Cuban Cigar Market Analysis

Have you ever bought a box of cubans that was great, only to buy another box later that was not? Doesn’t it seem like buying Cubans can be hit or miss? And why is this lack of consistency acceptable to us as consumers?

The question here is: Are their different grades of Cuban Cigars?

Obviously Cuban Cigars can be real or fake, but for the purposes of this discussion let’s leave fake Cubans out of it. It is assumed that any serious cigar smoker can detect a fake Cuban anyway, and so it really doesn’t apply.

Officially, Cuban Cigars distributed by Habanos S.A. are all of the highest quality. So why then are some boxes spectacular, and other boxes just ok?

Like Truffles (the mushrooms, not the chocolates) their is a magical quality to Cuban Cigars that can make them truly spectacular. But at times it seems as though the magic is missing. And really that’s just an acceptable part of the Cuban Cigar business.

You can justify these magic lacking Cubans through terms of inadequate aging or improper storage. You can also justify it by the fact that storing great Cubans together makes them all become greater, and so the ability of the tobacco to merge and mingle with other nearby leaves could be the answer to why some boxes are great and some are just ok.

But why don’t we see this problem with other great cigars produced in Nicaragua, Honduras or the Dominican Republic? Could it be that the great world wide demand for Cubans has led to a hush hush Cuban Tobacco Industry that imports much of it’s tobacco from neighboring countries and calls them Pure Cuban Cigars? That’s one rumor. And it would explain how one box of 100% Pure Cubans could taste so magical, while another box of say 30% Pure Cubans might not taste as great.

I have also found that while all my sources for obtaining Cuban Cigars provide me with real authentic Cuban Cigars, some sources consistently provide a higher percentage of magical Cubans. Could it be that some suppliers get the first take of the highest quality product, while others get the rest?

With all products planted and harvested in large amounts, their are going to be good years and bad years. A bad harvest could be due to a hurricane or a flood, but none the less a bad crop is the result.

Cigars are produced, released, rated, marketed and sold. This is the business. This leads to the first release of a cigar to be the best, to get the highest rating. Let’s say a cigar gets a 93 point rating when first released in 2003. You buy one, and smoke it, and love it. A few years later, let’s say in 2005, it may be a 91 point cigar, but the store shelf still advertises it’s 93 point rating. You buy one, and smoke it, and it’s just ok. This is just how the marketing of cigars works. It should also be noted that manufactures may try their absolute best to maintain the high ratings quality, but it may just not be possible for the aforementioned reasons.

I believe this marketing strategy to be true. And I believe that by analyzing the life-cycle of a given cigar over several years, this will likely show. It is even more apparent in cigars that garner extremely high ratings when first released, as the market need naturally increases, and so any business in an attempt to maximize profits will increase supply while slightly sacrificing quality. This is the natural evolution of a cigar over several years in the marketplace.

What about “Factory Seconds”, cigars with slight blemishes or rolling issues, that were deemed not good enough to be sold as high quality products. I have seen factory seconds from Padron sold through Famous Cigars online. I have also seen factory seconds of Rocky Patel Decades sold through Thompson Cigars online (which I plan to buy soon). These are sold at a fraction of the price, with no band, but should offer close to the same smoking experience. Again, from a production standpoint, all manufacturing industries, even those with machine made products achieving levels of Six-Sigma (99.996%) Accuracy admit to a small number (3.4) of defects per million products produced.

So the cigar industry does have a marketplace for these slightly inferior cigars. And this factory second marketplace includes cigars from all the cigar regions including Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominican Republic, etc…but I have never seen a Factory Second from Cuba? I wonder where the Cuban Factory Seconds go? Are they mixed in with the regular production? Are they smoked by factory workers? Are they given to certain, less preferable, online retailers?

Of course, with cigars being handmade organic products, their is some acceptable level of variation from cigar to cigar, box to box, year to year. But their is no clear answer for consumers as to how this process works, and ultimately, and unfortunately, it can at times leave a Cuban Cigar Lover with the short end of the stick. No pun intended.

Article written by Bernie.

How I Won A Zippo Blu Butane Lighter

One of the cigar blogs I frequent, CigarInspector.com, was running a New Year’s contest and all you had to do was be subscribed to their RSS feed. Then near New Years, they would publish a review with a secret link visible only to those who subscribe via RSS to a page to where you enter your email into a random drawing. Having never won anything online (probably because I never really enter any online contest/giveaways), It was shocking to receive an email from the Inspector indicating I’ve won!

The prize was a choice of either Capri 50 Cigar Humidor, Zippo Blu cigar lighter, or Lotus Spectre Switchblade Cigar Cutter; all really great prizes. Since I already have 3 humidors and a couple of cutters, I opted for the Zippo Blu cigar lighter since I really like them and you can read my review here.

© CigarInspector.com
© CigarInspector.com

If you enjoy cigars, I urge you to bookmark and subscribe to CigarInspector.com, you won’t be disappointed. They have top-notch reviews of all kinds of cigars (Cubans and non-Cubans) and the occasional cigar related accessories.

Merci beaucoup Denis!

Montecristo Edmuno Cigar Review

Next to Cohiba, Montecristo is perhaps one of the most recognizable Cuban cigar brand in the world. Their flagship cigar, the Montecristo No. 2, considered one of the finest full-bodies torpedo cigars made by many cigar aficionados, rated as a 94 by Cigar Aficionado (Feb 2008 edition).

I, not being a fan of torpedo shaped cigars or full-bodied Cubans (yet), opted for the Montecristo Edmundo. Montecristo also makes a shorter version, the Petit Edmundo, which is also very highly rated for those who are shorter on time or prefer a smaller vitola. I have not  tried the Petit Edmunodo yet, but from what I hear, it hits the sweet spot sooner. Definitely on my to try next list.

