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Tressa Lehto

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In case you didn't create it to this year's XXI Habanos Festival, which celebrated the 500th anniversary of San Cristobal de La Habana, as the city of Havana was originally called, or are about to embark for a different country where you can legally buy Havana cigars (which will be practically anywhere else in the world except the USA, where it is prohibited to sell Cuban goods ), here are seven of the best brands in our embargoed neighbor that we believe are well worth searching out. It's currently legal to bring back around 100 Cuban cigars--that's about four boxes--as long as they are for the personal use and not for resale.

RELATED This Beverly Hills Whiskey Hideaway Feels Like a Private Club from the Wild West One of the World's Greatest BBQ Pitmasters Has Made the Supreme Guide to Steak Adam Perry Lang Is Ultimately Making His World Famous Barbecue Again But first, some caveats. They are more rampant than everin Cuba--though now Costa Rica is giving Mexico a challenge for the title of Most Counterfeit Cuban Cigars Per Square Mile. So be cautious. If anybody offers you a Cohiba Esplendido for $5, then you know it can't be real. Some of the best places to purchase authentic Cuban cigars will be the United Kingdom (where they're rigidly inspected by exclusive Habanos importers Hunters & Frankau), Spain--which also gets some of the best Havanas--and any of their official La Casa del Habanos Cuban government-sanctioned retail shops; there are currently 90 of these internationally. Duty-free stores are also a safe haven for authentic Cuban cigars, even though we recently purchased a three-pack of our enviable Montecristo No. 2 pyramids at Dubai International Airport and discovered them to be substandard so far as flavor was worried (a consequence of poor leaf choice and insufficient aging). Plus, one of those cigars was rolled much too tightly to permit a decent 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 biggest purveyors of Cuban cigars in England, that also critiques the freshness of a cigars, in other words, if they had been aged sufficiently prior to being released. So a fantastic guideline is, once you buy your Cuban cigars safely home, set them in your humidor for at least a month or two to give them a while to fully develop the tastes that made Havana famous. Trinidad In addition to celebrating the 500th anniversary of San Cristobal de La Habana (which also appears to be the name of a rather mild-smoking Havana cigar that was introduced in 1999 and showcased at the festival), the XXI Festival has been spotlighting the Trinidad brand, which premiered in 1996 since Fidel Castro's VIP cigar to supplant the Cohiba, that began being publically marketed in 1982. The medium-full-flavored Trinidad is Havana's top-of-the-line cigar. Last year, three new shapes are introduced: a 4 1/2 x 50 press luna, a 5 7/10 x 53 Esmeralda, along with a 4 11/12 x 56 Topes, which initially was a 2016 limited edition. Cohiba Still among the most widely-counterfeited cigars in the world, only purchase these from reliable sources. The full-powered, large-ringed Behike is a pricey smoke worth paying , only for bragging rights, together with the 54 and 56 ring gauges particularly sought after. Another benefit is the newly-launched Cohiba Robusto Reserva, and while we typically don't quote prices because of the fluctuating market for Cuban cigars, it's safe to say that these will normally run more than $100 a stick. Using the very best of three year old tobaccos, it's available in only 1 dimensions: a 4 7/8 x 50 robusto. Only 500 individually numbered boxes were released. For something milder (and clearly less costly ) attempt the Siglo VI. Montecristo In spite of our disappointing experience in Dubai, the No. 2 pirámide stays our all time favourite. To get a smaller smoke, try out the No. 4--the best selling cigar in the world. Partagás This really is a porterhouse steak and Napa Cabernet smoke, in any dimension. But besides the Series D No.4 Robusto, another favourite of ours is that the newly-introduced 6 1/4 x47 Presidente, using its easy-to-light pinched foot and easy-to-clip Perfecto cap. Romeo y Julieta That is just another cigar that never disappoints, particularly for those in between times when you're not quite certain of what to smoke. Ideally suited to 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. Besides offering a slightly fuller flavor, it appears to be physically fitting to the contours' namesake. Another fantastic medium strength cigar, that this gentle smoke retains just enough earthiness to make it appropriate for early to late evenings. The recent re-introduction of the previous 2005 limited edition 6 1/3 x 50 Magnum 50 is like welcoming back an old friend. Orchant of C.Gars believes it's the finest in the H.Upmann range and we concur. Do not fall into the preconception that all Cuban cigars are powerful. This brand certainly is not, although its strength will change by shape. Thinking about using a Irish Whiskey and a cigar? Punch The Double Corona is a perfect match for a snifter of all X.O. Cognac. Vegas Robaina Medium-full in flavor; the Vegas Robaina is one of the most complicated and spicy Havanas around and ideal for any time after lunch and well into the day. Cuaba The contours of Cuabas are all figurados: a mild-mannered smoke perfect for the novice in addition to the connoisseur who feels like throttling down a little flavor intensity.

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