I started seriously smoking cigars in the 1990s after my first trip to Havana with The Wine Spectator, which was about to launch the American magazine Cigar Aficionado.
Templete remains one of the best restaurants in Havana delivering excellent fish dishes in a Spanish inspired cooking technique and presentation....
My Top 10 list this year makes a statement: Large, classic cigars like double coronas and torpedos remain some of the benchmarks of Cuba.
This is a cigar that will improve with age. A regional edition for Mexico released this fall.
This is a consistent torpedo that always delivers a rich and layered character of tobacco, spice and coffee character.
This is indeed a fantastic smoke. Light coffee and nut flavors highlight the tobacco richness.
The short robusto delivers all the richness and spicy character you could hope for in a cigar.
Decadent and beautiful like the classic Double Coronas from this producer I used to smoke in the 1990s.
We are excited to announce that the third issue of Havana Insider is now out. Inside you’ll find reviews of...
I really enjoy the aged tobacco character in this cigar, even though other añejados have been slightly inconsistent.
This La Gloria Cubana, which was made exclusively for the Asian market in 2015, is one of my contenders for Cigar of the Year 2016. I have smoked it several times in Hong Kong and I like it more and more.
The major regulatory change marks the end of the $100 cap on Cuban rum and cigars that U.S. travelers can bring back from Cuba.
This annual event never fails to attract cigar enthusiasts from around the world.
A legendary smoke that was the talk of Wall Street in the heyday of the 1990s.
This major cigar used to be one of the legends of Cuba in the 1990s, but as we all know,...
I have to wonder how many people who smoke these bother to actually focus on the quality of the tiny cigar.
This is a cigar that really starts off mellow and refined with spice, chocolate and vanilla, then turns rich and powerful at the end of the smoke.
This is an amazing short and thick cigar that delivers so much character from dried spices such as cloves and nutmeg to aged tobacco and black tea.
I have written in the past about the Golden Age for Cuban cigars, pinpointing the period from 1988 to 1996 when the island made excellent smokes.
This is a phenomenal cigar still. It was boxed the year the cigar was launched, 1998. As I wrote in the past, this cigar was originally the special gift that Fidel Castro gave away and only came in unmarked boxes of 100 sticks.
This cigar is from 1996 and shows the glory of Cuban cigars from this period.
In 2012, Havana Cigar Festival commemorated 520 years of Cuban tobacco in the world. American actor/singer Jim Belushi was among the 1,500 guests that attended the event.
I really enjoyed this cigar in the 1990s, but this one has nothing to do with the brand back then.
This tiny panetella has always been a good smoke with a quick espresso, whether you are hanging in the morning in Havana or London or anywhere else.
A spicy and flavorful cigar with lots of black pepper and spice character. Hints of nuts too. Full and intense. Lovely draw.
I have been a long time fan of this long and elegant cigar. In fact, I still have a few boxes of the original release from 1998.
Our second print edition of Havana Insider is now available on the streets of Havana, and via free download on HavanaInsider.com.
This was one of my go-to cigars in the 1990s as long and elegant cigars were very in fashion.
I heard a few people from Habanos S.A., the global distribution company for Cuban cigars based in Havana, say that this thick cigar is made for the U.S. market because it is so light in flavor.
This is a very mild and fresh cigar with cedar, light tobacco and dried flower character. Medium body, clean draw.
I was surprised how much I liked this cigar even though it is so tiny. I feel like you can smoke it in five minutes.
Of course, this cigar has not been released on the market since 1991, but it remains a legend.
This is a brand that has never excited me except when it was first released in the last 1990s. But I don't think the cigars have ever been as good.
This cigar is still dominated by the dark wrapper like most limitadas when they are young.
This has always been a go-to smoke for me and it is good just about anytime, with the exception of outside in a breeze!
Great potential in this Trinidad just released at the 2016 Habanos Festival. For now the dark wrapper dominates much of the character with coffee bean and spice character.
This was a cigar developed with the world's biggest seller of Cuba cigars, Phoenician. The company had a prestigious tasting in Havana in 2015 during the Habanos festival to finalize the blend and wrapper and this is what they finally delivered.
This shows some age now with cedar, spice and sweet tobacco. Very fresh and fine. Full body and very strong for a Por Larrañaga.
