For many years now the rest of the Caribbean has been catching up with Cuba in terms of the quality, flavour and form of their cigars. Though not quite there yet, cigars from Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic may eventually surpass their Cuban cousins. The main reason for this is because demand and economic conditions in Cuba has forced the government controlled monopoly there to push their cigars to market faster than previously necessary. Result: production quality suffers with rapid mass production and cigars are not sufficiently aged before they are sold. Its a shame, but sadly the stark truth.

This decline in the Cuban cigar industry has provided a large opportunity to smaller players to make their move. One in particular, Cuban Crafters from Nicaragua have bucked the current industry trend of mass production and focused their efforts on producing “boutique cigars” – cigars produced in very small quantities and marketed to very limited locations. I was fortunate to get my hands on one of their samplers recently, to try this brand that has been favourably compared with the ultra-ultra-premium Padron Aniversarios. With a glass of sweet guava juice at my side, i picked up the Cuban Crafters robusto (52RG, slightly boxed pressed) and examined it carefully. The first thing that struck me about this cigar is how it constructed in the “old Cuban style” – a pig tail head with a tapered foot. Instead of using an extra piece of tobacco leaf to seal the head, the tobacco has been twisted off to seal the head, ala the Trinidad Fundadores, the last remaining Cuban to do it in this manner. At its foot, the tobacco is tapered off and folded inwards – another trait that has all but disappeared in the Cuban cigar simply because its an inefficient time consuming process.

The pig tail head

(lost the image) The tapered, folded in foot

Besides the remarkable attention to construction, i also noticed that this cigar sports one of the most flawless dark natural wrappers i’ve ever seen, Cuban or non-Cuban notwithstanding. Not a single visible disfiguring vein, or an uneven bump or inconsistency. On natural or claro coloured cigars this wouldn’t be so difficult to accomplish but on dark natural wrappers that have undergone a more intensive aging process, such perfection in the wrapper is truly uncommon. Even Cuban cigars of late are nowhere nearly as flawless. Combined with a deeply oily touch, i immediately knew that this cigar was contructed with top-grade, extremely well-aged tobacco. Truly amazing. Lighting it was an interesting experience – with the folded in foot, i wasn’t quite sure how it would burn. I needn’t have fretted, it was simple light. Just a few quick draws, and the tobacco lighted evenly across the foot. What struck me immediately about these cigars is the incredible creaminess each draw offered – a very, very thick nutty, bitter chocolate flavour. Huge amounts of smoke were produced, each a flavourful, aromatic cloud of pleasure. By about half way through, my palate was completely awash with pleasure; the cigar never once got harsh or uncomfortable – quite an achievement considering the full-bodied nature of this cigar. This is no mild mare – a full-bodied stallion for sure, but one which is kept well under control.

(lost the image) White ash half the length of the cigar

(lost the image) The mark of a good cigar – no tunneling when the ash is tapped off

My only problem with this cigar was probably my own fault: in my eager puffing since it just tasted so very, very good, the cigar invariably got very hot, even when only half way through. With some conscious effort, i laid it down to rest for a few minutes whenever it happened and found this produced excellent results as the cigar cooled right down.

(lost the image) Right to the stub

Verdict: This is an AMAZING cigar – as far as full bodied beauties go, it beats any Cuban i’ve had, and beats them by a mile.