What makes Cuban cigars so special? (infographic) – Chicago Tribune

The easing of travel and trade restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba has brought attention to Cuba’s best-known export: cigars.

Cigar Aficionado Executive Editor David Savona said cigars and Cuba are synonymous, like France and wine. In the past decade the magazine has picked a Cuban cigar as its top cigar three times, a tally surpassed only by Nicaragua with six. Of the 279 cigars picked for the Top 25 list, Cuban cigars totaled 45 spots.

Below is a breakdown of Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25 cigars of the year, from 2004 to 2014, and an interview with Savona.

Number of Cuban cigars among Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25 cigars of the year from 2004 to 2014, as well as the top-ranking Cuban cigar each year.

In Cigar Aficionado’s Top 25 cigars of the year from 2004 to 2014


What makes Cuban cigars special? How would you explain it to a person who isn’t familiar with cigars?

Handmade, premium cigars contain only one ingredient — cigar tobacco — so location is important to the flavor of a cigar. Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, but only tobacco grown in the far western region of the island is best for cigars. Tobacco grown there takes on the flavors of the soil and is influenced by the microclimate in that particular region. You can take the same seeds and grow them elsewhere. There will be similarities, but only Cuban tobacco tastes like Cuban tobacco.

Are there contributors to the cultural power of Cuban cigars other than that they were not allowed in the U.S.? 

It’s hard to think of Cuba and not think about cigars. Cigars and Cuba are synonymous, much like France and wine.

How has Cigar Aficionado covered Cuban cigars in the past and how are you adapting coverage with these changes?

Cigar Aficionado has covered Cuba closely since (the magazine’s) inception in 1992. In fact, it was a visit to Cuba by Cigar Aficionado Editor and Publisher Marvin Shanken that inspired him to create the magazine.

We have had editors traveling to Cuba for two decades — not a year goes by without our editors stepping foot on Cuban soil. We know the land, we cover it heavily, and we will continue to do so. We dedicated an entire issue to travel to Havana in December 2011 (Scroll down to Insider’s Guide to Havana)

And we have information on Cuba in every issue of the magazine. In the magazine’s early days Shanken landed a one-on-one Q&A with Fidel Castro

Expect much more from Cuba from Cigar Aficionado in the future.

Do you think the loosening of the rules will affect cigar culture in the U.S.? And Cuba?

I think it has already increased the attention Americans have toward Cuba. I expect far more interest in Cuba, far more interaction between Americans and Cubans.

Where do you see things going from here?

It’s important to note that what has happened so far is not an end to the embargo. But it is an important first step. I think down the road we will see greater change, and even more interest in cigars.

If I were at a nice dinner party and wanted to describe Cuban cigars in a way that sounded like I knew what I was talking about, do you have any pointers?

They tend to be rich and very flavorful. They burn with a greyish black ash (rather than white ashes as found in many non-Cuban cigars). At their best they are among the best in the world, but not every Cuban cigar is a great one.

Source: Cigar Aficionado