The XVIII Habanos Festival in Havana concluded last Friday with a closing gala that was celebrated in Pabexpo in the residential neighborhood of Siboney.
This was released in 2012 and was the first ever Gran Reserva from Cohiba. It smokes wonderfully now with so much spice and richness.
I smoked this the afternoon I arrived in Havana from Miami for the cigar festival on March 1. What a great smoke!
The opening night of the XVIII Habanos Festival (18th Havana Cigar Festival) took place on February 29 at the Viejo Almacen de Tabaco y Madera.
The 18th Festival del Habano began on the 29th of February in a bright and warm Havana. The festival took off with the usual press conference at the Palacio de la Convenciones where journalists and professionals from the industry came for a review of the events during the festival as well as new releases and business figures from Habanos S.A.
This is a thick and chewy smoke with lots of cedar, wet earth, nuts and coffee. Spicy. Full and so flavorful.
A long time favorite of mine, especially in cedar cabinet boxes of 50.
This is dense and layered with an almost chocolate mousse sensation on the palate.
So fresh and smooth. I don't understand why more people are not smoking this now. it was the cigar to smoke in the 1990s.
The only problem with this tiny smoke is that it’s so short that it burns a little hot.
This is like the old Bolivar style. A powerful and very rich robusto with so much coffee, bitter chocolate and powerful tobacco.
Very fine and fresh with cedar, nutty and tobacco character. Medium body, clean and creamy.
HavanaInsider.com has only been online for about six months, but you know that I have been rating Cuban cigars since 1992 - first with Cigar Aficionado magazine and then with my own website JamesSuckling.com starting in 2010.
This special edition aged cigar delivers what it is supposed to with an aged tobacco character of almonds and cedar plus hints of subtle spicy character.
The first añejados I tried a few months ago unfortunately did not draw very well, yet a second cigar (47 ring gauge by 178 mm) showed lots of spice and wet earth character with a wet mahogany undertone and a silky texture.
Following James' recent interview with UK Cigar Scene Magazine, a popular London-based online cigar magazine, James shared more of his thoughts on the future of Cuba's cigar industry in this extra bonus video.
Amazing richness and spiciness in this short smoke with cedar, nut and cappuccino character. Nutty and flavorful.
This is a classic cigar (7 inches by 47 ring gauge) that should be in everyone's smoking portfolio. I have always liked it for outdoor smoking.
The Partagas Selección Privada Edicion Limitada 2014 came into the market this year, and I smoked one in the P&L Club in Hong Kong the other day.
A friend handed this cigar to me the other evening while I was eating outdoors on an island off the coast of Hong Kong called Lamma.
This is a phenomenal cigar released in the United Kingdom this June. It has such depth and richness like the great Ramon Allones of the 1990s.
I was thinking about a Japanese whiskey and cigar tasting I did a week ago in Hong Kong at the Red Chamber cigar club prior to a Zachys wine auction on October 31. I said a few words about the cigar, a Montecristo Edmundo, which was My Cigar of the Year in 2014.
I had a 10-minute break so I decided to smoke a Partagas Serie D No. 6 (ring gauge 50 x 90 mm long). This is a short but thick cigar.
One of the best new Cuban cigars released ...
James recently did an interview with UK Cigar Scene, a popular online cigar magazine based in London, where he looked back to his more than 30 years of experiences writing about Cigars when working as the bureau chief of Cigar Aficionado magazine.
Cigar Paradise: New opportunity to get an up close experience staying on an estate in Cuba's finest tobacco region for cigars.
Habanos S.A., Cuba’s state company that distributes and markets Cuban cigars, has launched a new website, which according to the cigar company, will provide users better site navigation and more comprehensive information on cigars.
This is a new cigar out on the market from Cuba, and it shows lots of spice, smoked nut and coffee bean character with dry tobacco.
This large cigar was not what I was hoping for, showing spicy, slightly young and uncured tobacco character that delivers a rough and powerful flavor.
This is a corona gorda-sized cigar that has always been a little under the radar, especially for the Linea 1492 range.
In one of Cuba’s best tobacco growing areas, Pinar del Rio’s San Luis region, tobacco grower Hiroshi Robaina wakes up every year at midnight on September 21 to check the direction of the wind at his plantation, Cuchillas de Barbacoa.
