The following guide will aid you in your selection, however, bear in mind that the appreciation of flavours and aromas varies hugely from person to person. The time of day, our mood, what we have eaten or what we are drinking all alter our senses of taste and smell, even whether we are male or female!
Cigars are made from tobacco, a crop that is subject to variation from year to year. Just as grapes are affected by different climactic conditions, so too is tobacco. All this goes to make cigar manufacture a skill and an art perfected by master craftsmen down through the years. The qualities that alter from harvest to harvest only add to the excitement of discovery.
The following list is an attempt to differentiate the brands and where available we have included the ratings from Cigar Aficionado (CA), 100 being the highest possible mark. We have included the latest rating since some cigars have been rated on different dates.
Belinda brand came into being in the 1890's and, between the first and
second world wars, very popular. Much favoured by the comedian Groucho
All in the range are machine made and medium in flavour. They are manufactured from tobacco grown in the Vuelta Abajo, the tobacco from this region is not considered suitable for totally hand made, long filler cigars.
The Bolivar brand, introduced in 1901 was named after the famous warrior Simon Bolivar 1783-1830, who liberated all or part of what is today Venezuela, Columbia, Peru and Bolivia, These balanced, rich and full bodied cigars demand attention from the senses. Roasted nuts and smooth cream flavours predominate, beware size is not a limit to strength, even the petit versions are warriors! Not a cigar for beginners.
Petit Corona: CA 85, Corona Gigante: CA 86, Royal Corona: CA 86, Corona: CA 86, Corona Extra: CA 87, Belicoso Fino: CA 91, Churchill: CA 91, Lonsdale: CA 91.
The Cabanas brand was registered in 1810 by the Spaniard Francisco Cabanas, making it one of the oldest Habano marks known. In 1895 he joined other manufacturers to develop an new trademark: Hija de Cabanas y Carbajal y Cia.
The cigar produced by this brand today, with tobacco from the Vuelta Arriba area,is richly flavoured with a full bodied palate and a toasty after taste. It is either completely machine made or machine bundled with a hand finished style.
The Cohiba brand is a relative newcomer as it was introduced in 1968, initially developed as a cigar for presentation only by officials of the Cuban government. In 1982 it became available for the world to appreciate. This brand could be quite rightly called the flagship of the Cuban style of cigar. Only the best leaves from 10 farms of the Vuelta Abajo region supply Cohiba, the only brand to employ three fermentations! This cigar is very expensive, but until you have tried "the Cohiba" you will not understand the multi-layered, velvety nuances of flavour that are possible. Aromatic, rich but never overpowering.
Siglo V: 84, Siglo III: CA 87, Esplendido: CA 87, Lancero: CA 87, Siglo IV: CA 88, Corona Especial: CA 89, Siglo I:CA 89, Robusto: CA 92.
The Cuaba brand was first introduced in London in 1996, making it the first new Cuban cigar to be brought into commercial production since 1968. Cuaba is the Taino Indian word for the special Cuban bush used to light the "Cohiba" or "Tobacco" on the island. The Cuaba vitoles are in the figurado (perfecto) shape. Fat through the centre of the shaft with both ends pointed. This was traditionally a popular shape until the beginning of the 20th century and, in fact, the smoking of the figurados was a British tradition. No doubt this is why Habanos S.A. unveiled the brand initially in London, they have subsequently reintroduced other historic brands and shapes.
The Cuaba is manufactured from tobacco from the Vuelta Abajo region in the rather romantically named Romeo y Julieta factory. They are rich and smoothly flavoursome with an almost chocolate aroma despite their size.
Exclusivo: CA 84, Divino: CA 86, Generoso: CA 87.
Diplomaticos as a brand were introduced in 1966 as a more everyday line to their top range Montecristo cigars. They were primarily aimed at the discerning French market and are interestingly one of the few Havana brands exclusively devoted to handmade cigars.
