The Quality Divide : Cigars in Cuba and Cuban cigars Exported.


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Once upon a time, there was a line of thought that cigars sold at authorised Cuban stores within Cuba were on occasion cigars that were rejected for export. There was an element of truth to this. Plenty of great cigars to be found but indeed if HSA rejected a batch, they would be sold at the havana  on island retail options. 

I have been reliably told that this no longer happens today due to a few factors. One being that HSA has a tighter control of on island retail supply and that the dearth of stock meant that poor sticks were just as likely to be exported as stay on island. 

Couple of questions for you. 

For travellers to Cuba. Do you believe quality of retail (LCDH /Caracol) cigars is on average lesser than what you find elsewhere in the world? (excluding FOH).  to clarify, when you buy blind online or walk into say a london, geneva, paris, HK store. 

Bonus question: 

Do you still believe in EMS (England Market Selection). 

 

I have put a couple of polls up. Interested to read your feedback. :thumbsup:

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36 minutes ago, TBird55 said:

I haven't been to Cuba, so I would not have a clue.(could be said about a lot of things), but would love to know.

This. I would feel disingenuous answering the poll, as I’m unqualified to do so, yet I would love to know other people’s answers. 

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I go back and forth on this because I have purchased some really amazing Fundadores, Vigias, and Siglo V's in Cuba and then I've had some not so stellar examples. What pushes me over the edge is the singles that I've received in Cuba--they are almost always horrible--and because of the singles I'm saying that the quality of cigars in Cuba is less than what you'd get in the rest of the world. 

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Can you elaborate on the EMS? Never heard of it. I have heard that Switzerland gets the best of the best. Having bought blind from Swiss merchants, I haven't been let down yet. Could be luck though.

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Can you elaborate on the EMS? Never heard of it. I have heard that Switzerland gets the best of the best. Having bought blind from Swiss merchants, I haven't been let down yet. Could be luck though.

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Oh, I've ordered some garbage from Swiss sites.
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I never believed in EMS.... not since I’ve been in the game anyway.

A lot of importers claim they get the cream of the crop. I’ve bought from all over the world and the cigars run the normal distribution everywhere. This is from many hundreds of boxes purchased.

I can with conviction say, however, that stock from Cyprus/Greece is the worst out there - that’s due to poor storage, however, not initial quality.

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Never been to Cuba for the purpose of buying cigars so cant comment there, however, the most consistent vendor I’ve purchased from blindly is in HK. All other markets have been hit or miss when buying blind. Mind you this is one particular vendor, I’ve purchased from other vendors in HK and received some less than desirable boxes. Also in general, Singals from most vendors seems to be of lower quality, ime. 

That is why I almost exclusively buy from 24:24 now, no more blind folds. 

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8 minutes ago, WABOOM said:
28 minutes ago, prodigy said:
Can you elaborate on the EMS? Never heard of it. I have heard that Switzerland gets the best of the best. Having bought blind from Swiss merchants, I haven't been let down yet. Could be luck though.

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Oh, I've ordered some garbage from Swiss sites.

Ditto, I’ve also gotten amazing ones to be fair. 

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37 minutes ago, JIK said:

Ditto, I’ve also gotten amazing ones to be fair. 

I'd say for me, 90% of the stuff from Swizterland is great, 5% is phenomenal, and 5% is garbage.

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1 hour ago, prodigy said:

Can you elaborate on the EMS? Never heard of it. I have heard that Switzerland gets the best of the best. Having bought blind from Swiss merchants, I haven't been let down yet. Could be luck though.

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Me too. 90% of boxes are very good to excellent. They say Switzerland is the Cuban cigar capital of the world. Maybe there is truth to this motto.

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4 minutes ago, JIK said:

Speaking quality, what constitutes a box of bad quality cigars in your opinion? Assuming you’re only judging them by appearance (not smoking). What would keep a cigar from entering into the PE rating? 

 

PE are quality! :D

Bad quality = serious construction flaws, flawed wrapper (dry/green/lifeless), poor blend, poor seasoning (aroma at cold/ammonia). 