I have always been a fan of tubed cigars, or tubos as they say in Spanish. Tubos are so convenient for carrying single cigars, and they preserve the cigars beautifully.
This is one of the least popular sizes of the Cohiba Siglo range as a petit corona, yet it offers wonderful light mint, sandalwood and tea leaf, as well as green coffee bean.
This is a cigar for every moment with cedar, light creme and tobacco character. A good cigar for those new to Cuban cigars.
This video clip offers a beautiful overview of how a Cuban cigar is made--from picking the tobacco at the planation, to curing the leaf, and rolling the cigar at the factory, and, finally, to smoking and savoring a world class cigar. All in two minutes.
Vintage Champagne and cigars is a great combination. Louis Roederer Champagne Cristal 2002 and Cuban cigar Romeo y Julieta Wide Churchill is a great match.
One of the great benchmarks for Cuba. This robusto almost smokes itself with such a gorgeous draw and construction.
This is really a classic cigar that delivers all the richness and finesse of Cohiba.
Cuban cigars are still the best in the world. No cigar delivers the unique aroma, special taste, and vivid freshness like a fine Cuban cigar, or “habano” as some Cubans call them.
This really describes the vibe in Havana at the moment: everyone seems incredibly excited with the prospects ahead of more Americans visiting Cuba.
I was in Havana earlier in February for Havana Cigar Festival. Immediately when I landed, I lit a Cohiba Siglo I in the taxi. It's nice to be legally smoking a Cuban cigar after ten years of it essentially being illegal for Americans to smoke them. Nonetheless, in most cases it appears Americans still should not be smoking Habanos.
Cuba is the holy grail for cigar smokers. Stream the award-winning documentary on Cuban cigars to better understand what makes the cigars so special.
Our Cigar of The Year 2013 is the Romeo y Julieta Churchill Reserva 2008. We have loved this cigar since the first time we smoked it in Havana back in 2012.
Ten years after its official global launch, the Montecristo Edmundo is indeed a phenomenal cigar harking back to the glory days of Montecristo from the 1950s and 1960s.
The bottom line is that Cuban cigars can be bought like fine wines, following the vintage or date on the bottle (wines) or box (cigars). I believe that one can buy Cuban cigars according to the box date.
We were excited to smoke a vintage Vegueros Especiales No. 1 , but when we took a cool draw off the cigar before we put the lighter to it. IT WAS PLUGGED!
The annual Havana Cigar Festival kicked off on the morning of February 23rd, 2015. The day took off with a press conference, where Jorge Luis Fernandez Maique, Commercial Vice-President of Habanos, the global distribution and marketing organization for Cuban cigars; and Javier Terres Ercilla, company Vice-President of business development, gave some insight on the sales of cigars around the world. Please click here to read our report on the first day.
This is the first of a series of interviews with the different managers of the great cigar shops in Havana. In this video, we talk to Leonerto Pérez Hernández, director of La Casa del Habano at Club Habana.
The store is located in Hotel Conde Villanueva in the heart of Old Havana. Old Havana is the historic centre of the city - the first neighborhood to ever exist in Havana.
Hiroshi is the head of Finca Robaina, the legendary estate where Hiroshi’s family has been growing tobacco since 1845. Hiroshi would not be where he is if it weren’t for his grandfather, the great Alejandro Robaina.
In this second segment, Hiroshi and James discuss the importance of technology in the curing process. The curing of the tobacco is one of the most important parts in the process of making a cigar – it adds balance as well as that beautiful golden copper color to the wrapper.
The first day of the 2015 Havana Cigar Festival took off a with a press conference at the Palacio de las Convenciones in Havana, where Habanos’ business development vice-president Javier Terrés Ercilla and commercial vice-president Jorge Luis Fernández Maique commented on the new releases as well as the company’s relevant commercial information.
On the second day of the 2015 Havana Cigar Festival, the press and participating guests had the opportunity to visit some of the top plantations in Vuelta Abajo, recognised by many as the best tobacco region in the world.
A taste-off between two top Cuban cigars - a Partagas Serie D No. 4 and a Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2. See which one wins.
I smoked a number of these current production torpedo cigars and they were all fabulous. I forgot how great the cigar can be since I seldom buy them myself.
I smoked this baby blockbuster Robusto during a lunch outside at a friend's winery. Temperatures were close to 100 degrees fahrenheit, even under the shade of the dinning area. So I wasn't sure it was the right time to have a smoke. But what a cigar!
