While the current trade embargo prohibits the import of any Cuban cigars, there have been a lot of conversations on allowing travelers to return with 100$ worth of cigars in their luggage. Even without having to import them, how would you spend 100$ if you had to buy the best Cuban cigars?
Below, we will take a look at some of Cuba’s finest brands. On top of comparing them to one another in terms of the price and overall quality, we will also discuss individual cigar picks from within those brands. That way, you will know what suits you best and what to look for when making your picks!
Building on top of its superb 20th-century reputation, Cohiba as a brand is perhaps the only Cuban cigar manufacturer to ascent to a cult-status over the last few decades. The company started in the mid 20th century and was the brand of choice of high-level diplomats and Fidel Castro himself. After 1982, it was available to the public but at one of the highest prices per cigar. Since then, models like the Cohiba Siglo VI have gathered some of the best cigar scores in the whole world.
The reason for their premium price tag and even more premium flavors lies in the tobacco. Cohiba cigars use some of the best tobacco leaves grown in the Vuelta Abajo region in Cuba and undergo a lengthy fermentation process. Then, they go through a lot of extra processing and finally they get to the professional wrappers of the brand who assemble it all in one final piece.
The brand itself has its cigars categorized in 6 different groups – La Linea Clasica Series, La Linea 1492 Series, Maduro 5 Series, Behike Series, Edicion Limitada Releases, and Special Releases. While the Edicion Limitadas and Special Release cigars are limited and very expensive, the others are somewhat affordable for the quality they bring to the table.
My favorite Cohiba cigars are:
- Cohiba Siglo VI (robusto extra)
- BHK 52
- Secretos (petit corona)
- Cohiba Robusto
All in all, if you don’t have a set budget for your cigar collection, most Cohiba cigars are definitely worthy for your humidor. And while you cannot import any of them, traveling to Cuba to test one out is going to add a precious moment to your vacation there.
- Premium quality
- Long fermentation process
- Masterfully built
- Have multiple classes
- Prices vary from affordable to ultra-premium
- Come in gorgeous packages and boxes
- Some of their better models are extremely expensive
- Tons of counterfeits
Montecristo cigars are one of the most common benchmarks in the cigar world. Most cigar aficionados judge other cigars by comparing them to certain Montecristo models due to their superb quality, excellent craftsmanship, and rich flavors.
The name of the company funnily comes from the famous novel “The Count of Montecristo” which was commonly read by the torcedores (people who wrap cigars) in the factory, almost a century ago. Back then, their cigars were numbered from 1 to 5 based on their size and boldness. Nowadays, there are plenty of Montecristo cigars, mainly divided into two separate categories – Linea Open, and Linea Clasica.
The brand continues the trend with Cohiba and Trinidad cigars by being the third one in the “big trio” of cigars made in the Vuelta Abajo region. One of the main downsides of cigars coming from this region is that they are made with some of the best cigar tobacco in the world. And if you think this isn’t a disadvantage, wait until you have to buy a full box of those cigars on your trip to Cuba.
My top Montecristo cigars from the Open series are:
- Open Eagle
- Open Junion Tubo
- Open Master
- Open Regata
The Clasica series also has some amazing options, the best of which are:
- Montecristo A
- Montecristo Especial No. 2
- Montecristo No. 5
- Petit Edmundo Tubo
All the cigars in the Open series are medium-bodied and rich in earthy, leathery, and sweet flavors. The Linea Clasica, on the other hand, features mostly medium-bodied to full-bodied cigars.
- Large assortment of cigars
- Two series suitable for most cigar smokers
- Excellent quality
- Come from Vuelta Abajo
- Long filler
- As other cigars from this region, they are quite expensive
- Counterfeited in the USA
- No Edicion Limitadas
On Cuba’s south coast, there is a city named La Santisima Trinidad which is a World Heritage Site listed by UNESCO. Named after it, is one of the best brands of Cuban cigars in the world – Trinidad. Just like Cohiba cigars, Trinidad models were primarily designed and gifted to foreign diplomats and the Cuban elite. While they are relatively new to the cigar world, the brand has made a name for itself. When the cigars were released for the general public in 1998, there was only one size. In a few years, more sizes appeared in the face of the Coloniales, the Robusto Extra, and more.