Torpedo shaped and well made. Medium to full bodied, slightly salty on the tongue with a cinnamon spice aroma. A lingering aftertaste of woodsmoke and freshly roasted coffee. Excellent value, but supply is, unfortunately, erratic. Do make the most of them when they are available.
The El Rey del Mundo (meaning King of the World) brand was developed in 1848 under the direction of Antonio Allones and actually registered in 1882. It epitomised the the best of the Havana brands and in the middle of the twentieth century was one of the most expensive available. The El Rey del Mundo factory still produces this brand and many other cigars under the name of Lazaro Pena.
It is renowned for its dark and oily wrappers and as a range of cigars they are light in strength and full of delicate flavours. Their subtle nuances make them good candidates for smoking any time of day, however, perhaps the pick of the selection could be said to be the "Choix Supreme", with its smooth as silk texture and toasted hazelnut finish.Distinctly aromatic, reminiscent of cedar wood and leather, with a firm draw.
Elegante:CA 83, Taino: CA85, Grandes de España CA 88, Gran Corona: CA 87, Lonsdale CA 87, Choix Supreme: CA 91, Corona de Luxe: CA 91.
This brand was developed by Francisco Fonseca in 1906 and his image is still used as the logo today. Wrapped in white tissue paper "silk paper" Fonseca cigars present with a luxurious but subtle flavour and a delicate aroma. Good to enjoy when one's palate is clean and not overwhelmed by a heavy meal. The No.1 may be the lightest lonsdale made in Cuba They are produced in limited quantities and are excellent value, yet another to take advantage of when available.
Cosacos: CA 90, Invictos: CA 91, No.1: CA 88.
This recently released brand (2002) is produced from tobacco grown in the Vuelta Arriba region of Cuba. They are mild and light bodied and could even be described as having a delicate and subtle flavour. The ideal beginners cigar or for those who appreciate a gentle invasion of the nose and palate.
Such a famous brand, an intriguing history!The H. Upmann began in 1844 when a German banker, Herman Upmann began using specially imprinted boxes of cigars as promotional items. Thus the brand was born. Awarded seven gold medals in seven international exhibitions from 1862 to 1893, images of these appear on the interior of the box today. The brand was sold to the British firm of J. Frankau in 1922 and in 1935 to Mendez, Garcia y Cia, just prior to nationalisation. They are still made in the H. Upmann factory today, now known as Jose Marti. A famous request by John F. Kennedy of his press secretary, Pierre Salinger,to obtain cigars on the evening prior to the declaration of the American trade embargo in 1961, was for Petit Upmanns.
The quality of these cigars vary as to whether they are machine or hand made. Machine made being well accepted as the superior of the two. These fine cigars are smooth and mellow, enveloping the palate like a good Irish whisky.
No.2: CA 88, Magnum 46: CA 90, Connoisseur No.1: CA 89, Monarch: CA 89, Sir Winston: CA 89, Corona: CA 86, Lonsdale: CA 86, No.1: CA 84.
This brand was established in 1865 by Jose Gener and is named after the fertile valley in the Vuelta Abajo which has been farmed by Gener since at least 1860.
Hoyo de Monterrey cigars gently flow over the tongue with light, rich and aromatic sensations. The Epicure No.2 and the Double Corona rank highly with the knowledgable and the "Le Hoyo" series, introduced in 1970, have a more demanding, intensity of flavour. Choose for your mood!
Epicure No.1: CA 85, Le Hoyo Du Roi: CA 85, Double Corona: CA 85, Le Hoyo des Dieux: CA 90, Epicure No.2: CA 90, Churchill: CA 91, Le Hoyo du Prince: CA 88, Le Hoyo du Dauphine: CA 88.
Jose L. Piedra cigars are popular ion the Cuban domestic market. They are not a subtle smoke, but hearty and robust, without being harsh or overwhelming. Strolling around the golf course, going for a walk on a misty autumn day is the ideal time to enjoy one of these cigars. Uncomplicated, satisfying and very competitively priced.
