Picture it: Las Vegas, June 2012. Perambulating jauntily to the Golden Nugget from El Cortez, your humble correspondent spied a hole-in-the-wall cigar shop in the East Fremont district. Walking in, I met the proprietor, who allowed me to browse his humidor.
As we were talking, he asked if I enjoyed Cubans. I said, “Of course I like Cubans.” Which was a bit of a rouse, since I’ve never actually smoked a Cuban. Whereupon, he goes to a plain-looking, beat-up wooden box in the back corner and pulled out several open boxes of cigars.
He handed me a cigar — a Hoyo de Monterrey — and I inspected it. The band on the stick looked authentic; I didn’t have a chance to inspect the box. I purchased the cigar, took a business card and continued upon my merry way.
A few points of disclaimer:
- I have no clue whether the cigar was really a Cuban. The guy could have just been preying upon innocent Vegas tourists. An authentic Cuban will contain several markers (e.g., a seal with a hologram and a bar code, and various stamps inside the cigar box) that support the belief that the cigar really is Cuban. I had no way of knowing in this case, because the box was already open.
- … and for that matter, it’s not difficult to remove the band from a real Cuban and slip it on a factory remainder.
I smoked the cigar a few hours later. Some cigar experts claim that recent Cubans, irrespective of label, all taste the same because of the blending that Habanos S.A. imposes on all authorized cigar makers in Cuba. Those bends are reminiscent (again, so I’m told) of a Davidoff — a bit of cedar, a bit of pepper, but not too full-flavored these days.
I will say that the cigar was fabulous. It lit easily, burned cleanly, and presented a lovely peppery-sweet taste that wasn’t too bland and not too harsh. I’d smoke it again even if it had a Black & Mild label, it was that tasty.
That said, did I enjoy a Cuban? Who knows. But it was a tasty cigar no matter where it came from.
(And don’t forget to listen to Podcast #72, in which Jason and Tony talk about this particular cigar and go into greater detail about how you can identify authentic Cuban cigar boxes.)