Cuban Cigars – Everything you wanted to know but didn’t ask

by Paul Raymond on July 31, 2015


It’s a fact – – every cigar in Cuba is made in Cuba. The key is to get the real deal. Where? In many hotels where we’ve stayed previously (such as the Occidental Miramar, Melia Cohiba Hotel, or the Hotel Nacional where we have had our banquet dinner) and at several major hotels and other sites in and around Cuba.  The key is to find an LCDH, aka La Casa Del Habano – the translation is “house of the cigars.” They are located throughout Cuba (and throughout the world, except of course here in the good ol’ USA). I have a link below to them. These, and a few of the cigar shops called “Tienda de Tabaco” are the only folks who can legally sell the real deal Cuban cigars in Cuba (excluding the cigar factory which serves as an LCDH, tobacco farms or other “rollers” who will give you freebies hand rolled on the spot). The price for the cigar is the same at each LCDH (go figure, Communist country).

Cuba Cigar Assembly – VIDEO

This cigar craftsman is employed in a local Cuban cigar shop to teach visitors the skills necessary to hand-roll a proper premium cigar. The reasoning behind WHY the craftsman chooses 3 different primary tobacco leaves to be become the filler is explained in this video. Then the 4th type of tobacco leaf — a moist, shade-grown wrapper — is selected to complete the cigar. Worth your time…

You’ll also see your favorite rum there and at the same price as well.

The cigar rooms are temperature controlled and humidified which is extremely important. Cuban Cigars smoke better in a lower humidity environment and cooler temperature. If it is too humid, “burn issues” develop — i.e., constantly having to re-light the cigar. If the temperature gets over 72 degrees, tobacco beetles can hatch and ruin your day. So if you buy a box or two in Cuba, keep them in a cool spot. Your air conditioned room is fine. If you put them in your refrigerator, that’s not recommended, but if you do, you’ll need to take them out to “breathe” before smoking.

I don’t put them in the fridge and have some little handy dandy humidity bags that I use for the trip.  They are a zip lock bag, with a humidity packet.  They come in three sizes, small, medium and large.  I take a medium and a large with me.  They are available in several places, including  In fact, the bags are so great that you can use them as a humidor at home.  They say they last 6 months, but the shelf life is much longer.

5 Minutes Is All You Need:

I can walk you through one of the LCDH humidors, do the CC 101 Lesson (that’s Condescending Cigar 101) about what to look for, and you’ll be set. One thing to probably avoid in LCDH’s is the “singles” counter; generally you don’t know how long that cigar has been out as a single. I’m talking about the naked cigar — i.e., not in the tube. Most LCDH’s will open a new box for you if you purchase a few or 1/2 the box. I was able to obtain Behike 54s and 56s in that manner (and not at the Partagas Factory).

On Habanos, S.S., you will also be able to “authenticate” as valid your box of cigars, online, from Cuba (see below).

In fact, one of the best stores for purchasing cigars in Cuba is the El Aljibe Tienda de Tabaco, right next door to El Aljibe where we have set up one of our lunches.  It is now an LCDH.

If it sounds too good to be true it generally is, . . Cigars on the street should be avoided.

They are always fakes which can be identified by a zillion problems — “glass” box, no box code, no date, no official stamp, etc., or worse, poor attempts at trickery. Last trip one of our guys bought some cigars that had been out in the sun, obvious fake. When he and friends smoked them that night, the cigar popped (like Jiffy Popcorn if you’re old enough to remember) and the ash flew everywhere. They had to toss the cigars; pretty sad.

Buying cigars from “a friend who has a friend” at the cigar factory is dicey.

Generally you will get, at best, the seconds or rejects. They may smoke really good, ok, or they may smoke bad. It is hit and miss. As a rule, I smoke lots of different cigars that range from $6 and up. I try to limit the cigar price to no more than $15.00. For example, Cohiba Esplendidos run $23 each. I have smoked many of them. They are truly nice cigars but for my money, there’s several others that top it and are far cheaper. An H. Uppman Royal Robusto will set you back $7.00 Killer cigar. Same with a Partagas Series D, No. 4, about $7.00, and the D No. 5 is a bit more than $6.00.  I do confess to one expensive cigar, the Montecristo EL 520 (2012) which runs at $14.00 a stick.  Anyway, on one recent trip, the “friend of the friend” was touting that the “official” Esplendidos were going for $50 a box (of 25). You do the math; if it sounds too good to be true, . . .

Here are my links and comments. You may do with them (as well as this advice) as you wish.

1. Price List in Cuba for cigars.

Pretty accurate and updated regularly.

2. Best resource for Cigar Research. 

Hands down, none better.

