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For nearly every luxury product, there is a counterfeit version available, from fake designer garments to perfume that will burn the skin from your wrist. If there is a market out there for certain expensive products, someone somewhere will make a cheaper, shoddier version. Fake Cuban cigars have left many a tourist gagging on the cheap stogies they have purchased.
Tourists in places such as the Caribbean are often duped into buying counterfeit Cuban cigars. What was once a small market has now grown into a huge criminal money spinner. There are a few methods that can help you spot a fake Cuban cigar.
The leaves that Cuban cigars are rolled in are a big giveaway. Fake Cuban cigars are made from unblended leaves that break and fall apart easily. Most of the leaves that make up fake Cuban cigars are broken leaves that are stolen from the cigar factory floor. Look at how the cigars are rolled. If they look as if they were rolled by a three fingered monkey, do not touch them.
Another giveaway is the size of the cigars. A box of fake Cuban cigars may include cigars of varying lengths. Ask if you can try one before buying them. Slice off the end of the cigar and see if it holds together. If it falls apart, then it is a definite fake. If the tobacco falls out of the cigar, then it is a fake Cuban cigar made up of factory floor tobacco shavings.
A box of real Cuban cigars will have some hallmarks that you can check. There should be three marks burnt into the bottom of each box. One will read Hababo S.A. This is the mark of the official Cuban cigar export agency. Another mark will read hecho en Cuba, which means "Made in Cuba". The third mark will read totalmente a mano, which is translated as "totally by hand".
Another sign that you are about to buy real Cuban cigars is the seal that wraps around the box. This should be a green-colored, official government seal. There should also be a yellow Habanos chevron situated in the top right-hand corner. This chevron has been used on Cuban cigar boxes since 1994.
Of course, counterfeiters have also wised up on these markings and use increasingly sophisticated methods to dupe the unsuspecting buyer. To combat the counterfeiters, some importers are now using their own security methods. In the United Kingdom, stamps such as the English Market Selection (EMS) are now in use.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the visual signs of a fake Cuban cigar?
Authentic Cuban cigars have a high-quality appearance. Look for a well-applied cap, a consistent and even color, and a lack of any rough veins or blemishes on the wrapper. The band should be embossed, not flat, and the holographic elements should be crisp. According to Habanos S.A., the official Cuban cigar corporation, genuine bands have a distinct holographic label with a micro portrait of Che Guevara.
How can I verify the authenticity of a Cuban cigar's band?
To verify a Cuban cigar's band, examine the printing quality and alignment. Authentic bands have sharp, detailed printing without smudges or misalignments. The hologram on the band should be clear and feature the Taino Indian head, a barcode, and a serial number. Habanos S.A. provides images of genuine bands for comparison on their official website.
Can the taste of a cigar indicate its authenticity?
Yes, the taste can be an indicator. Genuine Cuban cigars are known for their rich, complex flavor profiles that include a balance of spice, earthiness, and a hint of sweetness. If the cigar tastes excessively harsh, lacks complexity, or has an ammonia-like aftertaste, it may be counterfeit. However, taste can be subjective, and experience is required to discern these nuances.
Is there a way to check the authenticity of a Cuban cigar using its box?
Authentic Cuban cigar boxes have several features to check. Look for the official Habanos seal and a correctly stamped 'Hecho en Cuba' (Made in Cuba) declaration. The bottom of the box should have a heat stamp with the factory code and date of production. The Cuban warranty seal should have a unique barcode that can be verified on the Habanos S.A. website.
What should I look for in the construction of a Cuban cigar to ensure it's real?
Examine the construction quality. Authentic Cuban cigars are hand-rolled with precision, featuring a uniform shape, a smooth and tight wrapper, and a firm but not hard feel when gently squeezed. The ash of a real Cuban should be a consistent gray color, indicating the use of high-quality tobacco leaves.
Are there any reliable resources or databases to authenticate Cuban cigars?
Yes, Habanos S.A. offers a verification system on their official website where you can input the serial number found on the Cuban warranty seal to authenticate your cigars. Additionally, reputable cigar forums and communities often share knowledge and can be a resource for verification. Always purchase from authorized and reputable dealers to reduce the risk of encountering fakes.