You’re on a vacation in Cuba or Mexico and some kid walks up to you on the beach or in a village with a box, even a few singles, of what he says are Cuban cigars, looking for you to buy. Or that time in Cozumel, Mexico, when the garage door in a downtown commercial establishment swung open and there sat boxes of so-called Cuban cigars for sale. Let’s just say the chances are pretty good in both those situations those cigars are fake.
Related: What makes Cuban cigars so special?
You could be in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, though, and you’ve paid good money for a Cohiba, Partagas or a Montecristo (with prices on the rise), but how are you sure, even on your home turf? After all you’re paying for the bespoke, hand-rolled quality, made with the best Cuban tobacco, from regions like Vuelta Abajo. There are several ways to ensure you’re not smoking a fugazi.
Look for that seal and stamp!
Every box of Cuban cigars that’s authentic has the Habanos label on the top right corner, as well as a stamp at the bottom of the box (showing month and year of production). It should have a guarantee seal, green on white, a barcode number (head to the Habanos website and type in that number to verify the authenticity of the box) and hologram.
Ever see cigars in a box that has a glass or clear lid? Those definitely are fakes. Cuban cigars don’t come in boxes with glass or clear tops.
Take the taste test
Besides looking at how the cigars are packaged in the box (cigars should be the same size, and roughly the same colour, aligned perfectly next to one another, with the bands lined up symmetrically), and the quality of the bands (look for embossed gold lettering on bands like Cohiba, with no bland colourings), there are signs you’re smoking a fake after you’ve lit one up.
First up – a real Cuban cigar has a triple cap on the head of the cigar, or three seam caps. If there isn’t one, that’s a surefire sign you have a fugazi. By lightly touching or squeezing it you can also look for imperfections.
Cuban cigars made with that fine tobacco should burn slow with a grey (salt and pepper) ash – not white ash. There could be anything tucked into the tobacco inside the binder of a Cuban cigar – bits of vegetable or banana leaves, floor sweepings, God knows what. And the only way of course of knowing you are smoking a fake one by taste is if you have smoked an authentic one before.
Beware the Barber Pole
Cigars wrapped in two contrasting wrappers, called “Barber Poles”, may look kind of cool, but they’re fake. There are no authentic Cuban cigars that use this wrapping style.
Bottom line in all of this? Always buy your cigars from a trusted retailer, or someone who has a “Habanos Specialist” accreditation.