If you've heard Cuban cigars aren't as good as they used to be, try for yourself to find out

DeBord Cuban CigarMatthew DeBord/Business InsiderIt was good. Quite good.

Now that the US is normalizing relations with Cuba, Americans can travel to the country relatively freely again — and bring back up to 100 of the legendary Cuban cigars!

Getting ahead of the curve, a team from Business Insider US visited Cuba in 2015 and brought back some stogies.

It hasn’t been impossible to get Cuban cigars since the embargo was first enacted decades ago, during the Cold War. But for Americans, it hasn’t been all that easy.

As a result, other countries — Nicaragua, Honduras, the Dominican Republic — have developed their own cigar industries and, in the estimation of a lot of experts, are now making better smokes than the legendary Cubans.

In 2015, I hadn’t smoked a Cuban in over ten years. It was a Montecristo No. 2, one of the truly great Cuban cigars. It was a memorable smoke, washed down with some California cult Cabernet. (Both were gifts from a professional connection.)

I was understandably sceptical that the cigar the BI staffers brought back and graciously allowed me to sample would be as exciting. Also, it was a Montecristo No. 4, a petit corona to the No. 2’s heftier torpedo.

But boy, was it ever a tasty smoke!

The thing I remember about the No. 2 was it delicious woody, spicy flavours and rich, smooth, but not quite creamy smoke. I also remember the “draw” — the ease of getting smoke out of the cigar — which was effortless.

The taste of the No. 2 was similar, maybe a tad more peppery. At first, it smoked “hot” — the smoke came through the cigar with more temperature intensity than I like. But after a few minutes, as the ash developed, it calmed down and hit a sweet spot. It was a wonderful, cool smoke for another 15-20 minutes.

I don’t smoke many cigars these days — in fact, that Montecristo No. 4 was my last — after being a somewhat regular consumer in the early 2000s. It was great to get back in the game with such a nice little cigar, from that mythical land where the cigar is king.

It’s also good to know that Cuban cigars might still be worth their reputation. To be honest, I’d kind of like to go down for a visit, to find out for myself.

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