Why did New World cigars emerge? This is in the main down to the Revolution instigated by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in 1960 and the Cuban Embargo declared by John F. Kennedy in 1962. Overnight Kennedy made it illegal to buy any Cuban products – only after ensuring he had hoovered up as many of his favourite Cuban cigars before he signed the Embargo, ironically, he was killed a year later. As soon as Castro assumed power and started seizing all assets in the name of the Government, many fled and sort sanctuary in Miami and the Dominican Republic, this included many cigar producers. To this day many displaced Cubans and former American business owners seek recourse with the Cuban Government.
The Cuban Embargo is the longest running embargo ever in history. Back in 2014, Obama took the monumental step of holding talks with the then President, Raul Castro to move their relationship forward. When Obama relaxed some of the travel restrictions and allowed Cuban products to be purchased and brought back to the USA, smokers all over the world held their breath collectively. They were very worried that if Obama finally cancelled the Embargo, supplies of their precious Cuban cigars would be severely restricted due to this new market being allowed to buy Cuban products. To try and put this into context, in 2013/14 American’s purchased over 400 million cigars and Cuba could only produce about 90 - 95 million cigars annually. Even with that number, Cuba could not satisfy the needs of the rest of the World, so imagine what could have happened if the World’s largest cigar purchasing country was given legal access to the limited stock of Cuban cigars?
When the tobacco was being grown in other locations, they found that even though they had planted genuine Cubano Negro tobacco seeds in locations and climates similar to Cuban, the seeds knew something was different. Whilst tobacco was produced, the essential properties of the DNA of the illustrious Cuban tobacco changed. The legendary Zino Davidoff realised this when he stopped Cuba making his brand of cigars and moved production to the Dominican Republic in the early 90’s. in act of impressive defiance, it is said that Zino was so angry with Cuban production he took all of his stock in Geneva, Switzerland and on the steps of the Cuban Embassy proceeded to burn all of it.
Cuban cigars are known as “puros”, that is cigars made with tobacco from one country and in the country the tobacco was grown in. Whilst New World cigars do have “puros”, the majority are now blends, utilising the different properties of different leaves from numerous countries. The Master Blender for New World cigars, to me, has a far more difficult task as they have to learn how to work with so many types of leaves from different countries, whilst the Cuban Master Blender only deals with tobacco from one area and one country.
New World cigars were always blended with the American smoker in mind and it seems they had different expectations. They wanted value for money and they wanted a taste profile which was much more straightforward and in the main, bolder. More recently we’ve seen an increase in New World cigars with ring gauges north of 60. The biggest I’ve seen is the Asylum 13, 80 x 8” and its as big as my forearm and takes 4 hours plus to smoke. Cuba did see this and created 56 and 58 ring gauge cigars but they were limited editions rather than the norm.
The taste profile is the big talking point between Cuban and New World cigars. The first thing to know is that all these cigars are just plain different and comparing their respective flavours and profiles is ultimately unfair. Both categories have their pro’s and con’s. New World cigars can have much more complex flavours due to the variety of tobacco coming from as many countries, whereas Cuban cigars only use tobacco from Cuba. New World cigars were blended with the American palate in mind by many Cuban blenders who fled Cuba in the early 60’s, which seemed to be wanting a straightforward flavoured cigar, I guess you could call it the “bang for your buck” effect. To me, I often get a harsher first half inch and then the cigar settles down. The remaining part of the cigar tends to be fairly similar and then the nicotine and tar builds up in the final inch or so and you get a more strength in the smoke. Although there is a development of sorts in New World cigars, it tends not to be as pronounced as Cubans.
The poor draw and construction have become frustrating factors in the past 10 years with Cuban cigars and this has prompted may people to try New World cigars as they appear to employ higher quality control systems, as it is well known that they have much less issues in these areas. With that in mind, here’s a simple tip to use on your cigars before lighting up, after cutting simply draw on the cigar before you light. Straightaway you will be able to feel if the draw is too tight. Whilst this does not solve the problem of a cigar with a bad draw, it can save you time and more disappointment. If you do come across a plugged cigar, there are a couple of tools available to help open the draw in your cigar. The perfecdraw was launched a couple of years ago and won the 2018 Cigar Journal Accessory of the Year. Then there is the Redeemer which is longer, thicker and comes with a nubber tool.
I’m still learning about cigars and I love trying new cigars. I hope you’ll enjoy these boutique brands as much as I do. I look forward to hearing your feedback.