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Habanos - A Smokeasy Commentary

So, here is some of the bullshit I hear from novice, uninformed, uneducated, pompous, self-proclaimed cigar aficionados who criticize my cigar choices and question why I don't smoke Cuban cigars...

  • "I only smoke Cubans, they are the best cigars in the world."

  • "You compromise quality for cost (by not smoking Habanos)."

  • "Cubans are the strongest cigars in the world."

  • "Habanos are the best in the world."

  • "Cubans cigars are rolled on the thighs of virgins." (Yeah, there are some still some who believe this nonsense - and I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell them)

Yes, dammit, I do like Cuban cigars...but I don't smoke them routinely. Many cigar enthusiasts are just uneducated about tobacco and cigar manufacturing in general - they just don't know about the various countries of origin of great quality tobacco. There are so many misconceptions about any cigars not originating from Cuba. Cuba only produces puros, meaning that they are manufactured of only Cuban-grown tobacco (wrapper, binder, and filler are all Cuban). While countries like Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, and Honduras may also produce puros, they have also become extraordinarily creative with blending - using different types of seeds from other countries, producing cigars with wrapper leaves, binders, and fillers from different countries, and utilizing different aging processes. All of this contributes to the complexity of flavors and unique blends that we are experiencing with the cigars coming out of Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and Honduras...even the US. The soil in certain growing regions of these countries, as well as Ecuador, Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, and Central Africa, have their own distinct qualities, characteristics, and nutrient and mineral content of the soil that determine their flavors and aromas, which when blended by a creative master blender creates the most phenomenal cigars of the world.

Do I buy Habanos? No, but I have received them as gifts in the past...

So where can you get Habanos legally? As a US-citizen, technically you can't. So then where can you get them illegally? Don't ask me that; Smokeasy doesn't condone illegal activity. And unfortunately the counterfeit Cuban cigar market is so vast in the US, you will likely encounter 9 counterfeits out of every 10 "Cuban" cigars presented to you. I have a friend who has quite a collection of Habanos, which he purchased (and continues to purchase) from a US-based tobacconist who owns a very, very popular B&M (which puzzles me) and happens to be a good friend of his. Every Habano he has gifted me with has been counterfeit - but he is blinded by friendship, loyalty, a very limited palate, and the sensuality of indulging in forbidden fruit.

So if you want Cubans, go to Cuba and enjoy them there. There are significant legal consequences and ramifications associated with US citizens purchasing and importing Cuban cigars into the US, originating from the US embargo against Cuba imposed in 1960 by then President John F. Kennedy. So that it is clear to all, below is an excerpt of "Prohibited and Restricted Items" from the US Department of Homeland Security, US Customs and Border Protection:

Cuban-Made Products

There is a total ban on the importation into the United States of Cuban-origin cigars and other Cuban-origin tobacco products. This prohibition extends to such products acquired in Cuba, irrespective of whether a traveler is licensed by Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) to engage in Cuba travel-related transactions, and to such products acquired in third countries by any U.S. Traveler, including purchases at duty-free shops. Contrary to what many people may believe, it is illegal for travelers to bring into the United States Cuban cigars acquired in third countries, such as Canada, United Kingdom, or Mexico.

Importation of Cuban-origin cigars and other Cuban-origin tobacco products is prohibited whether the goods are purchased by the importer or given to the importer as a gift. Similarly, the import ban extends to Cuban-origin cigars and other Cuban-origin tobacco products offered for sale over the Internet or through a catalog.

It is also illegal for U.S. persons to buy, sell, trade, or otherwise engage in transactions involving illegally-imported Cuban cigars. The penalties for doing so include, in addition to confiscation of the cigars, civil fines of up to $55,000 per violation and in appropriate cases, criminal prosecution which may result in higher fines and/or imprisonment.

These prohibitions are applicable to all goods of Cuban origin and are an important element of the comprehensive program of economic sanctions against the Cuban Government which have been in place since 1963. Those sanctions have had the support of the last seven Administrations.

The bottom line is that everyone's tastes and preferences are different - none are superior to any, but should be respected. It is my wish that the Habano loyalists respect mine as well, but also open their minds and palates to experiencing some of the other fine, premium, non-Cuban cigars that are currently marketed.

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