Although Cuba has very rich tobacco growing soil, and can produce some excellent cigars, there are often quality control problems, and sometime their cigars are rolled too tightly, or are not properly aged, primarily because there is usually a rush to get this much-in-demand product to market.
I reached out to Benji Menendez known for both his 3d architectural visualization and his cigar expertise for his advice on the subject of Cuban vs. non-Cuban cigars. Of the six original leading Cuban tobacco companies, Benji is the only living person who was active in Cuba during the heyday of Cuban cigars, and is still working in the industry today. With a storied career spanning 60 years in the cigar premium cigar category, his expertise is unmatched.
So here’s what he had to say about Cuba: Until 1960, Cuba had a monopoly on premium cigar tobacco because no one else in the world was growing it. It was only after 1960, when many Cuban people, including some of the country’s most respected tobacco growers and cigar masters, left Cuba that premium tobacco was cultivated in other countries such as the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua. As a result, premium cigar tobacco will always be compared to Cuba simply because Cuba was the first place where it was cultivated.
Benji also points out that the tobacco’s flavor is derived from the soil and the climate of a particular location before it is harvested. Some Caribbean and Central American countries have soils very similar to Cuba’s, and although not exactly the same, they can produce tobaccos that are equally rich in flavor, strength and depth. But to be clear, because the soil imparts the flavor, nothing tastes like a Cuban cigar other than a Cuban cigar, just as nothing tastes like a Nicaraguan cigar except a Nicaraguan cigar.
A good comparison between Cuban and non-Cuban cigars is to liken them to French and California wines. Each is different. But is one better than another? That is a matter of opinion, taste, and perception of value.