This is a debate that has gone on and on and on: are non-Cuban cigars better than Cuban cigars?

The question is almost pointless, i keep on telling people — non-Cuban cigars (as you can see from my numerous reviews on My Cigar Blog) are just meant to be different. When you’re smoking a Padron 1964 or a CAO Black Storm, don’t expect the cigar to be like a Cuban Cohiba robusto or a Cuban Montecristo #2. There are just different, both designed to offer completely different smoking experiences.

Having said that, many have rightly pointed out that the quality of Cuban cigars has steadily declined over the years. Yes, that’s true — fresh out of the box, you can expect a non-Cuban cigar to be consistent from stick to stick. Quality control is excellent, uniformity is controlled, especially when you’re talking about premium brands such as Fuente and Padron.

Based on my calculations, the “donkey” rate (bad cigars) in a box of Cuban cigars can reach as high as 15-20%; cigars with tough draws, poor construction and often, very immature tobacco leading to bitterness, harsh flavours and uneven draws. That’s not a good thing, surely. For non-Cuban cigars, the donkey rate, even for medium range brands such as CAO and Perdomo and even the lower ranges such as Puros Indios, is much, much lower — perhaps between 2-5%.

So if you want the best value for money, where value is determined by the consistency in quality from stick to stick in a box of cigars, non-Cuban cigars are most definitely superior.

However, what i’ve found with Cubans is that if you are willing to be patient with them, and wait a couple of months before breaking into a fresh box, you will be rich ly rewarded. Observe the following pics, all Cubans, taken from my stock of cigars, all boxed in 2001, plus some additional aging of 2-3 months in my properly controlled environment.

A Montecristo #2 — perfect ash, wonderful flavours, excellent

A Vegas Robaina Famosos — perfect ash, distinct chocolate flavours, fantastic

A RyJ Robusto Ltd Edn — perfect burn, superb flavours, a joy

And i didn’t just get lucky. I’ve been dipping into this stock of cigars a bit this last week, and every stick i pulled was excellent, no problems whatsoever with the draw, the burn, the construction.

Cubans provide a very different experience from non-Cuban cigars, that’s true. As a matter of personal taste, some prefer one or the other — but the point here is that a Cuban cigar, aged for a bit, 2-3 years at a minimum, will probably not let you down.