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Cuban & New World Cigars - All about variety!

6 February 2024

Choosing a cigar often begins with a simple distinction: will I choose from a selection of Cubans or pick a New World?

Cigars from both categories (New World simply designates cigars originating anywhere other than in Cuba) have devoted enthusiasts, and there are heated debates about the relative merits of each. The facts about the numbers are uncontroversial: Cuban cigars dominate the world market (but the gap is closing...), while the United States’ trade embargo with Cuba resulted in New World cigars dominating the American market. But if you’re standing in a shop surrounded by a tantalizing range of Cuban and New World cigars, why choose from one category over the other?

Premium Cuban cigars known as Habanos have an illustrious reputation. When choosing a cigar for a special occasion, they often first come to mind: famed brands such as Romeo y Julieta or Montecristo carry associations of unparalleled quality. However, a perusal of recent years’ expert lists of best cigars of the year, such as Cigar Aficianado’s Top 25, reveals many New World cigars among the highest rankings. While the prestige of Habano cigars is well-founded, premium New World cigars offer a stellar range of options that can proudly stand alongside Cuban counterparts.

Cuban tobacco has a centuries-long history of being sought after for its exceptional quality. The first record of large imports of tobacco from Cuba to Spain dates back to 1542, and in the 17th century tobacco trade Cuban tobacco was distinguished by the quality derived from its intensive, careful cultivation in optimal climactic and soil conditions. For this reason, merchants were willing to pay a higher price for Cuban tobacco than that grown in other parts of the Americas. By the 18th and 19th century Cuba’s western Vuelto Abajo region in the Pinar del Rio province had acquired fame for the uniquely flavourful quality of its tobacco. Today, this region is the only area of Cuba that can grow all the types of leaves needed in the construction of premium Habano cigars.

All Habanos are “puros,” composed of leaves solely from the best tobacco-growing land in Cuba. Each plant is seeded by hand, meticulously cared for, and its leaves individually picked over a period of multiple days. A rigorous and time-intensive process of curing, fermentation and aging is required, and only the highest-grade leaves are then rolled entirely by hand by highly skilled torcedores. Secrets of the trade have been handed down by word of mouth across generations, and painstaking quality control is exercised at every stage of the process. This tradition-steeped, labour-intensive handicraft combined with the unique flavour profile of Cuban tobacco has made Habano cigars synonymous with a premium product, the ultimate in luxury experience.

In recent years, though, New World cigars have begun to catch up with Cubans in terms of quality. Many Cuban tobacco growers moved to countries such as the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua after the 1959 revolution, bringing seeds and expertise with them. While the importance of Cuban tradition to cigar production globally is undisputed, Habanos are not by default the only or best option when looking for a cigar that will provide a delicious and memorable experience. Premium cigars from other regions also have uniquely desirable features.

As with Habanos, premium New World cigars are completely handmade from the highest quality tobacco grown in rich soil that lends distinctive characteristics. The Dominican Republic was the first major location for producing premium cigars outside of Cuba, and its Yaque Valley located next to Santiago boasts rich soil that produces intensely flavourful tobacco that for the most part tends to be less strong than Cuban tobacco - Davidoff's cigars from the DR are fantastic examples that showcase Dominican tobacco excellently!. In recent years, Nicaraguan cigars have been taking the market by a storm - Our Tobacco Lords cigars are rolled in Esteli, Nicaragua!. This tobacco is valued for its powerful and spicy character. Of the four tobacco producing regions in Nicaragua, the Esteli region’s dark, dense soil produces strong and spicy tobacco while the fine reddish soil of the Jalapa Valley yields sweet and aromatic leaves. Thus, while there certainly are special characteristics to tobacco from Cuba’s Vuelto Abajo, the same applies to tobacco from premium land in other countries.

While the long history and accompanying mythical status of the pure Habano cigar is powerful, New World cigars have their own strengths, including a reputation for flawless construction. New World cigars also benefit from the huge array of flavour profiles that can be brought together by blending tobaccos from around the world. This broad range of options available to master blenders allows innovative flavour development. In the case of wrappers, for example, those from Ecuador are coveted for their rich and spicy character. Ecuador’s volcanic ash produces incredibly rich soil while continual cloud cover provides a natural shade filter resulting in oily, pliable leaves. Or the rare Cameroon wrapper can lend a rich and savoury note. These examples just begin to indicate the options that are available, and a dizzying range of seed types cultivated in different types of soil from various countries results in an assortment of leaves that, blended expertly, make for an exquisite smoke.

The question, then, isn’t a contest of Cuban versus New World cigars. There’s a wide range of delectable options to discover in both categories, and a lot comes down to personal preference.
Maybe you consistently prefer the taste from a particular region and don’t want to deviate from the tried and trusted?
Maybe you like to explore new flavours and try out various cigars that will fit different moods and occasions??

Whatever the case may be, in Our opinion, when it comes to cigars - all that matters is that you’re enjoying yourself.

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