The Juan Lopez brand was started in1876 by Juan Lopez Diaz and is one of the the few Havana brands offered only in handmade styles. The range is limited, with no.1and no.2 being considered the pick of the selection. They are beautifully crafted cigars, balanced, deliciously full of flavour with light coffee bean and vanilla aromas. The no. 1 was Havana of the year in 1998 in France and Spain. One could form a lifetime relationship with the rich cream taste of these cigars.
This brand was created in 1884 by Tomas and Jose Cano and has ever since maintained its reputation for quality and excellent workmanship, being ranked by many as among the best. These cigars are stuffed with short filler, take up wrapper and a binder leaf, and are either machine or hand made. Their flavour is light to medium with almost floral overtones both on the palate and on the nose. I have heard them described as great with a morning cup of tea! They are often hard to obtain, as they are produced in limited runs.
This is another rather old brand that dates from 1885, developed by Jose Rocha and Rafael Garcia. La Gloria Cubana (the "Glory of Cuba") are a small, but beautifully crafted, range. The Medaille d'Or 1,2,3 and 4 selection could be likened to drinking a good chardonnay. Medium in strength, words like toasted nuts, caramel,spices and smoothly flowing honey come to mind. Sabrosos have a lighter character with distinct flowery, pepper and vanilla overtones.
Medaille dOr No.2: CA 89.
La Troya brand was founded in 1932, the logo depicts a charioteer from the Trojan wars, maybe because this is a spicy cigar, with a warrior's strength and balance. They are machine made, hand finished and very well priced. Full of flavour and a saltiness that can be found in some good Cuban tobaccos. A traditional cigar, wonderfully enjoyable accompanied by a good brandy!
Details of the origin of this brand have been lost, Martinez y Cia were certainly the brand manufacturers, but there are also versions that attribute it to a Central European business man, possibly Hungarian. Its insignia feature heraldry in common with Central Europe. Who knows? The cigars are entirely machine made, rich, strong and spicy. Might be too overwhelming for the beginner.
What a gorgeous name, probably inspired by the 1844 novel "Le Comte de Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas. The brand was established in 1935 by Menendez, Garcia y Cia, the then owners of H. Upmann, and heavily marketed by Alfred Dunhill of London. It became the most popular of all Havana exports and a standard against which all others are now judged. They have well earned their reputation from the art that is portrayed in the manufacture to the balance and rounding of the flavours. Their range is extensive, amongst them the finest pyramide in the world, the no. 2. There is a distinctive Montecristo taste that manifests itself with complex earthy tones, rich and chocolatty, and an almost brooding aroma of roasted spice, vanilla and patchouli . An exotic aristocrat of cigars!
No.5: CA 89, Edicion Limitada Robusto: CA 88, No.3: CA 88, Millenium Reserve Robusto: CA 94, Especial: CA 91, Especial No.2: CA 87, No.4: CA 87, A: CA 86, No.1: CA 86, No.2: CA 85,
Don Jaime Partagas started manufacturing cigars in 1827 and established this brand in 1845. When he died the brand passed to Ramon Cifuentes in 1889, being owned prior to nationalisation by Cifuentes y Cia. Evelyn Waugh mentioned this cigar in Brideshead Revisited and Partagas cigars won gold medals in at least three international exhibitions between 1867 and 1884. They are still produced in the Partagas factory, renamed Fernando Perez after nationalisation.
Partagas cigars are strong, well balanced and rich in flavour. Unusually intense and quite commanding. The best quality are undoubtedly the larger in the range. These cigars improve even more with aging.
A Spaniard named Ignacio Larranaga established the brand Por Larranaga in 1834 and after more than a century this brand is still renowned for the quality of it's rolling and the tremendously ingenious presentation of it's sizes and shapes. Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) the famous English writer even wrote "There's peace in a Larranaga, there's calm in Henry Clay", in his 1890 poem "The Betrothed".
