The Longjing Rule and Pinar del Río Finas


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     Good afternoon and greetings from Indianapolis. I trust all is well with our forum members, and I write this in a friendly, relaxed, and contemplative mood. As a Chinese-tea and Cuban-cigar buff, I submit the following for discussion:

     Here is the Longjing Rule: Do not go to Hangzhou to buy Longjing: the best has already left town. This basic rule applies to all premium tea from limited sources. The minuscule supply of the best leaves, contracted long beforehand, go very quickly to wherever money and politics beckon. A normal drinker or tourist, regardless of wealth or connections, never gets close to it. They live and taste within their second-level experience, and they never know the difference.

     Now, you see where I’m going. Have any of us really tasted the best of Cuban cigars, or do we also live and dream in a second-level experience and know not the difference. The Pinar del Río finas produce small, insufficient quantities of the finest tobacco in the world. What happens to it?

     Given human nature, how much “falls off the truck”? Which people are involved? Is it really blended into the “premium brands” sold to naïve tourists or overseas “gray” outlets?

     What happens to the massive produce of Vuelta Arriba and Remedios? Does it all go into José L Piedras, or is it blended into sub-standard premium brands for our forum members? Have we been consigned to a sub-level experience and know it not?

     I daresay few if any of us have ever tasted a first-quality Cuban, and although we live, smoke and converse on this forum, we’ve never had the real thing. Within our sub-stratum, we never get to it, unless we’ve scored by “following the truck” through a long, treacherous, serpentine saga we never would, or could reveal.

 

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Structurally different markets. Tea and especially the kind of tea you're talking about won't really last that long and still be good? Cigars last for decades and fetch a premium for age and rarity. So cigars are both for smoking and for investment if you're holding long, there's no benefit to rolling super secret best of the best and selling them on the quiet because they can't then easily be resold for the premium they should fetch. But put them in a reserva or grand reserva and they sure as hell can.

 

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There is certainly some truth to this in all things marketed. The highest price will find the best supply. That’s why you see nothing on the shelves when it comes to the premium/desired products. These items are waiting for the right buyer. Capitalism. Who’da thunk it?

Also, some truth in the difference in quality offered to the different buyer. It’s no different than the price difference in PSP vs CL on 24:24. You’re paying more for the premium quality and selection service vs the “grey” market blind buy.

Do we never see the best of the best leaf? Seems highly subjective and also a lot of who you know/what you know. I’d say of the masses on here, you’re not going to find many that will say they’ve never found as much bliss in a regular production Churchill as a Churchill GR. The chances of that one off GR firing on 5x price point cylinders is unlikely. Of course, taste is subjective. And there are not many in enough monetary standing to justify that difference in price point for a daily smoke to elucidate a consistent difference.

As to the fincas, some mighty fine farmies to be found and (in agreement) the finest leaf being withheld and used to command the prices of a farm roll vs a banded RE/etc. 

Is the Cohiba VI GR the best smoke any of us will ever experience, probably, but as your argument suggests, the majority will never know. And to the same majority, the product they are enjoying on the regular is equally absolute bliss. 

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Closest thing I can think of:

In the US (so this is about NCs), a lot of shops have memberships.  With this you usually get a storage locker and maybe some swag.   Also one may get first dibs on annual and limited cigars.  Example: in late fall Fuente releases their Añejo line.  The most desired vitola is the shark.  Kind of a box-pressed torpedo the opens even more at the foot.  Really nice cigar.  Let’s say a shop is allotted 10 boxes.  The preferred members/customers get them before they ever appear on a shelf.

 

Also some NC factories have a “private stock” that they give visitors or friends of the owner or whomever.  Never for sale.  Usually they make them not because of any real super premium or anything, but rather the rarity.  Sometimes the rarity is just the leaf size enabling some unique vitolas.

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I’ve heard that Hunters and Frankau get some special stuff but have no idea if it’s actually true.

6 minutes ago, Jimmy_jack said:

WhTs the name of that English Cuban Cigar group? Do they get the cream of the crop?

 

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11 minutes ago, GolfT3 said:

I’ve heard that Hunters and Frankau get some special stuff but have no idea if it’s actually true.

 

Yeah that’s them, Hunters and Frankau. Aren’t they inspecting every box blah blah blah supposedly? They get a special sticker and all right? 