Again like the Cohiba tobacco, Trinidad uses the rich and fertile soils of the region of Vuelta Abajo. Those soils give a rich blend of earthy and leathery flavors to the fermented and aged cigars of both brands. All of the brand’s cigars are handmade and have a long filler.
Within the brand, there are plenty of amazing choices. Some of the best Trinidad cigars are:
- Robustos Extra
- Robustos Tubo
Almost all of the cigars within this brand have a medium flavor and are medium-bodied, making them ideal for both beginners and experienced cigar lovers.
- Long filler
- Come from Vuelta Abajo
- Rich blends
- Superb quality
- Very expensive
- Hard to find
- There are quite a lot of counterfeits circulating the market
Romeo y Julieta
Romeo y Julieta is one of the oldest and most famous Habano on this list. They get their name from the famous Shakesphere story about the two tragic lovers. There is nothing tragic about this brand’s history, however. They’ve been around since the early 20th century and became famous after the world-famous promoter Don Pepin Rodriguez put them on the map. In times of brutal competition, the brand stuck out as one of the premium choices for folk that had the money to buy their cigars. And speaking of such folk, their most devoted smoker back then was none other than sir Winston Churchill.
Apart from him making the brand even more famous than it was before the second world war, he was also immortalized in the brand’s famous style/size – called the Churchill. In the 21st century, the brand completed its range with two more Churchill sizes – the Short and Wide Churchills. The wide one has a huge 55 ring gauge, making it super famous across cigar enthusiasts that prefer girthier cigars.
If you’re a beginner, you will enjoy most Romeo y Julieta cigars due to their medium boldness and balanced characteristics. All that comes thanks to the rich flavors associated with the Vuelta Abajo region, from which the brand sources its tobacco. Some of the top cigars in this brand are:
- Wide Churchills
- Romeo No. 3
In this list of Cuban brands, Romeo y Julieta boasts the largest collection of sizes and has most of its cigars in the medium-bodied range, making them ideal for all types of cigar lovers.
- Large range of options to choose from
- Great variety of sizes
- Old brand with superb quality control
- Excellent packaging
- Some options are decently priced
- Their best models are extremely expensive
- No full-bodied options
- Counterfeits exist
Hoyo de Monterrey
Coming from the heart of the famous Vuelta Abajo region, Hoyo de Monterrey is a brand that has a century and a half old history in making some of the best cigars out there. They all feature great overall quality, excellent packaging but are quite costly. A good box of Hoyo de Monterrey cigars can set you back more than a thousand dollars. The brand is most famous for their Epicure models.
Some top Hoyo de Monterrey cigars are:
- Double Corona
- Epicure Especial
- Palmas Extra
- Petit Robusto
Unlike the other brands on this list, these cigars feature a light-bodied composition. This makes them ideal for beginners that want to taste real Cuban tobacco without the heaviness of the stronger options on the market.
- Old brand
- Traditional approach
- Long and precise fermentation process
- Comes from the heart of Vuelta Abajo
- Large assortment
- Light-bodied cigars
- No medium or full-bodied options
- Can be counterfeited (not as common)
- Some cigars from the brand are expensive
In this section of the article, we will take a look at the history of cigar production in Cuba, as well as the features that you have to look at in a Cuban cigar in order to determine whether it is good or not. Moreover, I will try to answer some of the most common questions people have when it comes to these cigars.
One thing that I want to mention before we go deeper into this topic is that there are a lot of counterfeit Cuban cigars on the market. In order to learn how to spot the fake ones from the real ones better, make sure you read this article!
A Brief History of Cuban Cigars
The Cuban region and cigars have been going hand in hand for nearly a thousand years now. The reason why most people relate cigars to Cuba is exactly that rich and long history of cigar production and continuous refinement. In the first centuries of the second millennium, Cubans used to roll the so-called tobacco plant Cohiba into palm or maize leaves acting as the cigar wrapper.
While the initial centuries saw Spain produce most of the cigars with Cuban tobacco, there is one interesting fact that changed everything. The fact was that complete and ready cigars were much more stable and tolerated the journey from Cuba to Spain much better. This quickly prompted a lot of factories to open in Cuba by the 17th century. One century later, the free trade granted to Cuba saw their cigars conquer the wealthy classes across the world and became an everlasting symbol of aristocracy.
