Why I don't buy Cuban cigars
Let's face it, there is something to be said for Cuban cigars, but here's the rub: Whenever I speak to a cigar smokers who claim to buy Cuban cigars on a regular basis - they always have "a connection" - I tend to get this visceral reaction. Is it because I'm jealous that they can afford a $300 box of cigars? Maybe a little, but it's not about money. It's about principles. Sure, there are still some very fine cigars made in Cuba, and the Cuban soil and climate are perfect for growing prime leaf, but remember, the government makes the cigars, and we all know what happens when the government takes control of an industry. (Beware auto manufacturers.)
If you're a cigar smoker, they you're probably aware that many of the manufacturers of premium non-Cuban cigars are themselves Cuban expatriates. Moreover, the cigars are all produced from Cuban seed tobaccos. Families like the Perdomos, Olivas, Padróns, Toraños, Eiroas, Plasencias, the Carrillos, Quesadas - I could go on ad infinitum - have all been able to create some amazing cigars working with different soils in other countries. In many ways, the cigars created by the aforementioned are every bit as Cuban as a Havana Partagas Serie D or Montecristo No.2.
Using the skills that have been handed down for generations, these grandmasters working in Miami, Tampa, The Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Nicaragua have worked their tails off, independently from scratch mind you, to exceed the standards of their native country and create the fine brands they are today.
When an American buys a box of Cuban cigars, I doubt they ever consider, or can even relate to, the brutality many of these same Cuban families have had to endure at the hands of Castro's goons, as illustrated in this quote taken directly from the Perdomo cigars website:
A quiet and peaceful man steadfastly opposed to Castro and the communist revolution, Silvio Perdomo was soon arrested in his own home and quickly tried and incarcerated in the notorious Isle of Pines prison where he endured his harshest treatment. Three years later he was transferred to La Cabana, a murky 18th century fortress overlooking Havana Bay. For the next 12 excruciating years, Silvio suffered through squalid conditions, torture and near-starvation at La Cabana and four other Cuban prisons. Nick, Sr. was also a target of the wrath and violence inherent in establishing Castro's "New Cuba." Ambushed by pro-Castro guerillas, he was shot and critically wounded - within view of the very home his father Silvio was arrested and abducted from.José Oliva has often told me of his personal disdain for the Castro regime. David Blanco of Los Blancos Cigars once told me a story about a relative of his who, despite hating Castro, had an important job in the regime. One day he received a call from a friend telling him he was being set up for a "hit." In a heartbeat he was on the next boat to Miami, and had to send for his wife and children later. Can you imagine not even having time to say goodbye to your wife and children? There are countless untold stories of families enduring dishonor, oppression, strife, and death.
So when someone tells me about the great box of Cubans he just picked-up, I think of it as a slap in the face to these fine gentleman, and all that they have achieved since putting their families' homeland behind them. Just walk through any cigar store today and look at all the marvelous cigars the free market has created! I don't see the need to buy Cuban cigars. And anyone who actually believes that Cuban cigars are superior to all other handmade cigars, is seriously misguided.
I think its fair to say that many of the manufacturers would like to see the embargo lifted, if only to blend their cigars with Cuban tobacco. Maybe when that happens, I'll buy a Cuban cigar. But realistically, I'd say the Cubans have a lot of catching up to do first.
~ Gary Korb