Atchley Gannon

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In case you didn't create it to this year's XXI Habanos Festival, which celebrated the 500th anniversary of San Cristobal de La Habana, as the city of Havana was originally known as, or are about to embark for a different nation where you can legally buy Havana cigars (which is practically anyplace else in the world except the USA, where it's forbidden to sell Cuban products), here are seven of the top brands from our embargoed neighbor we feel are well worth seeking out. It is currently legal to return up to 100 Cuban cigars--that's about four boxes--provided that they are for your private use and not for resale.

RELATED This Beverly Hills Whiskey Hideaway Feels Just Like a Private Club from the Wild West One of the World's Greatest BBQ Pitmasters Has Made the Supreme Guide to Steak Adam Perry Lang Is Ultimately Making His World Famous Barbecue Again But , some caveats. They are more rampant than everin Cuba--although now Costa Rica is giving Mexico a struggle for the title of Counterfeit Cuban Cigars Per Square Mile. So be careful. If anybody offers you a Cohiba Esplendido for $5, then you know it can not be real. A number of the top places to buy authentic Cuban cigars will be the United Kingdom (where they're rigidly scrutinized by exclusive Habanos importers Hunters & Frankau), Spain--which also gets a few of the best Havanas--and also any of their official La Casa del Habanos Cuban government-sanctioned retail stores; there are currently 90 of them globally. Duty-free shops are also a safe haven for authentic Cuban cigars, although we recently bought a three-pack of our enviable Montecristo No. two pyramids in Dubai International Airport and discovered them to be careless as far as flavor was worried (a consequence of poor leaf selection and insufficient aging). Plus, one of those cigars was rolled much too tightly to permit a decent draw. But all three Montecristos were genuine Habanos products. This brings up the ongoing problem 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, that also critiques the freshness of a cigars, in other words, whether they had been obsolete sufficiently prior to being released. So a good guideline is, once you buy your Cuban cigars safely home, place them on your humidor for at least a month or 2 to give them a little time to more fully develop the flavors that created Havana famous. Trinidad In addition to celebrating the 500th anniversary of San Cristobal de La Habana (which also appears to be the title of a rather mild-smoking Havana cigar that has been introduced in 1999 and showcased at the festival), the XXI Festival was spotlighting the Trinidad brand, that originated in 1996 as Fidel Castro's VIP cigar to supplant the Cohiba, which began being publically sold in 1982. The medium-full-flavored Trinidad is Havana's top-of-the-line cigar. Last year, three new shapes are introduceda 4 1/2 x 50 press luna, a 5 7/10 x 53 Esmeralda, along with a 4 11/12 x 56 Topes, which originally was a 2016 limited edition. Cohiba Nevertheless among the very widely-counterfeited cigars in the world, only buy these from dependable sources. The full-powered, large-ringed Behike is a high-priced smoke worth paying , only for bragging rights, together with all the 54 and 56 ring gauges especially sought after. Another rarity is that the newly-launched Cohiba Robusto Reserva, and while we typically do not quote prices because of the changing marketplace for Cuban cigars, it is safe to say that these will generally run more than $100 a rod. Using the best of three year old tobaccos, it's available in only 1 size: a 4 7/8 x 50 robusto. Only 500 individually numbered boxes have been released. For something milder (and clearly less expensive) attempt the Siglo VI. Montecristo Regardless of our unsatisfactory experience in Dubai, the No. 2 pirámide remains our all-time favorite. To get a smaller smoke, try out the No. 4--the best-selling cigar in the world. Partagás This is really a porterhouse steak and Napa Cabernet smoke, in any size. However, in addition to the Series D No.4 Robusto, another favourite of ours is the newly-introduced 6 1/4 x47 Presidente, using its easy-to-light pinched foot and easy-to-clip Perfecto cap. This is another cigar which never disappoints, especially for those in between times when you are not quite sure of what to smoke. Ideally suited for a Plymouth Gin martini (additional dry, olive on the side) or a Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask, we have recently switched from the Brief Churchill to the bigger-ringed 5 1/4 x 55 Wide Churchill Robusto. Apart from offering a slightly fuller flavor, it seems to be more physically fitting to the shapes' namesake. Another fantastic medium strength cigar, this gentle smoke retains just enough earthiness to ensure it is appropriate for early to late evenings. Orchant of C.Gars believes it is the finest from the H.Upmann variety and we concur. Hoyo de Monterrey Don't fall into the preconception that all Cuban cigars are powerful. This brand certainly is not, although its strength will change by shape. Thinking about having a Irish Whiskey and a cigar? Try out a Powers Three Swallow and an Epicure Especial 5 1/2 x 50 Robusto. Punch The Double Corona is a perfect game for a snifter of X.O. Cognac. Medium-full in flavor; the Vegas Robaina is among the most complicated and spicy Havanas around and ideal for any time and well into the day. Cuaba The contours of Cuabas are figurados: a mild-mannered smoke ideal for the novice as well as the connoisseur who feels like throttling down a little flavor intensity.

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