Cuban cigars vs. Non-Cuban cigars
I know this subject has been covered ad-infinitum, but here's my 2¢.
Although the vast majority of cigars I've smoked are made outside of Cuba, I've had my share, and in my opinion, by today's standards Cuban cigars are not necessarily better, just different. A better way to put it would be that Cuba is to premium cigars what France is to premium wines; a benchmark or standard.
Most of the great cigar makers working outside of Cuba are Cuban exiles; at least most of the patriarchs who are still working. Their standards (and family blending secrets) are based on what they were taught by their Cuban forefathers, and have done a fantastic job at creating cigars in the DR, Honduras, and Nicaragua that rival and often exceed their Cuban counterparts. So, it's really a matter of taste.
Secondly, Cuban cigars are comprised of all Cuban-grown tobaccos using wrappers of the Corojo variety which were developed in the 1940's and like Connecticut leaf is shade-grown. You may notice that many Cuban cigars, at least the better ones, have a similar color range and glossiness to them? There is a unqiue flavor and character in good Cuban cigars, and if you can get your hands on, say, a Cuban Partagas Serie D No.4, then you'll know what I mean. But there are dozens of non-Cubans that blow the doors off many of them. Just take a look at the success CAO cigars have had outscoring Cuban cigars in vertical brand tastings reported in magazines like Cigar Aficionado.
Cuba does have an advantage with regard to its climate and the soil in its most fertile regions, like the far western Vuelta Abajo region in Pinar del Rio and the Partidos region which lies southwest of Havana, not to mention the tradition of fine cigar making that continues with the current generation of Cuban cigar blenders.
Cuban seed that was brought into the other Caribbean nations is used in almost all non-Cuban cigars for obvious reasons. It's the key to maintaining that seminal "Cuban flavor" in the tobacco, but it's the soil and curing process that have the most affect on the flavor. Cigar makers of Cuban ancestry like the Fuentes, Padróns, Toraños, Plasencias, and Eiroas (Camacho), Ernesto Perez-Carrillo (La Gloria Cubana), Manuel Quesada (Fonseca), Jose "Pepin" Garcia, and Jesus Fuego (the list goes on), knew how to work the soil in their adopted countries and have produced some of the finest cigars in the world.
I've smoked many non-Cuban-made cigars that come pretty darn close to "true" Cubans, but when it comes to genuine Havanas compared to premium cigars made outside of Cuba, it's always going to be apples vs. oranges.
~ Gary Korb