Look, Cuban cigars are an investment. They’re the best cigars out there – the finest tobacco, combined with premium hand-made workmanship. Worldwide revenues hit $531 million in 2019 – with Spain, France and China as the top markets. Smokers know they’re the best.
Cuban cigars aren’t cheap, compared to Nicaraguan or Dominican offerings. Nor should they be. There are more than 100 steps that go into making a Cuban cigar. That’s why praise of Cuban cigars is so effusive and widespread. So when you buy one, you don’t want to waste it. You want to enjoy it fully. Take your time, enjoy every inch. Relax. The experience of smoking cigars is all about the chill.
With that in mind, especially if you’re new to smoking Cuban cigars, here are five things you should never do:
Store cigars without proper humidification
Good humidors and storage containers will maintain the right levels of humidity and moisture needed to keep your cigars fresh. Cuban cigars are natural, organic. Tobacco leaves expand or contract based on the air level around them. In a quality humidor you can store your cigar for years.
We’ve written on the beauty of a properly aged Cuban cigar. The process of aging a cigar involves the reduction and eventual removal of ammonia from the tobacco through natural fermentation. In the end you get a more pleasant taste and flavour. It’s just a smoother smoking experience.
As soon as you remove a cigar from the humidor, it begins to dry out, especially during those winter months when you are running hot air through the house. Dry cigars taste bitter and burn faster. They lose their integrity. It defeats the purpose! If you don’t own a humidor, there are other ways to store your cigar with the proper humidification. One other thing: never use the cigar box as a humidor, even if there’s a Boveda pack in there.
Buy or smoke a fake Cuban cigar
There are many ways to spot a fake. Once, back in the early days when I lacked experience with Cuban cigars, I bought a box of Cohibas out of a garage from some guys on Cozumel, in Mexico, thinking I had a hit the motherlode. Well, getting them back home, and watching them disintegrate over time, with poor workmanship, and packaging, rendering them un-smokable, was a hard lesson. Unrealistically low prices is a sure-fire sign you’ve been gamed.
Another tip in spotting a fake: If it doesn’t have an authentic Habanos packaging or band on the cigar, just keep walking. Those fake bands often don’t have embossing or the colour is wrong. And another one, since I saw this a lot in Mexico – if the cigars have a glass or clear lid in its box packaging, they’re fake.
Rounded or sloppy heads on the cigar are a way to spot a fake as well. Look for a three-seam, or triple-capped, head. And smoking fakes can be harmful to your health, since they often contain floor sweepings or banana tree leaves. Plus buying fake supports the counterfeiting industry, allowing them to cheat other people.
Never smoke half a Cuban cigar, then toss it back into your humidor and smoke the rest the next day
I read an interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Cigar Aficionado once, where the movie great admitted to loving Cuban cigars like Hoyo de Monterrey and Cohiba. He also admitted in the interview he had no problem smoking part of one, then storing the half-smoked cigar for another day. The interviewer was un-impressed, but Arnold didn’t seem to care.
Forget about the etiquette faux-pas that aficionados will tell you about. The bottom line is a half-smoked cigar will taste like crap the next day. I’ve even seen a guy smoke half, then toss it into a small plastic bag, then seal it, thinking that will make a difference. I could only imagine what that ashy, charred stubby would look like the next morning. Far be it from me to lecture anyone, but just toss it dude.
Constantly ash the cigar while smoking
I know it’s tempting, but resist the urge to knock the ash off that cigar! You’d be surprised at how much ash the cigar will hold, before it drops off naturally. Stacking the ash is commonly something you see cigar enthusiasts competing in. The ash insulates the cigar’s burn, so it burns steady.
Constantly removing the ash forces the cigar to heat up more often to stay lit. That can have negative effects on the performance of the burn and harshness due to over-heating. Leaving the ash makes for better flavour. A very long ash is a surefire sign the cigar is premium quality and well-rolled.
Giving someone a cigar expecting one back in return
Now this is an etiquette faux-pas. There’s no better gesture than gifting Cuban cigars to a friend or family member. It is a statement of how much they mean to you, since Cuban cigars are true luxury items. You’ll get more out it by giving, trust us.