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Don't Get Taken By A Counterfeit Cuban

Feb 10, 2008
Great cigars can be made anywhere, of course. But just as Detroit makes us think of cars and Hollywood reminds us of movies, cigar smokers often think of Cuba as the apex of cigar-making.

Why Cuba? As with so much of history, the answer has to do with colonialism. Tobacco smoking took off in Europe after Columbus's expeditions, and as various European countries fought amongst each other for control over the lucrative "New World," tobacco was one of the crops that made certain regions more desirable than others. The area we now know as Cuba was under Spanish control when, in the 18th century, the Spaniards began to produce the first modern cigars, using tobacco imported from Cuba. So Cuba was involved with the very birth of the cigar.

But, as any dedicated smoker knows, whole cigars travel better than tobacco - so when Cubans began producing their own cigars later in the century, these cigars quickly overtook Spanish-made cigars in popularity. So popular did these rich cigars remain that, before he erected trade barriers between Cuba and the United States, President John F. Kennedy personally stocked up on boxes of - you guessed it - Cuban cigars.

Now the demand for these fine smokes far outstrips production - especially since Cuban cigars cannot legally be purchased in the United States. Demand without supply, of course, presents a golden opportunity to counterfeiters. Using, in some cases, equipment no more sophisticated than a cheap laser printer and a computer graphics program, these unscrupulous folks can turn a box of cheap short-leaf machine-rolled fakes into $20-a-pop fine Cubans. Lax legal penalties in many countries give the counterfeiters even more incentive - so it's up to cigar buyers to protect themselves. Here are some tell-tale markings that separate real from ersatz Cubans.

The Warranty Seal. On the top left front edge of most boxes of real Cubans made since 1912, there will be a Cuban tax stamp. Check for one with clear print and a relatively recent date.

The Habanos Chevron. Every box of Havana cigars made since 1994 should have an additional label with the silhouette of a tobacco leaf on it.

Hallmarks. Cuban cigars have burned-in marks on the wrapper which will give the name of the exporter. These may say Habanos s.a. (for the company that exports Havanas), Hecho En Cuba ("Made in Cuba", added in 1960), or Totalmente a mano ("by hand only", added in 1989).

Inside the Box. Boxes should include a piece of parchment with the Habanos logo and storage recommendations, written in Spanish, English, French and German. Handmade Cuban cigars aren't generally wrapped in cellophane, so the presence of this packing material is usually a dead giveaway. Finally, sniff for an odor of ammonia - the presence of this smell, to any degree, is another tipoff that the cigars aren't real.
And, of course, look at the cigars themselves, which should be well-made, finely-veined or not veined at all.

These counterfeits are sold all over the place, including reputable cigar stores - often the proprietors are being fooled as well. So be on your guard. And remember that - just as Japan and Germany make cars that compete with the best of Detroit and Bombay, India, makes more movies than Hollywood - there are wonderful cigars from all over the world, many of them easier to obtain. Keep an open mind.
About the Author
CigarFox provides the finest cigars that include cigar brands like cohiba, gurkha and many more. Other cigar products include cigar humidors, cigar boxes, and cigar accessories like Zippo Lighters.
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