In the late 20th century, with the help of the Soviet Union, the Cuban cigar industry bloomed to its all-time high. Naturally, when the Union collapsed, Cubans had to deal with a string of bad events such as low economic help, lack of proper weather, failed experiments with new varieties of tobacco, and a new poorly trained workforce. This led to the downfall of Cuban cigar quality although things have been steadily going back up since the 1990s. One attractive destination of Cuban cigar production is the region of Vinales where you can see the local farmers’ process from start to finish.
How to Choose a Cuban Cigar
Cigars in general are especially hard to pick and people often need plenty of experience to fine-tune their senses. There is a way, however, to score or judge a cigar purely by looking at its characteristics. Since you will be most likely shopping online for these cigars, let’s see which are the features that you have to pay attention to:
- Shape & Size
- Use certain ratings
- Price per cigar
Each Cuban brand has a specific manufacturing process. Most brands rely on traditions that date a few centuries back. Moreover, there are different types of cigars out there that all have different characteristics. Some Cuban brands offer nothing but the best cigar smoking experience while others are more budget-oriented and will offer decent value for your money.
While you will definitely have a favorite brand the deeper you get into the cigar world, you should research all the Cuban brands to see which one fits your preferences the most.
Shape & Size
When it comes to the size of a Cuban cigar, you basically have to look at two factors – length and width. Longer cigars, naturally, are smoked for longer periods, especially if they’re thicker. This is also normal for cigars that are bolder in nature. Still, short and thick cigars have the same smoking time as long and thin ones. Either way, for beginners, I recommend going for thinner cigars if you’re going to base them purely on their size. Normal cigars will give you around an hour of smoke time.
Regarding the shape of the cigar, there is plenty to discuss. In terms of their shapes, cigars are basically divided into Parejos and Figurados. Later on, each of those categories has a ton of sub-categories of its own. For instance, Torpedo cigars are one of the most common Figurado cigars and are common in Cuba. Robusto cigars have a typical five by fifty size which is rich in flavors and is also typical for the Cuban region. To learn more about the different cigar sizes and shapes, click here!
The aging process of the tobacco leaves is one of the most crucial parts of cigar making. How much they age, and more importantly – how they age, reflects on the flavors and the strength of the cigar. Cigars that haven’t aged a lot are often lighter and a good option for beginners. Older cigars, on the other hand, are bold and lack that acidic flavor young cigars have. They also have all their flavors present in their blend, while young cigars are often hard to distinguish solely based on their notes.
Older cigars also have heavier smoke and aren’t recommended for beginners. Some of the best cigars out there currently have an aging period of 3-5 years before they even hit the market. After that, some people hold them even longer in good cigar humidors. That allows the cigars to age even further while staying under optimal conditions.
The strength of a cigar is one of its main features. It is also a factor that helps us divide cigars into three different categories. Those are light. medium-bodied, and bold/bold. As easy at is to divide cigars into just three groups, their strength actually comes from a lot of aspects of their manufacturing process. From the blend of the filler tobacco leaves, through the aging process, all the way to the wrapper, size, and length, everything contributes to a cigar’s strength and determining it is a rather complex process. Luckily, there are some internationally accepted ways to mark the strength of the cigars which different companies adhere to. If you aren’t sure what type of cigar you want and you already have a bit of experience with other cigars, going for medium-bodied ones is your best bet. They offer a moderate mix of flavors and are often the golden middle ground between light and bold cigars.
Getting into cigar flavors and their notes is one of the hardest things in the cigar world. It takes a whole lot of time and an equal amount of dedication to learn most of the flavors out there. There are countless flavor wheels on the internet that help you divide the different cigar flavors into different categories and sub-categories. Most commonly, they are divided into nutty, fruity, spicy, earthy, and other flavors such as plants, flowers, sweets, etc. Lighter and younger cigars often have floral flavors with hints of sweetness. Older Cuban cigars, however, have a leathery, earthy, and cedar-like taste. In the sea of countless flavor combinations, you will one day develop a certain taste and have it much easier when you’re picking a new box of cigars.
