Here are a list of some of the most common questions we get asked by people about Cuban cigars, we hope you find them useful. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us directly. Click here to find out how, or follow us on Twitter:
The official Denominacion de Origen Protegida (D.O.P) or Protected Denomination of Origin used only to describe the most outstanding brands of cigars, which are manufactured in Cuba to the most exacting standards established by the Regulatory Council, from tobaccos grown only in particular areas of the island that are also protected as Denominations of Orign.
The ring gauge or ‘girth’ is the diameter of a cigar and is measured in 64ths of an inch. Therefore a ring gauge of 42 measures 42/64 inch or 16.67mm. Likewise a cigar with a ring gauge of 50 has a diameter of 50/64 inch or 19.84mm.
No – though wrapper colours vary between boxes of Havanas, from Claro (light brown) to Maduro (dark brown), it is the blend of the filler leaves that dictates the intensity of flavour and aroma. If anything the wrapper leaf provides a ‘top-taste’; dark wrappers add a touch of sweetness and light wrappers a hint of dryness. The various shades found among wrapper leaves are a consequence of the harvesting techniques whereby the leaves are picked in levels at intervals, starting at the bottom and moving up. Therefore the leaves from higher up the plant can grow for up to 10 days longer than their lower counterparts which has the effect of turning the leaf a darker shade of brown (more natural inherent oils and sugar) after air curing, fermentation and ageing.
Havanas should be stored at between 16-18°C and 65-70% relative humidity (RH). The humidity is most crucial. If a Havana becomes too moist it will be hard to keep alight and the excess moisture will inhibit and dilute the natural oils which are released when you light a cigar. Conversely, if you allow the cigar to dry out, these oils will have disappeared and the result be will a harsh, tasteless smoking experience.
A simple and reliable way to test the condition of a cigar is to hold it between your thumb and index finger and squeeze gently. If it feels firm but springy then it is in good condition; hard and brittle means too dry, soft and spongy means too wet. Dry cigars can be recovered to correct condition by placing in an efficient humidor for forty-eight hours. Over-humidified cigars where the wrapper has split are unfortunately ruined.
No – this is called ‘bloom’ and occurs naturally on Havanas when they are subjected to a sudden increase in humidity. It is a sign that the cigars are alive and well and should simply be removed with a soft brush.
No – fridges are dry environments that will only serve to remove all the natural moisture within a Cuban cigar. Also, fine cigars readily absorb smells that are in abundance in refrigerators.
Tubed cigars maintain their condition out of a humidor longer than un-tubed cigars. The cedar-lined aluminium tubes help preserve the cigars from damage and drying out. Decant the cigars from the tubes if they are to be placed in a humidor.
No – removing the band at this stage can damage the delicate wrapper leaf. If you wish to remove the band do so after smoking for around five minutes, when the cigar has warmed up and the band easier to remove. Even then the band should be peeled off rather then pulled off like a ring off a finger.
Yes – tap it gently in an ashtray to remove any excess ash. Now apply a flame to end that was lit to burn away the edge of the wrapper. Re-light as with a new cigar, first blowing through it to clear out any stale, residual smoke that may linger within the filler. This is only recommended if the cigar has been extinguished for less than an hour. Any longer and the flavour and aroma will have been lost. Cigars should be lit using a lighter fuelled by butane gas as a petrol-fuelled lighter will contaminate the flavour of the tobacco.
Novices should start with lighter flavoured Havana brands like H. Upmann or Hoyo de Monterrey for example. A slender ring gauge is also advised (42 or below) as the heavier gauged cigars offer more tobacco and fuller flavours, even within the same marque, which may prove too strong for the untrained palate.
EMS stands for ‘English Market Selection’ and is a term that has been used in Cuba for over a century to identify the quality of cigars designated for the British market.
In 1993, Hunters & Frankau introduced the EMS Stamp and since then they have awarded it to all boxes and packs of Havanas that pass an additional UK inspection which is conducted once the cigars have reached their duty paid humidified warehouse. It serves as the traditional guarantee of quality and authenticity for Havanas sold in the UK.
In 1997 the colour of the stamps started to change and have continued to do so annually. All packs of Havanas selected for sale by H&F in the UK domestic market bear the EMS stamp.
Each year, Habanos SA, the company in Cuba responsible of marketing and distributing Habanos worldwide, release a number of exceptional cigars known as Ediciones Limitadas or Limited Editions.
The characteristics of Limited Editions are that they are made by the most celebrated houses in Havana, in rare sizes, using dark coloured wrapper leaves and extra aged tobacco. Since 2000, when the first series of four Limited Editions was unveiled , a further three to five releases have been made annually with the year of release identified on a second band on the cigar.
The exact quantity made of each release is not declared because the Cuban industry cannot tell how many cigars of each size it will be able to make until the bales of specially aged wrapper leaves are opened and graded for quality and colour. Up until 2007, only the wrapper leaves were subjected to extra ageing (2yrs), but since then all the leaves used for Limited Editions carry this extra age.
Since 2005, the companies that distribute Habanos in different territories around the world have been invited by Habanos SA to bid for the chance to develop their own special sizes in the less well known Habanos brands for sale only in their own markets. They are known as Regional Editions and were produced in limited quantities. In 2005, the UK helped pioneer the project with the Ramon Allones Belicoso Fino and since then, the concept has been further refined with the addition of numbers on all the boxes and a second band to identify the region for which the cigar has been made. From 2006 until 2011, each region was allowed two Regional Editions per year which was reduced to one from 2012.