I’d like to try some H&F sticks just to see what’s up. Then again, I’ve read/heard people say that cigars in the island smoke different then at home. Like leaving the island and the travel (temp/pressure change) has an effect on the flavors.

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I sat with Hirochi Robania on the back porch of his farm having a Puro from his farm with him. It is likely the best farm in Cuba and he and his family are about as good as it gets. It doesn’t get much better than that. I wish I could have brought a lifetime supply back with me.


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Longjing tea has a shelf life of about 18 months; however, other varieties, much like premium Cubans, gain flavor and mellowness with age and slow fermentation. Puerh tea from Yunnan is usually pressed into 372g cakes that can age 40+ years and command prices of $50,000+ USD. Tea buffs buy younger puerh cakes cheaply and store them for years as do CC aficionados. Tiequanyin oolong begins to mature after 10+ years.

As for Hector Prieto’s 15-acre farm, how many of our forum have tasted one of his cigars? It could well be the best. Granted, he has a full-time roller and sells cigars, but what about the tobacco? Does his farm have the capacity to correctly process and age his leaves? Are the filler, binder, and wrapper all from his farm. Would Mr. Prieto desecrate his family tradition and precious, beloved tobacco by selling it to petty tourists who wouldn’t know the difference? Put yourselves in his place and think about it.

 

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From my limited knowledge of the Cuban cigar world, do I believe it’s possible that some circle of the ultra wealthy or some James Bond villains get the top one percent of leaf...sure it’s possible.

However, meditating on the concept almost seems like a fruitless exercise in chasing the unattainable. It’s like taking FOMO to an almost conspiracy theory proportion. Just my $0.02 however. 

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2 hours ago, Kevin48438 said:

Closest thing I can think of:

In the US (so this is about NCs), a lot of shops have memberships.  With this you usually get a storage locker and maybe some swag.   Also one may get first dibs on annual and limited cigars.  Example: in late fall Fuente releases their Añejo line.  The most desired vitola is the shark.  Kind of a box-pressed torpedo the opens even more at the foot.  Really nice cigar.  Let’s say a shop is allotted 10 boxes.  The preferred members/customers get them before they ever appear on a shelf.

 

Also some NC factories have a “private stock” that they give visitors or friends of the owner or whomever.  Never for sale.  Usually they make them not because of any real super premium or anything, but rather the rarity.  Sometimes the rarity is just the leaf size enabling some unique vitolas.

I agree with what you are saying for the most part.

On the other hand, I can go into a half rate tobacco outlet, that mostly sells cigs, vapes, and bad beer, and order one box of Sharks every fall.  I got them every time I wanted them.  I always sold them and never would smoke them.  There is a brace of sister cigar shops in KC that put out all of their hard to finds for sell to the masses as well.  If you want a NC cigar badly enough you can find a way to buy it.

If I want a PDR Farmie badly enough I am simply going to be left wanting :)

I know that my palate and my body chemistry and when and who I smoke with have as much to do with providing the "best" smoking experience available to me or anyone else in the world.  I didn't set out on this adventure when I was 16 years old so I could walk around and boast that I was smoking the best cigars in the world.  Best is at best a very subjective term.  I like what I smoke and I buy what I like, and every so often, when the clouds align correctly, I have a cigar smoking experience that is the best in the world.

Isn't that all that matters in the first place?

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55 minutes ago, Huckleberry said:

I agree with what you are saying for the most part.

On the other hand, I can go into a half rate tobacco outlet, that mostly sells cigs, vapes, and bad beer, and order one box of Sharks every fall.  I got them every time I wanted them.  I always sold them and never would smoke them.  There is a brace of sister cigar shops in KC that put out all of their hard to finds for sell to the masses as well.  If you want a NC cigar badly enough you can find a way to buy it.

If I want a PDR Farmie badly enough I am simply going to be left wanting :)

I know that my palate and my body chemistry and when and who I smoke with have as much to do with providing the "best" smoking experience available to me or anyone else in the world.  I didn't set out on this adventure when I was 16 years old so I could walk around and boast that I was smoking the best cigars in the world.  Best is at best a very subjective term.  I like what I smoke and I buy what I like, and every so often, when the clouds align correctly, I have a cigar smoking experience that is the best in the world.

Isn't that all that matters in the first place?

Agreed.  Hard to find ≠ Impossible to find.   Those type of shops are the same way in Michigan.

Best is subjective and often what criteria is used is debatable.