The Lolas en Cedro used to be very famous and is still the speciality of the house. This cigar, wrapped in very thin cedar leaf, is a real masterpiece for it's matchless presentation. It is rich, full of velvet, vanilla spice flavours with floral aromatic notes. The Lonsdales and the Petit Coronas, likewise, fill the mouth with spicy nutmeg, caramel overtones and that slightly sweet floral aroma.
Don Manuel Lopez, owner of the J. Valley Cia, established the Punch brand in 1840 and, as it was primarily aimed at the British market, he named it after the popular comic book character Punch, who was immortalised in English puppetry of the 19th century. Sir Winston Churchill even visited the Monte y Zulueta factory during his stay in Havana. His name ended up being given to a size in this range.
They are a well priced quality cigar, of medium strength, yielding up cedar wood, nutty flavours with a hint of vanilla. Generally considered better if not aged too long.
Churchill: CA 88, Double Corona: CA 88, Punch: CA 88, Royal Selection No.11: CA 91, Corona: CA 90, Super Selection No. 2: CA 87, Petit Corona: CA 86.
This brand was established in 1970 and made mainly for the French market, hence the name of a famous bridge in Paris. All its sizes tend to use light wrappers, a frequent preference in France. The range is hand made and lighter bodied with mellow, medium strength flavours. Their more subtle nature means they are better smoked with a clean palate, not after a heavy meal. An excellent cigar for beginners, exhibiting vanilla and burnt sugar flavours with a slight citrus tang. A delicate, subtle and elegant brand.
This brand was registered between 1924 and 1940 by Augustin Quintero and is one of the few Habanos brands not born in the Cuban capital, but in Cienfuegos, one of the most beautiful and prosperous cities of the southern coast of Cuba.
Quintero cigars are a young brand, but their extremely competitive pricing makes them a good everyday option. They are medium to full flavoured, not too complex, smooth with spicy overtones.
This brand was initially developed around 1928 and initially registered under the name La Flor de Marquez in 1936. It was then relaunched in Spain under the present name Rafael Gonzalez, to become a highly popular brand on the Spanish market. The Rafael Gonzalez brand is also reputed to have introduced the Lonsdale size, in honour of Hugh Cecil Lowther, the fifth Earl of Lonsdale.
These cigars are of premium quality, medium strength, exhibiting almost Montecristo like flavours. Wood, nut and spicy overtones with lots of dark chocolate.
Ramon Allones established this brand under his own name in 1845. Extremely stylish cigars, whose sizes and shapes are carefully selected with elegance in mind. Reminiscent of Bolivar these cigars are not for the fainthearted, definitely not a beginners cigar. They are medium to full flavoured, extremely complex with rich chocolate and leather overtones. Smooth, rich cream and peppery spice notes predominate, rather opulent with an unexpectedly floral aroma.
Corona: CA 89, Specially Selected: CA 88, Gigantes: CA 94.
This brand was developed in 1875 by Innocencio Alvarez and Mannin Garcia and immediately showed it's quality by winning gold medals in four international exhibitions between 1885 and 1900. It was, however, after it's acquisition in 1903 by Jose Rodriguez Fernandez that it really started to seriously advance. Strikingly named after William Shakespeare's tragedy this brand offers an extensive range of shapes and sizes.
Rich and full of flavour, these cigars are medium to strong, filling the palate with creamy mocha and honeyed cinnamon sensations. Surprisingly aromatic with perfumed cedar notes.
Having experienced these striking cigars you will understand why the Romeo y Julieta brand is one of the most widely known and appreciated in the world today.
Belicoso: CA 91, Cazadores: CA 86, Celestiales: CA 86, Corona: CA 86, Cedros de Luxe No.1: CA 85, Cedros de Luxe No.2: CA 85, Shakespeare: CA 85, Belvedre: CA 84, Exhibicion No.3: CA 90, Exhibicion No.4: CA 90, Churchill: CA 91, Exhibicion Limitada-Exhibicion No.2: CA 88.
