Neal Norsworthy

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In the event you didn't 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 known as, or are about to embark for another country at which you can legally purchase Havana cigars (which is practically anywhere else in the world except the USA, where it's prohibited to sell Cuban goods ), here are seven of the top brands from our embargoed neighbor that we believe are well worth seeking out. It's currently legal to bring back up to 100 Cuban cigars--that is 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 in the Wild West Among the World's Greatest BBQ Pitmasters Has Created the Ultimate 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 providing 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 are aware that it can not be real. Some of the top places to buy authentic Cuban cigars will be the United Kingdom (in which they are rigidly scrutinized by exclusive Habanos importers Hunters & Frankau), Spain--which also gets some of the best Havanas--and also some of the official La Casa del Habanos Cuban government-sanctioned retail shops; there are now 90 of these globally. Duty-free stores are also a safe haven for authentic Cuban cigars, even though we recently bought a three-pack of our enviable Montecristo No. 2 pyramids at Dubai International Airport and discovered them to be careless as far as flavor was concerned (a result of inferior leaf choice and inadequate aging). Plus, one of those cigars was wrapped much too closely to allow an adequate draw. But all three Montecristos were genuine Habanos products. That brings up the ongoing issue with Cuban cigars of quality control. This is confirmed by Mitchell Orchant, managing director of C.Gars, Ltd, one of the largest purveyors of Cuban cigars in England, that also critiques the freshness of some cigars, in other words, if they were aged sufficiently before being published. So a good rule of thumb is, once you buy your Cuban cigars safely house, set them in your humidor for at least a month or two to give them a little time to fully develop the tastes that created Havana famous. Bearing that in mind, here are our recommendations for your following cigar purchasing trip abroad. Trinidad In addition to celebrating the 500th anniversary of San Cristobal de La Habana (which also happens to be the name of a rather mild-smoking Havana cigar which has been introduced in 1999 and showcased in the festival), the XXI Festival was spotlighting the Trinidad brand, which premiered in 1996 as Fidel Castro's VIP cigar to supplant the Cohiba, which started being publically sold in 1982. Last season, three new contours are 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 originally was a 2016 limited variant. Cohiba Nevertheless one of the very widely-counterfeited cigars in the world, only buy these from reliable sources. The full-powered, large-ringed Behike is a pricey smoke worth paying , simply for bragging rights, with all the 54 and 56 ring gauges especially sought after. Another rarity is the newly-launched Cohiba Robusto Reserva, and while we typically don't quote prices because of the changing marketplace for Cuban cigars, it's safe to say that these will normally run more than $100 a stick. Employing the best of three year old tobaccos, it is available in just one dimensions: 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 In spite of our disappointing experience in Dubai, the No. 2 pirámide stays our all-time favorite. For a more compact 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, in addition to the Series D No.4 Robusto, another favorite 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 just another cigar that never disappoints, particularly for those in between times when you're not quite sure of what to smoke. Ideally suited to either a Plymouth Gin martini (extra dry, olive on the side) or a Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask, we've recently switched from the Brief Churchill into the bigger-ringed 5 1/4 x 55 Wide Churchill Robusto. Apart from offering a slightly fuller taste, it seems to be physically fitting to the shapes' namesake. H. Upmann Another fantastic medium strength cigar, this gentle smoke keeps only enough earthiness to make it appropriate for early to late evenings. The current re-introduction of this preceding 2005 limited edition 6 1/3 x 50 Magnum 50 is like welcoming back an old friend. Orchant of C.Gars feels it's the finest from the H.Upmann variety and we concur. Don't fall into the preconception that all Cuban cigars are strong. This brand certainly is not, although its potency will vary by shape. Thinking about using a Irish Whiskey and a cigar? Punch Subtly powerful yet sleek, a Punch cigar has a rich, leathery finish. The Double Corona is a perfect game for a snifter of all X.O. Cognac. Medium-full in taste; the Vegas Robaina is among the most complex and spicy Havanas around and ideal for any time after lunch and well into the day. Cuaba The contours of all Cuabas are figurados: a mild-mannered smoke ideal for the novice in addition to the connoisseur who feels like throttling down a little flavor intensity.

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