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Cuban Cigars 101

Closeup of Cuban cigar making“The most futile and disastrous day,” wrote British writer Evelyn Waugh, “seems well spent when it is reviewed through the blue, fragrant smoke of a Havana cigar.”

Waugh wasn’t alone in his passion for Cuba’s premier luxury product.  For centuries a “Havana” has been one of the primary hallmarks of Epicureanism, wealth, privilege, and celebration.  If anything, Cuba’s political and economic isolation from the United States since 1961 has made her cigars that more exclusive.  But does Cuba really have the monopoly on the finest stogies in the world?  And if she does, why?

The answer begins with the climate of Cuba’s mountainous Vuelta Abajo province, which Mother Nature delicately calibrated with the perfect balance of rain (60 inches per year), humidity (a steady 64% in growing season), and just the right amount of sunlight (8 hours) to produce the world’s most fragrant and delicious tobacco.  From the moment Christopher Columbus landed on Cuba in 1492 to find the natives smoking pipes called tobaccos, Cuba has been the premier source of the “blessed weed.”

It took the savvy merchant traders of Seville to come up with the idea of rolling tobacco inside slow-burning leaves (the best ultimately coming from Connecticut) and introduce the cigar to the aristocratic dining rooms of Spain in the eighteenth century, from whence it quickly spread to the rest of Europe and back to America. 

Cubans chaffed under Spanish rule in the nineteenth century, happily eschewing them after the Spanish-American war for more profitable cooperation with the Americans.  Until 1961, that is.  But today, true cigar lovers have reason to hope that all that is about to change.

Cuban cigars today are still considered the best in the world and not just because of the superiority of the island’s tobacco crop.  Premier Cuban cigars use long-filler tobacco leaves, which run the entire length of the cigar, as opposed to machine-made cigars, which use shorter cut leaves.  The best Cuban cigars are hand rolled - though perhaps not all of them on the thighs of fifteen-year old virgins as a popular legend suggests. 

Some brands to look out for on your trip to Cuba include:

Bolivar: a full-bodied cigar with intense flavor - not for the neophyte!

Cohiba: considered by many to be the “premier cru” of Cuban cigars.  Only the finest, hand-picked tobacco is used and the cigars hand-rolled by only the most skillful professionals.

Monecristo: perhaps the most famous Cuban cigar abroad, possibly because of its distinctive yellow box, but more likely because of its distinctive and very smooth flavor.  Fifty per cent of all handmade Cuban exports are Montecristo. 

Romeo y Julieta: the favorite of the most famous cigar lover of them all, Winston Churchill, after whom the a line of these cigars is named.

Alexander+Roberts pioneered travel to many emerging destinations, and now Cuba joins the list including the historic Landmark Voyages Around Cuba In-Style sailing from Miami to Havana in 2016.

Posted: 9/28/2015 10:58:32 AM by Alexander + Roberts