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Montecristo Edmundo

Origin: Cuba
Format: Robusto
Size: 5.3
Ring: 50
Wrapper: Cuban
Filler: Cuban
Binder: Cuban
Made: Handmade
Smoke Time: ~90 minutes
Price: $8.80, box of 25

Construction

20091210-Montecristo-Edmundo-Cuban-Cigar-002Beautifully constructed, this Robusto vitola named after Edmundo Dantes, the hero in Alexandro Dumas’ famous novel, “The Count of Montecristo”, a favorite reading for the torcedores of the Montecristo brand.

This is a large puro measuring 5.3 inches with a 50 ring. There is hardly any veins in the wrapper with no soft spots when gently squeezed. There is plenty of tobacco packed into this beast. The wrapper has a nice naturally, oily sheen and smells great. (2010-01-25 UPDATE: I found something quite interesting. Apparently the Montecristo Edmundos that come in the tubos are 50mm ring gauges where the Edmundos from a box of 25 are 52mm. Not entirely sure why the tubed version would be noticeably smaller.)

The cigar band is a very simple design, perhaps the smallest and least decorative of its other Cuban brothers. The band design is so boring and uninspiring (Montecristo name on top and Habana at the bottom with a Fleur in the middle) you could think the cigar was a counterfeit if not for the beautiful construction, the perfect triple cap, and the robust flavors.

I received the Montecristo Edmundo 3-pack that comes in a very nice package, complete the Country’s seals of authenticity. The Edmundo in the 3-packs come in a very attractive yellow metal tubo with the ornate Montecristo logo, the cigar name, and a bar-code on each. Inside, lays an Edmundo wrapped in a thin piece of cedar to help lock in the flavor. What’s great about the metal tubos is that they prevent the cigar from getting damaged when traveling with a stick. Normally I carry cigars i plan on consuming in a Cigar Caddy, but with the tubos I can travel light and not worry my cigar being destroyed in my pocket or bag. Even with the tubos, you’ll still need to place them in a humidor to keep them until you’re ready to enjoy them.

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My friends and I have not had any burn issues with the Montecristo Edmundo. Once started, it keeps a very precise burn until the end, no corrections needed. The salt-and-pepper ash produced is solid an holds for an inch-and-half easily. Because of the size and how well it’s packed, it’s easy to get large billows of nice white smoke.

Flavor and Taste

20091210-Montecristo-Edmundo-Cuban-Cigar-006The Montecristo Edmundo has a wonderful medium-to-full-bodied taste that remains unchanged except near the end. The flavors are buttery, with pepper, vanilla, chocolate with a hint of coffee beans throughout, but pickup more in pepper once you hit the last 1/3rd.

This is a cigar that you need adequate time to enjoy. Try rushing it and the strong flavors will kick your ass like gulping down hard Scotch, shot after shot. To truly appreciate this masterpiece, you need to take sips and let the taste flow around in your mouth before letting it out. I’ve tried to smoke these down to the nub a few times, but the flavors get too strong for me near the end, so generally I know when it’s time to put it down, it’s time to put it down. Also because this is more of a medium-to-full body cigar, make sure you have a hearty meal before enjoying one, or you will get sick.

The 5-pack of 3-packs (15 cigars) I have has a date code 2007 of making them 2 years-old (3 years, if you consider that the leaves are aged a year before being used) and from what I’ve read, can only get better with age.

Value

Purchased in a box of 25, the Montecristo Edmundo works out to $8.80 per stick. Purchased individually, the cost becomes a bit more on the pricey side of ~$13. Even at $13 a cigar, I definitely think it’s worth the value unlike the $36 Opus X Churchill I had.

For those who can legally acquire these beauties, they come as a single tubo, a 3-pack of tubos, a 5-pack of 3-packs (15 Edmundos), and a clamshell box of 25.

Conclusion

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This has become one of my favorite cigars, so far. If you want to experience Cuban cigars at its finest, I would certainly recommend the Edmundo for its beautiful construction and yummy flavors. For $8.80 a cigar, you’ll be hard pressed to find even a Cohiba that taste as good for the same price.

Be sure to read other reviews:

Montecristo Edmuno Gallery

Ramon Allones Specially Selected (RASS) Cigar Review

One of my favorite cigar formats is the Robusto because it generally packs a lot of flavor and takes about ~45 minutes to enjoy making it great for after lunch, after dinner, and/or enjoying with friends. The Ramon Allones Specially Selected consistently tops the list as one of the top in its class. This Cuban puro rated an 82 by Cigar Aficionado in its August 2009 magazine and is consistently highly rated by many other online cigar aficionados here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Being so highly rated by so many, I knew I couldn’t go wrong with the RASS; my thoughts inside.

Continue reading Ramon Allones Specially Selected (RASS) Cigar Review

H.Upmann Magnum 46 Cigar Review

A little known fact about me is that I enjoy cigars, to the chagrin of my wife. I used to smoke cigars more regularly three years ago and only recently having begun again. My favorites for the longest time had been General Cigar’s Hoyo de Monterrey Excalibur No. I, a light body flavor cigar, but now my taste has evolved more towards the wonderful Habana brands such as Cohiba, H.Upmann, and Ramon Allones.

What is the appeal of the Cuban cigar? Most non-cigar smokers would say it’s because they’re forbidden fruit as you can’t legally buy any Cuban cigars because of the 1962 U.S. Trade Embargo against Cuba, but that aside, many cigar hobbyist (such as myself) and aficionados would agree it’s more than that. From the way the Cuban cigars are hand-rolled to the specific tobacco leaves used, they are a treat unlike any other cigars, except a few non-Cuban brands such as Fuente (most notably, the Opus X) and Padron.
Continue reading H.Upmann Magnum 46 Cigar Review