I was just offering my 2 cents for the NC world on the question of exclusivity.   I don’t know enough on the matter for CC world to offer an informed opinion.

I agree that best cigar and best experience are 2 different things.  I recall a wine critic I used to read back when newspapers were around.  He was asked what the best bottle of wine was. His answer was some $30 bottle from his youth that he shared on a picnic with his then girlfriend while he was wooing her to become his wife.

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1 hour ago, Kevin48438 said:

Agreed.  Hard to find ≠ Impossible to find.   Those type of shops are the same way in Michigan.

Best is subjective and often what criteria is used is debatable.

I was just offering my 2 cents for the NC world on the question of exclusivity.   I don’t know enough on the matter for CC world to offer an informed opinion.

I agree that best cigar and best experience are 2 different things.  I recall a wine critic I used to read back when newspapers were around.  He was asked what the best bottle of wine was. His answer was some $30 bottle from his youth that he shared on a picnic with his then girlfriend while he was wooing her to become his wife.

It's kind of like I tell my kids, the best you can do is the best possible outcome.  For me, whatever cigars I smoke that I enjoy are the best tobacco in the world.  I don't give two craps what my neighbor is enjoying, especially if I can't have it :)

These types of statements or questions offer me no utility.  Am I going to suddenly stop buying or consuming CCs because some supposed better tobacco fell off a wagon, into a farmer's hand, and turned into a farm roll that only Putin will ever get the chance to enjoy?  That's a rhetorical question...but hell nah!!

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Cuban Farmers are allowed, by law, to retain 10% of their harvest every year. I'm sure some farmers might keep 15% or more, others might keep very little. I think it would be silly for them not to keep at least some of their best tobacco. 

Farm Rolls or Farmies are the cigars rolled with the tobacco that certain farmers ferment and age themselves. They're my favorite Cigars. The tobacco comes from just a single or a very few farms, one or just a few rollers. The consistency, both in construction and flavor is much higher than what HSA pumps out. Not NC consistent, but better the regular production average. There are a handful of farmers producing some very high quality cigars these days. There is no mystery regarding how to get your hands on them. But that doesn't mean its easy. The cigars are only available at the farms themselves, its atypical to see them even in Havana. Some people supposedly sell farm rolls in FB groups and some other places, but be careful there. You really need to trust your source. 

The tobacco from the less renowned growing areas goes into cigarettes, Cuban peso Cigars, JLP, and other short filler cigars. I've never heard of it slipping into production of premium habanos. I doubt it happens often, if at all. But I couldn't prove it one way or the other. 

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8 hours ago, Indy8080 said:

I daresay few if any of us have ever tasted a first-quality Cuban, and although we live, smoke and converse on this forum, we’ve never had the real thing.

Not sure I agree here mate.  I understand your concept, and I’m not naive to think there’s not some siphoning that takes place to meet demand.  I’ve read that quality does get picked over and some areas of the world may get the better tobacco as others get lesser, but not sure if that’s true.  I can tell you I’ve smoked cigars from some of the most sought after stashes in London and Spain, and did not come back to my stash thinking I had been getting lower quality.  If the Uber rich got all the great tobacco, why are they still buying the same Cohibas as us on BR?  Why are they buying out all the Behikes that we have access to as well?  I don’t know, I could be wrong, but if I am wrong is there anything I can do about it?  Not really, so not much more to do but happily smoke what I got.  .  

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1 hour ago, mprach024 said:

Not sure I agree here mate.  I understand your concept, and I’m not naive to think there’s not some siphoning that takes place to meet demand.  I’ve read that quality does get picked over and some areas of the world may get the better tobacco as others get lesser, but not sure if that’s true.  I can tell you I’ve smoked cigars from some of the most sought after stashes in London and Spain, and did not come back to my stash thinking I had been getting lower quality.  If the Uber rich got all the great tobacco, why are they still buying the same Cohibas as us on BR?  Why are they buying out all the Behikes that we have access to as well?  I don’t know, I could be wrong, but if I am wrong is there anything I can do about it?  Not really, so not much more to do but happily smoke what I got.  .  

On the one hand I agree with this most of the way. However I am reminded of one thread about a member of I think Saddam Hussein's family (son? brother?) that got custom CCs with their own personalized bands in unique and interesting vitolas (of course probably in the past before they were killed after that second Iraq war).