Use certain ratings
When determining how good a cigar is going to be you can always use the ratings of some of the top names on the market. Cigar Aficionado Magazine has a way of rating cigars from 0-100. All you need to know is that anything from 70-80 will bring you a decent quality at a fair price and will be decent enough for beginners that don’t want to spend a fortune. From there onwards, you only get better and cigars with a rating from 95 to 100 are the classic Cuban cigars.
Price per cigar
Price-wise, Cuban cigars are some of the more expensive ones in the world. While a normal Cuban can cost anywhere between 10 and 30 dollars, more expensive cigars can easily get up to a hundred dollars for a single cigar. That easily bulks up the price if you’re to get a box of 16 cigars in it. That’s why you should always look at the price for the whole box if you’re picking something more special than normal.
If you’re wondering why are Cuban cigars so expensive, I highly suggest reading my full article on that topic!
The Most Famous Cuban Cigar Brands
With an industry so rich in history and culture, it is almost guaranteed to have a lot of brands competing for that top spot. While Cuban quality drastically decreased 3 decades ago, things have been getting better as of late and some brands are (again) making a name for themselves. We already went through some of them in detail, but still, here are the most famous ones out there currently:
- Cohiba – It won’t be a list of Cuban cigar brands if Cohiba isn’t mentioned. While there is another US-based cigar brand under the name Cohiba in the Dominican Republic, the original Cohiba cigars originate from Cuba. In the 20th century, it was said that these cigars were reserved only for the most important guests of the state as well as Fidel Castro himself. Today you can buy yourself one, although it will set you back at least 50 dollars.
- Punch – Punch cigars is a German company nearly 2 centuries old. Their cigars are well-known in the cigar world and are superbly refined. The medium strength and woody notes are a patented trait of theirs.
- Bolivar – Bolivar cigars are one of the strongest, if not the strongest Cuban cigars. That being said, they aren’t recommended for beginners due to their strong taste and exceptionally bold characteristics.
- Montecristo – Apart from being a famous Cuban brand, Montecristo is also one of the best-selling brands worldwide. They have famous versions which are consumer favorites both for experts and beginners alike. Their cigars often offer a rich mix of coffee, vanilla,
- Romeo y Julieta – Despite the reputation of Cuban cigars being expensive, there are brands like Romeo y Julieta which are both affordable and bring excellent quality to the table. They are perfectly suitable for beginners due to their mild taste and medium strength.
If you’re interested in traveling to Cuba but also want to bring a few of your own Cigars, then make sure you check out my article on how to travel with cigars! There, I’ve given you a few tips on how to pack your backs with cigars in mind, as well as what to expect from the TSA and air travel in general.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you buy real Cuban cigars in the USA?
While buying Cuban cigars in the United States remains illegal to this day, there are no current limits on how many cigars you can buy while visiting the country. The same thing applies to other countries that have similar Cigar production such as the Dominican Republic, although you could import from any other country than Cuba.
Why are Cuban Cigars still illegal in the states?
That illegality of Cuban cigars dates back to 1962 when the standing president in the face of John Kennedy laid down an embargo on Cuba. This included all types of imports, which hit the cigar industry there particularly hard. While Cuba remains a totalitarian state, the half-a-century-old embargo will remain in place.
Are Cohiba Cigars Cuban?
“Cohiba” is a brand responsible for two separate premium cigar manufacturers. One of those is in Cuba, and the other is a US-based cigar company located in the Dominican Republic.
What is the best Cuban cigar for a beginner to smoke?
In my opinion, one of the top Cuban cigars you can smoke as a beginner is the Cohiba Siglo I. It is on the milder scale of all the Cohiba cigars. It has superb internal architecture and has very balanced earthy flavors with hints of sweetness.
What is a Habano?
Habano is a term often used by Cubans to describe their cigars. It refers to cigars made entirely out of tobacco grown natively in the region. It is also used as a name for the wrappers cigar manufacturers use in their Cuban cigars.
Buying the best Cuban cigars for your humidor is not going to be easy nor will it be cheap. Good Cuban cigars are bold, consistent in their flavor, and are exceptionally well-packed. Due to certain limitations, buying those in the USA won’t be possible, nor can you easily import some. That is why the only place where you can carelessly enjoy some of the finest cigars in the world is their land of origin – Cuba itself.