3.  Second best research for Cigar Research. 

4.  Cigar Aficionado

The main link is here.  The news re Cuba Cigars is great. The forums contain a wealth of information.

Also, here is a link to the recent edition of The Insider’s Guide to Havana, for restaurants, hotels, cigar shops, cigar factories, and other good stuff. I subscribe to the magazine and this edition is still fairly current.

5. Habanos and La Casa Del Habano.

Habanos S.A. is the world leading company in the commercialization of premium Cuban cigars. Think of them as exporting the Cuban cigars to the world.

You can authenticate your box of cigars on this website here.

La Casa Del Habano

From here you can see every single cigar made in Cuba, news about new cigars, etc. Plus, it gives you a list of every LCDH in Cuba and throughout the world. Here’s the link to all the LCDH’s in Cuba. 

In Cienfuegos, there’s one: Address: Blvd. Centro Histórico. Avenida No. 54, esq. a 33.
Phone: 53 43 55 2144

In Havana, there’s lots of choices:

Melia Habana. Avenida 3ra e/ 76 y 80. Miramar. Playa (which is just around the corner from the Occidental Miramar, a 5 -7 minute walk).
Phone: 53.7 204 5289
Address: 5ta y 16 / 5ta Avenida y Calle 16. Miramar. Playa
Phone: 53.7.204 7973

6.  So should I buy cigars from the guy who has a “friend at the cigar factory?”

As I mentioned, it’s dicey and you never know what you are going to get in terms of quality.  If  you are not a cigar aficionado and the cigars are for friends back home, then yes, it might be worth it.  The cost is minimal and the cigars might-should-probably smoke ok.  Bottom line – it is a risk.

7.  Are there any limits on how many cigars I can take from Cuba?

Yes.  According to the Cuban website, you are limited as follows:

Travellers leaving the country must orally declare to Customs all cigars they are taking with them or in the accompanying baggage.

As long as the passengers meet the requirements established to export cigars, they can take:

Up to twenty (20) units of bulk cigars, without submitting any document.

Up to fifty (50) units of cigars, but they must be in their original package, unopened, sealed and with the established official hologram. The export is not authorized without meeting these requirements; and

For more than fifty (50) units of cigars, which cannot exceed the amount of 5,000.00 CUC, passengers should produce the formal sale invoice issued by the store chains authorized to sell Cuban cigars, corresponding to all cigars they intend to export which must be in the original package, unopened, sealed and with the established official hologram.

The quantity of cigars exceeding fifty (50) units not declared by travellers and any quantity exceeding the quantity declared, or that having been declared its legal purchase is not backed up by the formal sale invoice, or the packages do not have the attributes and the other requeriments identifying them as Cuban cigars, will be seized.

8. How many cigars can I take from Cuba and bring back home to the USA?

We’ve addressed this in our FAQ’s #3 but to repeat:

For how many cigars you can bring back: it used to be illegal to import tobacco and alcohol. In early 2015, the law changed and you were permitted to bring merchandise, as accompanied baggage acquired in Cuba, not to exceed $400 in value, including no more than $100 in alcohol and tobacco products. Then, in October 2016, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it has removed the previous limits on bringing Cuban cigars and Cuban rum back into the United States from any country in the world, Cuba or otherwise. This means the $100 limit instituted two years ago is no more.

This means that the number of personal cigars is technically unlimited, but there is still an amount of duty that will have to be paid after a certain quantity is exceeded. OFAC’s website points to an $800 exemption of duty every 31 days, and stresses duty-free limits of 100 cigars. According to OFAC’s website: “A traveler may include up to 100 cigars and 200 cigarettes in the $800 exemption from duty… Additional cigars and cigarettes may be brought into the country, but they will be subject to duty and Federal excise taxes.” Excess amounts are subject to a 4 percent flat rate of duty.

Happy puffing. And, yes, I’m available for consult in Cuba at my usual hourly rates (have to write off this trip somehow, . . . ).


Pablo Cruise

In the May/June 2015 Issue

Inside the Romeo y Julieta Factory in Havana, Cuba – VIDEO

Cuban Cigar Tours – This is the most exclusive Cuban cigar factory considering the embargo. No, contrary to common belief, Cuban cigars are NOT “rolled on the thighs of naked virgin islander ladies…”

The Glorious Countryside, the Gracious People – Terrific VIDEO

Tobacco Plantation in Vinales, Cuba (near Havana) – This young lady, Cristina, visited a tobacco plantation in Vinales, Cuba where it is said the best tobacco in the world is grown. Benito harvests the world’s most superior Cuban tobacco and demonstrated how to roll –and smoke– a real Cuban cigar. Benito is a real treasure and a sample of the amazing down-to-earth people you will meet in Cuba! Enjoy. thanks to Cristina for making this 2014 video!

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