After the 2019-2022 COVID-19 Pandemic, it would be remiss if I didn't notice the return of many expats to New Zealand who for the large part are looking for Cuban cigars...
They have of course enjoyed a varied-world of cigars from the affordable (anywhere outside of New Zealand) non-Cuban brands, to the decent-quality Cuban cigars throughout Asia and Europe.
So today, I thought I would take a closer look at Cuban-cigars and share some of alternatives for the aficionado looking to start with a short-list or cheat-sheet in the nuevo-mundo (new-world) of cigars.
As always, our intent has been to provide New Zealand cigar and pipe aficionados with the finest range of products available in the free-world and to ensure we abide by New Zealand's strict anti-tobacco (anti-smoking) laws.
If you have some "obvious" questions around Cuban cigars vs new-world cigars, please email email@example.com so I can add them to this BLOG post.
What makes a great Cuban Cigar Alternative?
Herein things get a little interesting, I for one will admit I am the furthest away from a Cuban Cigar expert as you could get; so, if you believe I have gotten this horribly wrong (good chance I have), then please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org)...
At the heart of Cuban-cigars they use largely a Corojo' based wrapper leaf and if you have done any research into cigars, you'll have read that the Master Blenders consider the wrapper to be one of the largest contributors to the flavour or taste-profile you pick up when smoking a fine cigar.
Now, we also have Habano wrappers, which is the new-world (non-Cuban) peoples name for Havana-seed wrapper; it also turns out Corojo grown in Honduras is called, Corojo and Habano grown in Nicaragua, is, well a Corojo wrapper - or better put; a Havana-seed wrapper... it seems all bar some modern day hybrid's (A.J. Fernandez Bellas Artes for one example) and new strains; the vast range of wrappers grown today are Havana-seed Corojo (aka Habano) based.
The trick is folks, they are all grown in totally different regions and thus have their own very specific nuances and then (if your still with me) they are then cured/fermented completely differently as well. So from a common base, we end up with literally hundreds if not thousands of different forms of wrappers, binders and filler tobaccos.
And from what I can gather, new-world cigar makers (non-Cuban) aka Premium cigar makers cannot use the wording Havana or Havana-seed as a name/description due to legalities from to Cuba.
During the research for this BLOG-post I did a very poor attempt to find the differences between Bolivar, Cohiba, Montecristo, Punch and Romeo y Julieta Cuban cigars - honestly other than shade variations; theres not a lot of difference or even information out there on how they are different and why.
Personally I always remember Bolivar being a darker redder wrapper, Cohiba a lighter shade, Montecristo darker again, Punch somewhere inbetween Cohiba and Montecristo's and Romeo's being liter again. But I am getting older and well my memory has been known to let me down.
Googling kind of proved what I remembered though and of course there's the exception of the Cohiba Maduros...
SO - is it that simple - just buy Habano or Corojo-wrapper based cigars?
No, unfortunately not - but it does lend to that flavour-profile that you might be looking for and yes, we do tend to pick Corojo-based cigars as Cuban'esque alternatives; but honestly it isn't that simple.
About now I was going to boldly list all the cigars we sell with Corojo wrappers; but now I realise that isn't going to work - I am going share a much much shorter list of cigars that our customers and others have described as being "Cuban'esque" in flavour... not nature, because 99.9% of our cigars smoke really well, every time and you don't tend to throw away half of the box because they wouldn't smoke.
And yes, not all of these are in stock; they come and they go...
illusione ONEOFF as a very boutique cigar has often been referred to as a fantastic Cuban alternative to the Montecristo
Camacho Criollo has been referred to as a great Bolivar alternative
RoMa Craft Intemperance EC XCIII is regarded as a fine alternative to the Partagas
J.C. Newman Perla del Mar Corojo is often picked as a Cuban alternative
Henry Clay War Hawk stands up well against the Romeo y Julieta
Herrera Esteli Habano is to me, the most Cuban'esque of cigars (created by a former Cuban Master Blender, Willy Herrera)
Joya de Nicaragua Antano Gran Reserva is a fantastic Montecristo alternative with well-aged tobaccos
( this is actually a really small list, I will keep adding to it as time & my memory permits )
If you like milder Cuban cigars like the Fonseca, Quai d'Orsay or Saint Luis Rey you probably would want to try Connecticut Shade wrapper cigars like J.C. Newman Perla del Mar Shade, Padron Damaso, Undercrown Shade, Camacho Connecticut, Ashton Cabinet, Casa Cuevas Connecticut, Alec Bradley Connecticut etc.
If you prefer medium-bodied cigars like H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta or Punch you may like Plasencia Alma del Campo, My Father Cigars Fonseca, Davidoff Winston Churchill The Late Hour, My Father Cigars Flor de Las Antillas, Casa Cuevas Habano, A.J. Fernandez Dias de Gloria, Alec Bradley Nica Puro or Curivari Buenaventura.
However if you prefer full-bodied cigars like the Cohiba, Partagas, Montecristo or Vegas Robaina you may want to try Joya de Nicaragua Antano Gran Reserva, Padron 1926 Serie, La Aurora ADN Dominicano, Alec Bradley Prensado, Ashton VSG, Arturo Fuente Don Carlos, Punch Diablo, A.J. Fernandez Bellas Artes or Undercrown 10.
Lastly, the other thing I would mention is to look at the old-guard, the former Master Blenders who left Cuba and now blend and make cigars in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras as cigars to also try; however that list is also not perfect by any means as there are literally hundreds of former Cuban Masters working for factories none of us know first-hand that make multitudes of award winning and famous brands...
Eladio Diaz (Diaz Cabrera), Don Pepin Garcia (My Father Cigars/Tatuaje), Benji Menendez (General Cigar Co.), the Padron-family, the Fuente-family, Manuel Quesada (Quesada/Casa Magna), Willy Herrera (Drew Estate), the Plasencia-family... to name drop but a few...
Finally, don't forget the new kids on the block like Reinier Lorenzo of HVC (Havana City Cigars) who quite refreshingly only blends and makes cigars he would enjoy - like a breath of fresh air; his Cuban heritage is very strong in the cigars he produces today at Aganorsa Leaf in Nicaragua.
The same can be said for Abdel Fernandez (A.J. Fernandez) who grew-up next to Alejandro Robaina (considered the absolute Master of Tobacco) in Cuba and now produces some of the finest nuevo-mundo (new-world) cigars in the free world.
Likewise, one of the newest additions we have had are the La Familia Robaina range of cigars from none other than Hirochi Robaina, the grandson of Alejandro Robaina who has gone to Nicaragua and produced very Cuban'esque styled cigars.
Please as stated I am the furthest from a Cuban-cigar expert; feel free to email email@example.com with your opinions and suggestions for new-world Cuban'esque cigars...