The Robusto Life: Cuban Cigars Coming Stateside? Here’s What You Need to Know
by Peter Roth
Cigar Aficionado & Owner, The Robusto Room and Stogies & Bogeys
A bipartisan group of senators recently introduced legislation to permanently lift all restrictions on American travel to Cuba.
Passage of this bill would benefit both Cubans and Americans, and there’s virtually no opposition. With support coming from high powered politicos, the media (Bloomberg, The New York Times, and others), and a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll indicating rapidly growing support numbers, it’s only a matter of time before the embargoes and travel restrictions are lifted.
“But what does that mean for the illustrious Cuban cigar?”
Currently, there’s not a lot of legal access to Cuban cigars, but when the ban is lifted, that “could” change.
It’s also important to note that oftentimes, people who claim to have “serious” intel or access to Cuban cigars are actually unknowingly (let’s hope) talking about counterfeit Cubans that really come from Cancun. So when the ban is lifted – and we still don’t know when this will actually happen – what does this mean for Cuban cigars and the US consumer?
- Cuban cigars are still not legal in the US, and as of today, you can only import up to $100 in retail value from countries where they are legal…which amounts to approximately 5 cigars. Cuban cigars are expensive.
- Once the bill is passed and it becomes legal to import them directly to the US, this still doesn’t mean we’re going tot see a lot of them. Cuban cigar manufacturers and tobacco plantations are going to have to figure out how to ramp up production to meet demand, and this could prove challenging.
- The US buys more cigars than the rest of the world combined. When we unleash our consumer buying power in our quest for the illustrious Cuban cigar (Cohiba, Monte Cristo, Romeo y Julieta), it could be a big problem for Cuba. The country has limited regions that support the growth and production of tobacco (three, to be exact), and they’re pretty much maxed out with current demand, which does not yet include the US.
Naturally, Cuba will try to meet demand as much as possible, but there are a few things cigar lovers should think about before rushing to get their Cubans.
- As demand goes up, quality will likely go down. It already has…today’s Cuban cigar falls nowhere near the fabled lure it enjoyed 20 years ago.
- Don’t expect to see more than 10-15 boxes of Cubans in your local cigar shop – that’s if you can find them. Its quite likely they’ll be meted out selectively to specific shops and suppliers.
- Legal Cuban cigars are going to be very expensive, especially in the US. I’m guessing an average stick will run the consumer $30-$35.
Don’t get me wrong…I’m excited by the prospects of the proposed legislation, and look forward to heading down to Cuba to check it out myself, sooner rather than later. But for now, I recommend sticking with your favorite cigar from DR, Nicaragua, Honduras, etc…and enjoy it with a Cuba Libre.