I love Cohiba in the morning. This tiny cigar – four inches long by 40 ring gauge – packs a lot of flavor for its size. Great smoke. Great morning smoke.
This small torpedo is a bit rough.
I smoked a number of new releases at the 2015 Havana Cigar Festival, and the best cigar so far was actually not one of the official releases from Habanos, the global marketing and distribution company for Cuban cigars.
A lot of cigars were smoked during the 2015 Havana Cigar Festival, the annual mega-cigar festival in Havana celebrating the greatest of Cuban cigars from February 23 to 28. I smoked and rated just about everything that was handed out during the five-day event that including various dinners, seminars and visits to cigar factories and tobacco plantations.
This is very powerful with masses of flavor of walnuts, tobacco and cappuccino. Full and incredibly rich with so much density and length. It goes on for minutes. A cigar to age for years. What a cigar!
I loved this smoke when I first tried it...
This dark wrapper Cohiba smells like dark chocolate and roasted coffee beans. It's always a great smoke.
I was really surprised by the quality of this...
The 2015 Havana Cigar Festival concluded with a gala dinner at Pabexpo in Havana's Siboney neighborhood. The night was dedicated to to the 80th anniversary of the Montecristo brand. Throughout the dinner guests were entertained by various musical numbers while they smoked cigars handed out after each course.
I loved the white pepper, cappuccino.
A cool smoke. Great draw already. Burns really great. I like the size. You know the Montecristo No. 2 is a great smoke, but a lot of times you don't have the time.
Day four of the 2015 Havana Cigar Festival saw Phoenicia, the regional distributor of Habanos in the Middle East, continental Africa, Cyprus and Greece, organize a cigar tasting session at El Laguito cigar factory, where many Cohiba cigars are manufactured.
This was better with sandalwood, dried flowers and a delicate tobacco character.
This is a cigar showing very refined cedar.
This little cigar delivers wonderful spice and dark chocolate character. Full body, fresh and inviting.
During this year's Havana Cigar Festival, Habanos, the global distribution and marketing organization for Cuban cigars, reported sales of $439 million.
Five years of tobaco, five years of age...
This cigar always delivers such finesse and beauty. Medium-bodied with delight and fresh tobacco character that resembles fresh flowers and cream.
A round and velvety textured cigar with...
This at one time was the biggest selling premium Cuban cigar in the world. It was synonymous with Cuban cigars in such countries as Spain.
An incredible cigar with great depth and flavor. Peppermint, maciato, and cream. The texture is truly superb. Full and flavorful. Goes on for minutes. What a cigar!
This is a long cigar (47 ring gauge by 235mm). I haven't smoked it in years because it takes so long. But it's a rare cigar.
I am a big robusto smoker and this is a robusto that many seem to overlook, but it is consistently outstanding quality. The 50-ring-gauge thick by 4.8-inch long cigar delivers plenty of spicy and cappuccino like character. A beautiful smoke.
The smallest of the trio of Behikes, this 52 is one of the best I can remember smoking. I usually prefer it the least.
The thick 54-gauge smoke is a force of nature and delivers plenty of spice and intense flavors. This is the bomb.
As I wrote already, it’s one of my all-time favorite Habanos and constantly delivers rich character of tobacco, leather, cedar, and cocoa as well as an underlying mineral or minty flavor.
The balance to this cigar is phenomenal...
This is the most popular premium cigar sold in Cuba to visitors. A spicy smoke with cappuccino and cinnamon character shows the richness and balance I expect in a Serie D.
Balanced and harmonious with cedar, light coffee, cream and light spice. Long and flavorful. This never disappoints.
I have been a little disappointed.
This was a big surprise for me.
This torpedo was launched in 2012. It's a gorgeous smoke with a layered, cream texture with cedar, tobacco and white tea flavor.
This started off a tiny bit bitter but calmed down to what it should be as I smoked it own with spice, mahogany, and walnut character and some dried earth. Read more: http://www.havanainsider.com/cigar/montecristo-edmundo/
The cigar was rich and spicy...
It has a lot of spicy flavors, but it is very refined. I love the floral character. It takes on this intense espresso character. I love it.
This is a great cigar as always.
It has a hint of acidity that old Montes...
This is a little soapy and very strong.