The Current State of Cuban Cigars: An Update

In February of 2019, Ministry of Cigars posted an article called ‘The current state of Cuban cigars’ in which the author voiced a lot of criticism towards Cuban cigars. The article, linked above, is a must read for every cigar lover.

The author critiques the lack of quality control, the lack of aging of the finished product, the problems with the underfermentation as Cuba rushes tobacco through the fermentation process and doesn’t age the raw tobacco. The article also mentioned the monoculture that’s taking place in Cuba which depletes the soil and the lack of fertilizer. The praises all go to the marketing department of Habanos, as they, even with all these issues, keep the illusion alive that Cuban cigars are the best in the world and many people still believe that and jump on the Cuban bandwagon.

The article went viral in cigar groups, with Habanos lovers defending their beloved cigars while others completely agreed with everything that was written. The author once told me a funny incident that happened a few months later. He was invited to a big cigar event and someone walked up to him, introduced himself as being an executive from Habanos and said “I have read your article”. The author braced himself but much to his surprise, the Habanos executive said “between you and me, I agree with everything you wrote, and as a cigar lover myself I am sometimes ashamed with the quality of our products.”

What’s the situation now?

The article was written five years ago, we had a worldwide epidemic in the meantime, and another cigar boom. Time to look back and see if things have improved in the last five years.

Quality control: Here’s some good news, it looks like the quality control, or the quality of the rollers, went up. In our experience, and from what we hear, construction errors are less frequent in the newer releases.

Aging of finished product: There is no improvement here. Cigars are shipped out the moment they are rolled and boxed, they have no time to go through the sick period and the flavours don’t have time to get married.

Fermentation and aging of raw tobacco: Nothing has changed in the last five years, or at least, nothing in a positive way. There is less tobacco grown, due to natural disaster and due to a lack of food. Farmers choose to grow beans instead of tobacco just to feed their families. The lack of tobacco only worsens the problems and the tobacco that is available is rushed through fermentation and aging even faster.

Monoculture and fertilization: That many farmers choose to grow other crops will solve one problem for the years to come, and that’s the monoculture. In 2023, fifty percent less tobacco was grown than in 2022. When other crops are grown on these plots of land, the soil gets time to recover. But with the Cuban economy being in shambles, it means that there is still no money for fertilizers.

New problems

In the meantime, a set of new problems has risen. Many rollers have left the country, others refuse to work for slave-pay so the factories cannot produce as many cigars as before. For example, pre-covid, Cuba used to produce close to a 100 million handmade cigars per annum. The estimated number of rolled cigars in 2023 was between 40 to 60 million. That with a sky-high demand for cigars worldwide creates a huge missed opportunity for Habanos.

And then are the choices Habanos makes, you can read our thoughts on that from this article of September 2023. We think that these choices are made under the influence of the new partners of Habanos, who own half the company. They invested more than a billion USD and they want return on their investment. That’s also the reason why they hiked the prices to new levels, but that’s a discussion for another time.

All in all, if you prefer Cuban cigars and you can afford them, buy several boxes and store them away for years. You won’t resolve all the problems, as underfermentation and underaged raw tobacco cannot be fixed by time, but at least you will solve the problem of the unaged finished product. And the monoculture problem will be solved in a few years, when farmers go back to growing tobacco on the plots of land that they are using for other crops now. But other issues still need to be solved before Cuban cigars can claim the throne as ‘best cigars in the world’ again.

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