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Cuban Cigars

The 10 Best Cuban Cigars to Smoke

J. Bennett Alexander Alexander's picture

J. Bennett Alexander

For cigar lovers in search of the best cigars to smoke, a focus on Cuban cigars is inevitable. A number of arguments illuminate the pros and cons of buying Cuban cigar brands. While Cuban cigars possess an undeniable fascination among almost anyone with the slightest interest in cigars, it is important to point out the premium U.S. cigar market is nearly impossible to unseat as the pinnacle of quality, consistency and taste with an immeasurable and versatile selection of great cigars blended by the world’s foremost cigar-makers, most of whom are of Cuban descent.

That said, as your premier source for authentic cigar expertise, your pals at Holt’s are happy to reveal our insights into the present-day market for Cuban cigars and offer a bit of guidance to those in search of the best Cuban cigars.

Cuban Cigar Production

Rain. Too little of it. Too much of it. Either can be devastating to tobacco plants. Cuba has suffered both. Excessive heat too. The result is that for two years up until about the middle of 2017, Cuba’s tobacco production was severely challenged. The outlook is better going forward, but the supply is tight in a state-run system that already allocates a traditionally scarce supply of quality tobacco mostly to the better-known brands like Cohiba, Montecristo, Partagás, Romeo y Julieta and H. Upmann.

Scarce too are top-level cigar rollers, who also get assigned to those elite brands because they bring in the most cash. (Cigars account for about 17 percent of Cuba’s export earnings.) With all that in mind, the challenge is to find the 10 best Cuban cigars.

Today, you can bring any number of Cuban cigars into the United States from anywhere in the world “as accompanied baggage,” so long as they’re for “personal use.” However, if you bring in more than $800 worth of cigars or 100 cigars in quantity, you’ll be subject to paying duty charges.

If you’re visiting London, Paris, Madrid or Zurich, and, of course, Havana, you’re in some of the best cities for Cuban cigars. If you’re close to Detroit or San Diego, it’s just a short drive across the borders to Windsor, Ontario, and Tijuana, Mexico, respectively, to an official La Casa del Habano. It’s always advised to consult the federal government’s current regulations regarding the import of Cuban cigars, as the rules are subject to change.

Pro Tips for Buying Cuban Cigars

  1. Try to find a box that is a little older than the 2016 or 2017 crops. The dates are stamped on the bottoms of the boxes.
  2. There are some gems out there. A friend recently found some superb 2009 Montecristo No. 2s in Madrid. Smoke one cigar before spending a lot of money on a whole box with an iconic label.
  3. In Havana, there are numerous shops. Don’t limit your search to one. Some order more stock and some will have larger cigars, though they are more difficult to find. Some store managers will try to get what you want if you’re going to be around a few days. Treat them well.
  4. Buy only from a reputable source. That means don’t buy “bargains” off the streets in Havana. Also, be very, very cautious of buying Cubans from your local U.S. tobacconist.  Some counterfeits are remarkably well executed, but are still not the real thing.

10 Best Cuban Cigars to Smoke

Cuban cigars might be easier to get now, but getting great Cuban cigars ….? Here’s our list of the 10 Best Cuban Cigars right now. We’d love to see yours. The prices reflect the range we found in stores around the world, not in duty-free or online shops.

#1 - Ramón Allones Specially Selected

This Robusto (50 x 4 7/8”), was Cigar Aficionado’s number two cigar in 2015.  Understand that the Ramón Allones brand is usually among the strongest Cuban cigars, but this one also shows great balance. It’s a prime example of the “what grows together, goes together” aphorism, exhibiting strong coffee notes. $16-$23.

#2 - Cohiba Esplendido

It’s baaaack! This used to be the Cohiba everyone wanted in their humidor, but it was often plugged. Improved construction now makes this medium-full Churchill (47 x 7”) a jewel, an expensive jewel. Lots of coffee and leather and a touch of sweetness. Look for boxes from 2014 and 2015 as well. $32-49.

#3 - Partagás Serie E No. 2 

This is the big boy of the Partagás line in terms of girth (54 x 5 ½”) and a true Corona Gorda. The profile is medium-full and the cigar is loaded with a lot of beautifully blended tobacco that can overwhelm you if you puff too quickly. It was the number three Cigar Aficionado pick in 2016. $18-35.

#4 - Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2

This is the Robusto (50 x 4 7/8”), in the minds of many, that for years has defined what a Cuban Robusto should be. The word here is ‘smooth.’ If you like strong cigars, this might seem a bit mild, but appreciate the complexity and layers of flavor as you smoke it. $17-23.

#5 - Montecristo No. 2 

Can you ever really go wrong with this flagship torpedo? (52 x 6 1/8") Well, yes, but right now it’s among the more consistent Cubans out there. Some from recent production have smoked superbly, and shown the classic earthiness and brightness that this Figurado is known for. $16-$33.

#6 - Bolivar Belicoso Fino 

This full-bodied Figurado (52 x 5 1/2”) has been a favorite of Cuban cigar lovers for a long time and remains solid. It’s among the more complex smokes in the pantheon, with distinctive cedar notes and a slight sweetness. $20-$26.

#7 - Trinidad Topes Edición Limitada 2016

This zaftig, pig-tailed Robusto (56 x 4 7/8”) is one that has garnered good reviews lately and shown consistency in delivering earthiness and spice. It ain’t cheap and it’s hard to find, but worth a go. Watch out for slightly loose construction. $26-42.

#8 - Cohiba Medio Siglo

This is a sort of short Robusto (52 x 4”) that packs a ton of complexity. Pepper is dominant early on, then it smooths out with other spice notes. $27-35.

#9 - Montecristo Dantés Edición Limitada 2016

Another limited edition, this Churchill (48 x 6 5/8”) is a medium-full smoke that goes from sweet to a little salty, then sweetens a bit toward the end. Comes in a box of 10. $30-43.

#10 - Punch Punch 48

They call this a Corona Gorda (48 x 5 1/2”) because it’s a little larger than the traditional Punch Punch (46 x 5 1/2”), but it contains all the spice of the perennial favorite. It’s not hugely complex, medium in body and fairly reasonably priced. A great breakfast cigar. $13-16.

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