Meanwhile...the Cuban cigar debate rages on
Recently I befriended a BOTL who, to say the least, is very passionate about cigars. As a result, we've had some great email exchanges over the past month. During a recent conversation about comparing Nicaraguan cigars to Cuban cigars, he offered the following opinion:
The new smokes coming out of Cuba are pretty frickin' great. The one thing they have over many Nicaraguans is a super harmonious blend. In a good Cuban cigar, all the flavor elements melt together like butter. Some Nics come close, like the El Centurion, LFD Double Press, Perdomo Cuban Parejo, Lot 23 and Champagne, Illusione, (but with a very Nic/Honduran flavor), and others.
I'm not saying Cubans are better than Nics, because that's a generalization that doesn't hold up. Some Cuban cigars are great while others suck, and the same goes for Nics. My current favorite cigar is the El Centurion, a Nic. Last night I smoked a [Cuban] RyJ Small Churchill. It was rated by CA (I don't often agree with their ratings) at 93 (I think). I didn't like it at all. That blend had little harmony to it. But the [Cuban] Hoyo de Monterrey and the Diplomatico have mouthwatering blends. It's funny how two cigars that use virtually the same tobacco can be so different. Well, not different in the sense that all Cubans share a common flavor component, but that the blends make it or break it for me.
Bottom line is, I'm not endorsing Cubans over Nicaraguans, just suggesting you try a great cigar that happens to be Cuban.
Looking at it from the state of the industry, I believe the Cubans once did and in many cases still do produce some phenomenal cigars. Cuba may have set the standard for cigars as France has done for wines, but competitively speaking, they've pretty much all but lost the race.
That said, let's rewind a generation or two. Thanks to Fidel Castro, some of the best cigar producing families left the island. Add to that the imbecilic embargo. Now, give the Cuban emigrants in Nicaragua, The Dominican, and Honduras time enough to cultivate the land, develop great tobacco and, this may sound like a stretch, but if you think about it, Cubans are still making great cigars - just not in Cuba. (Also, conspicuous by its absence, my friend above neglected to mention Padron cigars.)
On the other hand, no ardent cigar smoker should be denied the experience of being able to smoke a good cigar regardless of it's origin. The best thing that could happen to both Cuba and the cigar business would be dropping the embargo.