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In case you did not make it to this year's XXI Habanos Festival, which celebrated the 500th anniversary of San Cristobal de La Habana, as the town of Havana was initially known as, or are about to embark for a different country at which you can legally buy Havana cigars (which is practically anywhere else in the world except the United States, where it is prohibited to sell Cuban goods ), here are seven of the top brands in our embargoed neighbor we believe are well worth seeking out. It is currently legal to return up to 100 Cuban cigars--that is about four boxes--provided that they are for your personal use and not for resale.

RELATED This Beverly Hills Whiskey Hideaway Feels Just Like a Private Club in the Wild West Among the World's Greatest BBQ Pitmasters Has Created the Ultimate Guide to Steak But first, some caveats. Beware of counterfeits. They're More rampant than ever--even in Cuba--though now Costa Rica is providing Mexico a struggle for the title of Counterfeit Cuban Cigars Per Square Mile. So be cautious. If anyone offers you a Cohiba Esplendido for $5, then you know it can not be real. Some of the top places to buy authentic Cuban cigars are the United Kingdom (in which they are rigidly scrutinized by exclusive Habanos importers Hunters & Frankau), Spain--that also gets some of the best Havanas--and also any of their official La Casa del Habanos Cuban government-sanctioned retail shops; there are currently 90 of these internationally. Duty-free shops are also a safe haven for authentic Cuban cigars, even though we recently purchased a three-pack of our coveted Montecristo No. 2 pyramids in Dubai International Airport and found them to be careless as far as flavor was concerned (a consequence of poor leaf selection and insufficient aging). Plus, one of those cigars was rolled much too tightly to allow a decent draw. However, all three Montecristos were real Habanos products. That brings up the continuing problem 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 some cigars, that is, if they were obsolete sufficiently prior to being released. So a good guideline is, once you buy your Cuban cigars safely house, place them on 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 happens to be the title of a somewhat mild-smoking Havana cigar which was introduced in 1999 and showcased in the festival), the XXI Festival has been spotlighting the Trinidad brand, which originated in 1996 since Fidel Castro's VIP cigar to supplant the Cohiba, which started being publically marketed in 1982. Last season, three new shapes have been introduceda 4 1/2 x 50 media luna, a 5 7/10 x 53 Esmeralda, along with a 4 11/12 x 56 Topes, which initially was a 2016 limited variant. Cohiba Nevertheless among the most widely-counterfeited cigars in the world, only purchase these from dependable sources. The full-powered, large-ringed Behike is a pricey smoke worth paying , only for bragging rights, with all the 54 and 56 ring gauges especially desired. Another rarity is that the newly-launched Cohiba Robusto Reserva, and while we typically do not quote prices due to the fluctuating market for Cuban cigars, it's safe to say that these will normally run more than $100 a stick. Employing the very best of 3 year old tobaccos, it's available in only 1 size: a 4 7/8 x 50 robusto. Only 500 individually numbered boxes were released. For something milder (and clearly less expensive) try the Siglo VI. Montecristo In spite of our unsatisfactory experience in Dubai, the No. 2 pirámide remains our all time favorite. For a more compact smoke, try out the No. 4--the best selling cigar in the world. Partagás This really is really a porterhouse steak and Napa Cabernet smoke, in any size. However, in addition to the Series D No.4 Robusto, another favorite of ours is the newly-introduced 6 1/4 x47 Presidente, using its easy-to-light pinched foot and easy-to-clip Perfecto cap. That is just another cigar that never disappoints, especially for those in between times when you are 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 Broad Churchill Robusto. Apart from offering a slightly fuller flavor, it appears to be physically fitting to the contours' namesake. H. Upmann Another fantastic medium strength cigar, that this gentle smoke keeps just enough earthiness to ensure it is suitable for early to late evenings. The recent re-introduction of the preceding 2005 limited edition 6 1/3 x 50 Magnum 50 is like welcoming back an old buddy. Orchant of C.Gars believes it's the finest in the H.Upmann range and we agree. Don't fall in the preconception that all Cuban cigars are strong. This brand certainly is not, although its strength will vary by shape. Thinking about having a Irish Whiskey and a cigar? Punch The Double Corona is a perfect game for a snifter of all X.O. Cognac. Medium-full in taste; the Vegas Robaina is one of the most complicated and spicy Havanas around and perfect for any time after lunch and well into the evening. Cuaba The shapes of all Cuabas are figurados: a mild-mannered smoke perfect for the novice in addition to the connoisseur who feels just like throttling down a little flavor intensity.

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