UPDATED: 13 October 2016.
There are very few places that will teach you how to buy authentic Cuban cigars over the Internet. Many of the cigar forums on the web seem to have a phobia of the subject, and warnings to avoid talking about sources, vendors, merchants and online purchases are everywhere.
Well, i want to buck the trend, and give you THE ULTIMATE guide of safely and securely buying authentic Cuban cigars online.
Disclaimer: There is always an element of risk whenever you purchase online — the shipment gets lost in the mail, or the cigars are not exactly what you had hoped for. As always, buyers beware. This guide seeks to help you minimize the risk, nothing can eliminate it altogether.
The following are the 5 Steps of Online Cigar Buying. Follow all 5 steps diligently to achieve a zen-state of purchasing over the Internet.
1. Always establish contact with the merchant before making a purchase.
The best cigar merchants will be more than happy to speak to you before you place an order. Don’t be shy to ask simple probing questions such as the source of their cigars (the best merchants get their source from their local authorized Habanos distributors e.g. PCC in Asia Pacific, Hunters & Frankau in UK), or how they store their cigars in their warehouse, or details on how they will pack the cigars when shipping it out to you. I’ve found that its always a good idea to set the ground rules on important issues such as returning unsatisfactory cigars during these preliminary discussions.
The real purpose for this “foreplay” is to see if the merchant is sincere in their dealings with you. If they are fakers, then such questions will quickly make them lose their patience and this frustration or lack of interest to reply to your emails will be obvious.
Don’t be afraid to call them up too, if a phone number is provided (all good merchants WILL provide a phone number to call).
2. Always start by placing a small order.
Test the waters. Place a small ticket order. What you want to see is how they send the cigars to you, how long it takes to arrive, and what type of packaging and shipping they use.
3. Always ask for the box code before placing an order.
If you’re buying a box of cigars, try to insist on the box code for the cigars. This will give you a good idea of the marquee of the cigars you’re receiving, and also potentially slip up a dishonest merchant e.g. one experience i have is when a merchant tried to sell me a banded cabinet of HDM Epi #2 from 1999. In those days, all the cabinets of this cigar featured unbanded cigars.
4. Always insist on insured or registered priority mail shipping.
The local post offices may call it different things in different countries. Basically, what you want is shipping that requires the recipient to sign for the package when receiving it. This will ensure that both the buyer and the seller are protected.
5. Always communicate to the merchant after the sale and after the cigars have arrived.
Buying cigars online is not dissimilar from buying cigars in the real world. Very often, it all comes down to relationships, friendships and how comfortable you are with the merchant. Therefore, if you feel that you like a particular merchant, and you will be a repeat customer in the future, strike up a conversation with them. They are people too, and making them feel that they are being treated with honour, respect and friendship will ensure that they will treat you back in the same way.
Having said all of that, the #1 question i get on My Cigar Blog is: “Where can i buy authentic Cuban cigars safely and with a peace of mind?” or “Where do you buy your cigars?”
Here are the vendors that i use, all of whom i have transacted with successfully and safely in the past.
(in no particular order of preference)
Hong Kong is one of the most vibrant cities in the world when it comes to the collection and appreciation of cigars. It’s the home of the famous Min Ron Nee (An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Post-Revolution Havana Cigars) and other very serious collectors. It’s also the base of operations for Cigars of Habanos (affectionately known as CoH to its friends). The proprietor of CoH, Ravi, has a deep love for cigars and has been retailing them, online and offline, for the last 16 years. This man knows what a great cigar is, and does his best to offer only the best to his customers. You’ll find some of the best prices of authentic Habanos anywhere on the Internet at CoH. Shipping is really fast via trackable Express Mail, and service is top notch with emails coming to you at every stop of the process.
Speak to Ravi at email@example.com, tell him that Aizuddin of My Cigar Blog sent you, and you will be rewarded with a free cigar with your first order!
These guys operate out of Switzerland and offer an excellent array of cigars — they are almost never out of stock of any of the current and most popular productions; their stock comes directly from Intertabak, official Habanos SA distributor in Switzerland. Shipping is ultra-fast, cigars arrive well protected and in excellent condition via vacuum sealed pouches.
*all ratings are based on my personal dealings and impressions with the merchant, your mileage may vary. what i can vouch for is that each merchant listed here offers authentic Cuban cigars at reasonable prices and service*
Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions about this topic, and/or any questions about the merchants listed here.