Cuban Cigars: How to Spot a Fake

So, you’ve made the decision to purchase a Cuban cigar. Congratulations. That means you must be out of the United States vacationing in a country that does not have an embargo against Cuba. You are about to experience one of the great pleasures for a cigar smoker: lighting up one of the best-made, finest tobacco products in the world.

Or are you? Do you know if that cigar is a real Cuban, or one of a multitude of counterfeits?

First, keep in mind that it even though it might not be an authentic Cuban, it isn’t necessarily a counterfeit. There is a confusing jumble of names out there that can result in honest mistakes.

When Castro took power in Cuba, may of the top cigar makers fled the country taking their tobacco seeds and knowledge of the industry. They also took the name of their product with them. However, that little fact did not deter Castro from continuing to capitalize the old name for the new Cuban product. As a result several brand names continue in use for cigars made in Cuba and elsewhere. Some of those names include H. Upmann, Partagas, Punch, Cohiba, Romeo y Julieta, and Saint Luis Rey. To compound the matter, many of the labels and bands are very similar.

Some unscrupulous dealers prey on the confusion to take advantage of the unsuspecting, especially first-time buyers celebrating at weddings or bachelor parties. If and when the embargo is ever lifted, you can be certain there will be all sorts of international legal wrangling over the use of trade names.

When buying a “Cuban” cigar, especially over the Internet, watch out for weasel words such as “Cuban-style,” “historic Cuban name,” or “Cuban tobacco.” Those phrases lead buyers to think they are purchasing the real deal without out-and-out lying about it.

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