2008 Holiday Host Guide: On A Roll: Forbidden Fruits

  • Jack Smith

It is a violation of the Trading with the Enemy Act for Americans to purchase or consume Cuban products anywhere in the world, so it would be a crime to smoke the following cigars.

Since it was created in 1966 as a diplomatic gift with which Fidel Castro could honor foreign dignitaries, the Cohiba has become the most famous of Cuba’s cigars. The outer wrappers come from the Robaina vegas and are fermented three times. The Cohiba Esplendido might be the most coveted cigar on the market (with the exception of the Cohiba Behike). It was first released commercially in 1982.

Introduced in 1996, the Cuaba was created to meet the demand for handmade, shaped cigars. The cigar has been produced in four shapes—the Exclusivo, the Generoso, the Tradicionale, and the Divino—and all are most popular in England.

El Rey del Mundo means the King of the World, and the name befits a cigar brand that was once one of the world’s most expensive and prestigious. The brand maintained its popularity through the 1960s and ’70s, but it lost its stature when world taste turned toward stronger cigars. Despite the brand’s loss of cachet, El Rey’s dark, oily wrappers are among the most handsome packages, and the cigars are still prized for their mild, complex flavors. The Choix Supreme, Grandes de España, and Demi Tasse sizes are particularly popular among connoisseurs.

H. Upmann has been a prestigious name in Cuban cigars since 1844, when German immigrant Herman Upmann handed out boxes of cigars with his bank’s name on them. More than a century later, on the eve of his declaring the American trade embargo, President John F. Kennedy—knowing he was about to face a drought of his favorite cigar—reportedly asked press secretary Pierre Salinger to round up as many H. Upmanns as he could. Still one of the world’s most popular brands, H. Upmann comes in 12 sizes.

The best-selling of all the Cuban brands, Montecristo is made in a dozen styles, including the most popular, Montecristo No. 4. Montecristo releases numerous special editions to mark industry-related anniversaries and other events, such as the annual Habanos Festival.

Photo by James Lipman
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