By Dennis Green of Business Insider
While every minor cigar fan is hooting and hollering about the possible return of Cuban cigars to the US, real cigar experts know the truth: There really isn’t all that much to cheer about.
According to Michael Herklots, vice president for retail and brand development for Nat Sherman cigar brand, Cubans are not the greatest in the world anymore.
Too many fantastic cigars have cropped up from other countries around the world, including Honduras, Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua — places Cigar experts flocked to after the US embargoed Cuban exports.
The cigars from these countries are just as good — or even much better — than Cubans, and they’ve always been available in American markets.
Even industry publications have picked up on this trend. The Washington Post notes that only 3 of the top 25 cigars in the world, as ranked by Cigar Aficionado, were Cubans.
And in the quality control department, Cubans fare even worse. There is a high chance of a few cigars in a Cuban box being “total dogs,” according to Herklots. They don’t draw properly, are rolled too tightly, or are otherwise made without the care of an artisan craftsman.
“There is certainly a risk in investing in a Cuban product, because you are not guaranteed the best,” Herklots says. He hypothesizes that it may be the state ownership of cigar manufacturing and lack of entrepreneurship in Cuba that may be to blame for this quality control problem.
Cuban cigars aren’t highly regarded in countries apart from the US, where they’ve always been available. In fact, in places like Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Cubans are the most common cigar around. It’s merely their rarity in the US that excites the US cigar smoker, says Herklots.
“In every hobby, we always want the thing that is hardest to get,” Herklots says, noting that the same scarcity phenomenon occurs with small-scale American brands in European countries where they’re hard to find.
Cuba’s reputation for great cigars isn’t unearned, of course. They were a pioneer in cigar manufacturing very early on and, for a long time, Cuban cigars were the undisputed best in the world.
Still, if you really must have the taste of a Cuban-made cigar with 100% Cuban tobacco, there’s only one place to get it: Cuba.