It could be one or several of those that make it a box that I wouldn't put my coin down on while there are better options. 

 

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At Russian forums we argue a lot about whether there is a quality sorting for priority markets. Russian market have not priority for HSA. Our government plans a complete ban on tobacco sales by 2033-2035...

There are several personal Russian myths and facts:

1. I have not heard about EMS, but I've heard about A and B categories, which identify by factory codes.

2. I have heard that cigars not sold in Europe (category A) for 5 years are subject to a repurchase of the HSA and re-sale in the country category B. This is real Eldorado for the Aged Stock in Russia (we recently enjoyed much boxes of vintage Vegueros Especiales)

3. Despite the claim that for Russia supply category B cigars, dealers in 2018 received a large batch of Cohiba Talisman consisting mainly of boxes El Laguito. At the same time in England and Europe, most Talismans in stores were from other factories

4. I personally made sure that the lot of La Trova delivered through our distributor in some part was not successful, while La Trova was a cigar of the year according to FOH members

 

What conclusion can be drawn?

Theoretically, the selection can be carried out by the code of the factory, considering the main factories El Laguito and Partagas, below La Corona, RyJ, Pinar del Rio and further provinces. At the same time, we do not know whether the annual revaluation of factories is carried out, which can be done on the basis of the return of defective cigars through the dealer network.

 

As for the Cuban LCDH&Caracol, as everywhere there is a different quality. But I often bring boxes with codes of the best factories of Havana, so I do not believe in the existence of sorting.

 

 

 

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  I think in the past you may have run into it, or more specifically you had importers who knew what to reject and not pass onto retailers which filtered out the crap.

  Now I think it's nonsense, it's all down to how good a particular retailer and their staff is in knowing what is quality product and what to send back to the importers...or if a retailer cares about selling crap or not. A country has a better reputation based on how many retailers who do this are in that country. Switzerland and the UK probably get the generic badge these days based on the London/Geneva high end store's reputations. 

 But a country getting the best cigars? Beyond an distributor being actively involved in picking out certain tobacco for a specific release (eg an anniversary RE etc), nah codswallop

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If I am not mistaken, the special editions are distributed by priority first and foremost to the stores LCDH, Habanos Specialist, Habanos point. Given these shops and distribution of special issues dealt with by the regional distributor. All that remains after the distribution, can pick up the usual shops.

 

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I've been to Cuba twice in the last 2 years.  Bought a bunch of boxes both times.  Every box was sealed in the humidor, had no issues with them opening boxes for me to inspect.  Every box but one that I had opened over those 2 trips was a keeper.  There was 1 box of Vigias which I wouldn't have gifted to my worst enemy, other than that they were all great.  If I would receive that type of quality when ordering blind, I would be very pleased.  Is there a difference in quality between on-island and off-island...perhaps, but I didn't notice it with the purchases I made.

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I'd say the majority of my inventory is from here.  So let's put that to the side. I've picked up a lot of boxes in Havana and have been pleased.  Especially since I ask to inspect first. I have inventory from other vendors in Spain, UK, Switzerland etc and haven't seen any boxes with issues. 

I've seen some crappy boxes in Havana, but I'd chalk that up to storage conditions as the few duds I've come across had some mold. In one case, the mold was yellow.  :( For me, nothing smells better or smokes better than in Havana.  Maybe it's the sea air, the endorphins being released,the overall "chill" factor of being there with nothing to do but relax with cigars and good friends. 

As for EMS.  I think there's something to it akin do what Rob does in that they probably get to pick the stock they want.  But I'm not 100% sure.  And I'm curious as to what the standards were/are.  From that "El Habano" documentary.  The tobacconist in the UK they talk to speaks of a "dry cigar" as being the optimal state.  If they mean around 62RH, I agree. If they mean below that, then I don't. 

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12 minutes ago, Lotusguy said:

All this grading would require some semblance of organization in Cuba :rotfl:

True. But they're "organized" enough to not put hot items on the shelf for general availability.  You have to know people at the various LCDH's to get access.

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