Fidel Castro might not be the world’s most generous and friendly guy, but... you’ve got to admit that he has great taste in smokes. After all, it’s because of ol’ Fidel that the (justifiably) famous Cohiba cigar exists today. Unfortunately, it’s also because of Castro that they’re practically impossible to get in the U.S.
The first Cohibas weren’t commercial cigars at all - they were the personal cigars of Castro’s then-bodyguard, Chico Perez, rolled for him by a close friend. Castro admired them so much that he hired Chico’s friend to begin rolling cigars for Castro himself. They were reserved for Castro and his buddies until Fidel decided to release them for public sale in 1982.
Cohiba tobacco is pretty special stuff - you know it’s good when you’re smoking something from the dictator’s personal stash. Cohiba tobacco undergos a total of three barrel-fermentation processes, something which is unique to this brand and gives Cohibas their rich, smooth taste.
If you’ve ever smoked a Cohiba, you know that these cigars have earned their fame. Unfortunately, because of the U.S.’s embargo on Cuba, they’re hard for Americans to get, and the American cigar market (and black market) is overrun with imitations. One of these is the Cohiba red-dot brand, a Dominican cigar with no affiliation to its Cuban namesake. Others are simply cheap cigars in Cohiba-style labels. To make sure your Cohiba is the real thing, be sure to study the gold lettering on the label. As of 2003, the “Cohiba” should be just slightly raised.
When Castro first offered his personal cigar to the public in 1982, the three sizes available were Coronas Especiales, Pantelas, and Lanceros (Fidel’s personal favorite). Seven years later they added Esplendidos, Exquisitos, and Robustos, and in 1992 began selling the Siglo series.
Every Cohiba cigar I’ve tried has been excellent. But of course I have my favorites, and since I’m in charge of this blog series, I get to talk about my personal favorites. Sorry, but that’s how it goes.
The Robusto. This is one of Cohiba’s original cigars, and is still one of the most popular - it's also one of my favorites. The construction of this cigar is first rate, and every one I’ve ever smoked has burned perfectly. The flavor (a bit spicy) intensifies during the smoke, but never tends towards bitterness. A truly great cigar.
The Siglo VI. The VI is one of the most popular of the Siglo series, and is my personal favorite. This cigar is the best way I can think of to spend an hour - an incredible rich aroma, a smooth, cool draw, and rich, creamy overtones that grow stronger as you smoke. And the large ring gauge only intensifies the smoke.
Dominican Red Dot Cohibas
If you’re in the U.S., chances are you’ll have a difficult time coming across a Cuban Cohiba (unless you travel a lot or have some great black market connections). In that case, you might have to settle for a Cohiba Red Dot. As I’ve said, these are unrelated to their Cuban namesake (in fact, Cuban Cohiba is pretty pissed off about the brand robbery). But they can still be a half-decent substitute if you can’t get the real thing.
While in the States, I did try some Dominican Cohibas, and they’re decent, well-constructed cigars. I enjoyed a Dominican Cohiba Corona - it was smooth and acceptably complex, though I found to it have a slightly tough (but not unpleasant) draw. The Dominical Robusto is full-bodied and flavorful, if not as subtle as it could be.