6% 4. Partagas Lusitania 4.6% 5. Ramon Allones Specially Selected 4.1% 6. Bolivar Belicoso Fino 3.9% 7. Punch Double Corona 3.9% 8. Cohiba Esplendido 3.7% 9. Cohiba Robusto 3.3% 10. Bolivar Corona Gigante 3.3%

Just to give you a bit more information from what was posted the other week, the runners up were as follows:

Ramon Allones Gigantes (3.1%), Romeo y Julieta Churchill (2.8%), Trinidad Fundadore (2.8%) Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2 (2.2%), Montecristo "A" (2.2%), Punch Punch (2%), H. Upmann Sir Winston (1.7%), Bolivar Royal Corona (1.5%), Cohiba Siglo IV (1.5%), Punch Churchill (1.3%), Romeo y Julieta Exhibicion No. 4 (1.3%), Partagas 8-9-8 (1.1%), Cohiba Lancero (1.1%), Bolivar Corona (1.1%), Others (32%)

What does all this mean? I can't really make heads or tails out of it, to be honest. The most obvious thing is that cigars will always be a very personal thing. Look at it. No vitola (size) or brand dominates the poll. Finding a clear winner is about as easy as following the counting of ballots in Palm Beach County.

The Montecristo No. 2 ranked highest, with 6.1 percent of the vote. That's nothing. I thought it would have received a 20- or 30-percent rating as the No. 1 cigar. I am sure if we asked what is the best car ever made, the most beautiful woman, or the greatest football player, we would have had more of a majority.

What can be said is that Cuban cigar aficionados like big and fat cigars. Strangely, the Cubans and their agents say otherwise. They say the market is going to shorter, 42-ring-gauge smokes such as coronas and petit coronas. "People don't have the time for big smokes," they say. But they are wrong according to our poll. The double corona remains the most popular size, followed by the robusto and then the torpedo. Maybe their reasons for saying otherwise is that they need to flog millions of Monte No. 4s that nobody seems to want to smoke?

Brands don't seem to figure in the equation, either, although Cohiba is very popular despite its high price and inconsistent quality over the last few years. Perhaps everyone still remembers the great Cohiba Robustos and Esplendidos made in the early 1990s? They're not quite up to the same standard these days. The same might be true with Bolivar -- the brand had two cigars in the top 10, a Belicoso Fino and Corona Gigante. They were full-throttle, big-tasting smokes in the early- and mid-1990s. Today, they are much milder, although they remain very good smokes.

And what about all the new brands launched in the last five years by Habanos, the global distribution organization for Cuban cigars? Only Trinidad -- one of my favorite smokes, by the way -- makes it as a blip on the radar screen. The rest went unnoticed, which just about sums up their success in the marketplace.

Now that we know your 10 favorites, let's take it one step further. I would like to know what's the greatest Cuban cigar you have ever smoked? Whether it's a pre-Castro, a Cuban Davidoff or new Monte No. 2, post your choice in the Cuba and Cuban Cigar Forum.

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