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5 minutes ago, Bijan said:

On the one hand I agree with this most of the way. However I am reminded of one thread about a member of I think Saddam Hussein's family (son? brother?) that got custom CCs with their own personalized bands in unique and interesting vitolas (of course probably in the past before they were killed after that second Iraq war).

Yeah but that’s gotta be such a small quantity of tobacco.  There’s only so many dignitaries, diplomats, etc to go around.  I can’t see that drastically depleting a region like Vuelta Abajo for instance.  

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24 minutes ago, mprach024 said:

Yeah but that’s gotta be such a small quantity of tobacco.  There’s only so many dignitaries, diplomats, etc to go around.  I can’t see that drastically depleting a region like Vuelta Abajo for instance.  

I don't disagree. I don't agree with the original poster that we're getting the seconds or the dregs. But at the top end it really depends how much AAA leaf there is. If we accept HSA's line that there's only enough rare Medio Tempo leaf to go into the Behikes, then we can imagine that there's some super premium leaf that could be siphoned off to these dignitaries. Not saying I 100% believe it, but I remember for example one of the cigars made for him was an immense Cohiba I think that would take a huge flawless wrapper leaf. Something that no one else would be able to get, outside a once in several decades EL like the few Cohiba A size cigars.

 

Also I don't think this is a feature of markets or free markets as much as the original post makes it out to be as much as it could be possible under the weird incentives of a communist system.

Again Cohiba was 100% diplomatic until the 80s and Trinidad until the 90s.

In this century HSA has been much more market focused but it doesn't mean some elements of that might not remain. I think the main thing blocking it from being a major problem in the way it is described is the difficulty Cuban farmers would have in exporting or even selling too widely outside of government control and monitoring.

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11 hours ago, Indy8080 said:

As for Hector Prieto’s 15-acre farm, how many of our forum have tasted one of his cigars? It could well be the best. Granted, he has a full-time roller and sells cigars, but what about the tobacco? Does his farm have the capacity to correctly process and age his leaves? Are the filler, binder, and wrapper all from his farm. Would Mr. Prieto desecrate his family tradition and precious, beloved tobacco by selling it to petty tourists who wouldn’t know the difference? Put yourselves in his place and think about it.

 

Yes to all your questions - except No to the last, he has different qualities in cigars and tourists would not be able to appreciate the difference. He makes enough having the tourists bused to his farm, selling cigars to them ( some or most of which are non-smokers ) don't make him fatter...

During my last visit he proudly showed me a "Cava de puros", a basement to store leaves and age cigars.

And there are more tobacco farmers of his calibre in a close radius to his farm.

Not for nothing the area is called "La Meca del Tabaco".

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7 hours ago, Bijan said:

On the one hand I agree with this most of the way. However I am reminded of one thread about a member of I think Saddam Hussein's family (son? brother?) that got custom CCs with their own personalized bands in unique and interesting vitolas (of course probably in the past before they were killed after that second Iraq war).

Its members of the Saudi Royal family, so you where close. But, this service isn't relegated only to them. Anybody can go to a print shop and get a batch of custom bands printed out. I ask for certain sizes and blends directly from rollers, I've even sat and tasted/blended some Coronas for myself a Hector's farm. All you have to do is fly to Cuba, drive the 3 hours out to the farms, bring a suitcase full of school supplies and other small gifts, and spend a couple nights on the farm. I have a couple videos of Miguel (Hector's old Roller) rolling me 2 bundle's of Corona's on the farm. It was early, probably 8am, hours before the busloads of looky loos show up. Both Videos are way to large to upload (if someone knows a workaround let me know)

Hector is probably the best known grower offering these tours right now. Others have mentioned Robaina, I don't think Hirochi maintained things at the level his father had achieved though. That being said, I don't think anyone would argue its still in the top 3-5 farms on the island. Just not the undisputed Number 1 as it had been. There are several other Farmers in the area that offer very high quality farm rolls as well. 

1 hour ago, Nino said:

During my last visit he proudly showed me a "Cava de puros", a basement to store leaves and age cigars.

I can't wait to try some of those cigars aged "en Cava"

Hector was very excited about that little project and so am I!! I know he was hoping to expand the cave if it went well, but that's probably been on hold. I've been thinking about those cigars for for the last 18-19 months. 

 

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22 minutes ago, Corylax18 said:

Its members of the Saudi Royal family, so you where close.

No Cohiba Double Lanceros for Saddam's eldest son, found the thread:

 

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