Cuban cigars have a global reputation as the very best that money can buy. So what is it that makes them so special?
First of all, tobacco has been grown in Cuba for hundreds of years and farmers have a huge wealth of experience to draw on. Plus tobacco is like grapes in that it takes on flavours from the soil in which it is grown, so only Cuban tobacco will taste like Cuban tobacco. The island’s cigar makers have a unique product that no one else can replicate.
It just so happens that Cuban tobacco is great for cigars, with the plants from the west of the country particularly highly regarded. Head to the area around the tourist town of Vinales and you’ll find endless tobacco farms, thanks to the great taste that the soil gives cigars.
While the raw materials for Cuban cigars are top quality thanks to natural properties and human knowledge, there is also an element of marketing at play. In the first half of the 20th century, Cuba became a playground for wealthy Americans and cigars a signifier of wealth and success in the United States.
After the Cuban revolution and the imposition of the US trade embargo, Americans could no longer visit Cuba easily and it was impossible to import cigars. This only added to the mystique.
In addition the Communist government of Cuba exercises a firm hold over the cigar industry. While this means that strict quality controls are in place, it also allows officials in Havana to control supply and keep prices high. This in turn makes the cigars more desirable.
Cuba might be synonymous with cigars, but there are rival producers out there. In fact, aficionados claim that certain Nicaraguan cigars are actually higher quality than their Cuban rivals. For casual smokers, however, nothing beats the allure of a Cuban cigar.