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Seegmiller Delaine

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In the event you did not make it to this year's XXI Habanos Festival, which celebrated the 500th anniversary of San Cristobal de La Habana, since the town of Havana was initially called, or are about to embark for a different country where you can legally purchase Havana cigars (which is practically anywhere else in the world except the United States, where it is prohibited to sell Cuban goods ), here are seven of the top brands in our embargoed neighbor we believe are well worth seeking out. It is now legal to return up to 100 Cuban cigars--that's about four boxes--as long as they are for the personal use and not for resale.

RELATED This Beverly Hills Whiskey Hideaway Feels Just Like a Private Club from the Wild West Among the World's Greatest BBQ Pitmasters Has Made the Ultimate Guide to Steak Adam Perry Lang Is Finally Making His World Famous Barbecue Again But first, some caveats. They are more rampant than everin Cuba--although currently Costa Rica is providing Mexico a struggle for the title of Counterfeit Cuban Cigars Per Square Mile. So be careful. If anyone offers you a Cohiba Esplendido for $5, you know it can not be real. A number of the top places to purchase authentic Cuban cigars will be the United Kingdom (in which they're rigidly inspected by exclusive Habanos importers Hunters & Frankau), Spain--that also gets some of the best Havanas--and any of their official La Casa del Habanos Cuban government-sanctioned retail shops; there are now 90 of them globally. Duty-free stores are also a safe haven for authentic Cuban cigars, even though we recently purchased a three-pack of our enviable Montecristo No. 2 pyramids in Dubai International Airport and discovered them to be careless so far as taste was worried (a consequence of poor leaf selection and inadequate aging). Plus, one of the cigars was rolled much too closely to permit a decent draw. However, all three Montecristos were real Habanos products. This brings up the ongoing issue with Cuban cigars of quality control. This is confirmed by Mitchell Orchant, managing director of C.Gars, Ltd, among the biggest purveyors of Cuban cigars in England, who also critiques the freshness of some cigars, that is, whether they had been obsolete sufficiently before being released. So a good rule of thumb is, once you get your Cuban cigars safely home, set them on your humidor for at least a month or two to give them a little time to fully develop the flavors that made Havana famous. With that in mind, here are our recommendations for your next cigar buying trip abroad. Trinidad As well as celebrating the 500th anniversary of San Cristobal de La Habana (which also appears to be the title of a somewhat mild-smoking Havana cigar which has been introduced in 1999 and showcased in the festival), the XXI Festival has been spotlighting the Trinidad brand, that premiered in 1996 as Fidel Castro's VIP cigar to supplant the Cohiba, that began being publically marketed in 1982. This season, three new contours have been introduced: a 4 1/2 x 50 press luna, a 5 7/10 x 53 Esmeralda, and a 4 11/12 x 56 Topes, which initially was a 2016 limited variant. Cohiba Nevertheless among the very widely-counterfeited cigars on the planet, only purchase these from dependable sources. The full-powered, large-ringed Behike is a pricey smoke worth paying , only for bragging rights, with the 54 and 56 ring gauges particularly sought after. Another benefit is that the newly-launched Cohiba Robusto Reserva, and while we usually don't quote prices because of the changing marketplace for Cuban cigars, it is safe to say that these will generally run more than $100 a stick. Using the best of three year old tobaccos, it's available in only 1 dimensions: a 4 7/8 x 50 robusto. Just 500 individually numbered boxes were released. For something milder (and clearly less costly ) try the Siglo VI. Montecristo Regardless of our disappointing experience in Dubai, the No. 2 pirámide stays our all-time favorite. To get a smaller smoke, try the No. 4--the best selling cigar in the world. Partagás This is really a porterhouse steak and Napa Cabernet smoke, in almost any dimension. However, besides the Series D No.4 Robusto, another favorite of ours is that the newly-introduced 6 1/4 x47 Presidente, using its easy-to-light pinched foot and easy-to-clip Perfecto cap. Romeo y Julieta This is another cigar which never disappoints, particularly for those in between times when you are not very certain of what to smoke. Ideally suited for a Plymouth Gin martini (additional dry, olive across the side) or a Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask, we've recently switched from the Brief Churchill to the bigger-ringed 5 1/4 x 55 Broad Churchill Robusto. Besides offering a slightly fuller flavor, it appears to be more physically fitting into the shapes' namesake. Another great medium strength cigar, this gentle smoke retains only enough earthiness to ensure it is suitable for early to late evenings. The current re-introduction of the previous 2005 limited edition 6 1/3 x 50 Magnum 50 is like welcoming back an old buddy. Orchant of C.Gars believes it's the finest in the H.Upmann range and we agree. Hoyo de Monterrey Do not fall in the preconception that Cuban cigars are powerful. This brand certainly isn't, although its strength will change by shape. Thinking about using a Irish Whiskey and a cigar? Punch Subtly powerful yet smooth, a Punch cigar has a rich, leathery finish. The Double Corona is a perfect match for a snifter of all X.O. Cognac. Medium-full in flavor; the Vegas Robaina is among the most complex and spicy Havanas around and ideal for any time after lunch and well into the evening. Cuaba The contours of all Cuabas are all figurados: a mild-mannered smoke perfect for the novice in addition to the connoisseur who feels just like throttling down a little flavor intensity.

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