This brand was registered under the name Zamora y Guerra in 1940 and is handmade by experienced rollers from carefully selected leaves from the Vuelta Abajo region. A quality cigar that has established a niche for itself amongst connoisseurs. San Luis Rey habanos are mild to medium in flavour, full bodied and aromatic. Definitely spicy with a liquorice taste, hints of chocolate and espresso. A fine cigar and so deliciously easy to smoke.
Corona: CA 89, Churchill: CA 88, Lonsdale: CA 92, Regio Cabinet: 91.
Don Emilio Ahmsted registered this brand in 1852, then during the 1880's the factory was bought by Ramon Allones, who kept it's labelling, it's traditional trimmings and, more importantly, remained faithful to it's consistently superb quality. These cigars are named for the character of Sancho Panza in "Don Quixote" the famous novel by Miguel de Cervante.
Sancho Panza cigars are medium bodied with the classical Cuban mellow flavour. Toffee, dark chocolate and coffee notes can be detected together with salt, pepper and spice, slightly floral, perfumed and distinctly aromatic . All of this range are handmade and, if you want to go for a dramatic effect, try the famous, enormous Sanchos or the shaped head Belicosos. Be warned, not for beginners but oh such wonderful cigars!
Belicoso: CA 90, Sancho: CA 85, Non Plus: CA 85, Molinos: CA 86, Corona: CA 86
Registered in 1999, this is the latest of the new series of Havana brands and have been given the original name of the city of Havana from when it was founded in 1519, San Cristobal de la Habana. The brand comes in four sizes, each of which is named after one of the fronts that defended the city, when it was the centre of the Spanish empire in Latin America. The two sizes, La Fuerza and El Morro are unique to the San Cristobal brand.
San Cristobal are rich, full flavoured cigars, complex but subtle. Spices, vanilla and toasted nut flavours are to be detected, together with a creamy mocha smoothness. These well crafted cigars are delicious and beautifully aromatic.
La Fuerza: CA 86, El Principe: CA 85, El Morro: CA 80, La Punta: CA 92.
These cigars have been known of by connoisseurs all over the world, but not easily obtained as, since 1969, they were produced in a 38 ring guage exclusively for Fidel Castro as diplomatic presents. In 1998 they were launched upon the world market. They are named for the beautiful cuban city of Trinidad.
Superior and stylish cigars of medium strength, well rounded rich and tasty. Smooth cinnamon spice flavours tantalise the palate with hints of chocolate, roasted coffee intermingled with cedar aromas.
Fundadores: CA 88.
This brand bears the name of the property owned by the best tobacco growers in Cuba. The Vegas Robaina, started by Don Alejandro Robaino about 50 years ago, is sited in the St Luis region of the Vuelta Abajo. Don Alejandro is famed for growing the finest wrapper tobacco in this area and these cigars are a testament to him and the other farmers of the region.
The Vegas Robaina brand was officially launched by Habanos S.A. in 1997. High end cigars, using the same wrapper as Cohiba ,medium to strong and extremely well balanced. Smooth velvet of texture, slightly sweet spice notes vie with cream and chocolate on the tongue. Very aromatic, redolent with cedar and leather.
Cohiba. Classico: CA 88, Famosos: CA 88, Unico: CA 88, Familiares: CA 82.
The Vegueros brand is synonymous with quality, handrolled and manufactured totally in the Pinar del Rio region of the Vuelta Abajo, the world best tobacco growing area. Highly sort after, due in part to it's combination of hard texture and neat layers. They have been made since 1960 in the Francisco Donatien Factory.
These cigars are mild to medium bodied, smooth and soft. They are unusual, with distinctive, sweet herbaceous flavours. The taste of freshly mown grass and summer fruits combining with subtle floral aromas. Liken them to a fruity sauvignon blanc, a wonderful cigar to be enjoyed on a lazy summers afternoon.