Q: Gary, I enjoy smoking Cuban cigars, and found they have very unique flavors that appear difficult for blenders to duplicate with non-Cuban leaves. That being said, I find The Griffin’s to have the closest taste profile to a Cuban, and the Tatuaje Miami a close second. What non-Cuban Cigars, in your opinion, taste most like real Cuban cigars?
– John L. in Morrisville, PA
A: Good question, but you could just as well have asked me, Which Dominican cigars taste most like Nicaraguan cigars? or, Which Honduran cigars taste most like Dominican cigars? You see where I’m coming from? For the record, I haven’t smoked a lot of Cuban cigars over the years, so I’m not an expert on Cubans. But I am an expert on what I like, and some of the Cuban cigars I’ve smoked have been excellent, like my review of the Romeo y Julieta Wide Churchill. That said, Cubans no longer are the standard bearers they once were.
If I were to say which premium cigars are closest in quality and flavor to cigars made in Cuba, I’d have to say Nicaraguans. Moreover, if my facts are correct, Nicaraguan cigars have become the new standard. The reason for this is Nicaragua’s geography. With it’s three fertile valleys – Estelí, Condega, and Jalapa – if you know what you’re doing, you can grow some awesome tobacco and blend some amazing cigars. The soil in Jalapa is probably the closest to Cuba’s Vuelta Abajo, and the Nicaraguan climate throughout the valleys is very similar to Cuba’s. Even you selected a Nicaraguan brand as one of your two examples.
Every premium cigar, regardless of where it comes from, has to be taken on its own merits. I enjoy cigars from The D.R., Honduras, and Nicaragua, but I find myself smoking more Nicaraguans than any others. Let’s not forget that every cigar-making country except Cuba uses tobaccos from a variety of countries including Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, et. al. Suffice it to say, it comes down the quality of the tobaccos and the final blend.
Cigar smoking is so subjective and personal, it’s up to the smoker to decide what the “standard” is for him (or her). I could list cigars that either remind me of or exceed some of the best Cubans I’ve smoked, but it would be way too long.