While it’s still technically illegal for Americans to visit Cuba as tourists, there are 12 reasons that an American can visit Cuba. Most of these pertain to “official” business, like research or a professional performance and other similar reasons. But instead of having to apply to a government agency to get the green light to visit Cuba, US citizens can now “self-license”. This is basically an Honor Code system, and it makes it easy to get there if you have business that pertains to any of the 12 permitted visitation parameters.
So no matter for what reason you visit Cuba, you can now enjoy this diverse and long-forgotten nation (at least forgotten by American travelers). There is plenty to enjoy in Cuba: food, music, culture, natural wonders. But one of the most famous of all Cuban goods is the cigar. Even when the country was off-limits to regular visitors around the world, everyone from the Mafia to US Presidents found a way to get ahold of Cuban cigars, often reputed to be the best in world. Whether this is because of their restricted status or the actual quality of the cigars has been debated by cigar aficionados for years. But regardless of where you stand on the issue, if you go to Cuba, you definitely want to smoke a cigar or two.
With many cigar makers and vendors in Cuba, it can be difficult to make a choice. You want to make this cigar count, since you probably won’t have occasion to buy one direct from the source anytime in the near future. It is still legally impossible for even the best cigar retailer to import Cuban cigars in bulk for sale elsewhere in the world. But that didn’t stop cigar retailer, Famous Smoke Shop from convincing customers they could in an April Fool’s email prank a couple of years back.
So you’re on your own when you visit Cuba. If you speak Spanish, spend some time talking to the vendor you choose. This could give you a lot of information and is your best path forward. But if you don’t have the Spanish ability to have such a complex conversation, rely instead on a few general tips.
For one, color and size are your best indicators of the quality of the cigar. Cigars of all shapes, sizes, and colors can be excellent, but each of these characteristics will give you a clue about the experience and smoke of the cigar in question. Long cigars generally take a long time to smoke. Some of this is simply due to length. Elements like tight packing also play a big role. Proper curing and storage is also integral. Tobacco that is overdry will burn too fast and at too high a temperature.
Color is another indication of how that Cuban cigar will smoke. Dark, rich looking cigars will make rich, full flavored smoke. This can be challenging to new smokers, especially if smoking for more than 45 minutes in a session. Some of these cigars are meant to last for hours. With this little bit of knowledge, you should be able to choose a Cuban cigar in keeping with your smoking goals.