A couple of weeks back we discussed an interesting question about a legal pre-embargo Cuban cigar. The cigar in question was, I believe, the Pinar P3000. Supposedly, this cigar was made completely of pre-embargo Cuban tobacco. Understandably we were skeptical. The embargo has been in place for 45 years, and we’re talking about an organic product that steadily degrades with time, even in ideal conditions. What are the chances that tobacco pushing it’s fifties was stored in proper conditions all these years. And what are the chances it’d smoke-able even if it was?
Well, luck was on my side. I couldn’t find the P3000 anywhere, but I was able to pick up the Pinar 1958 Serie B on a well know cigar auction website. (Website URL withheld for the protection of your wallet. You can thank me later.) What’s the difference? Well the word is that this one isn’t a pre-embargo Cuban puro. It’s a fifty-fifty split of allegedly ancient Cuban tobacco and much younger Dominican Republic.
But is it really Cuban tobacco? Is it really that old? I can’t answer either question with any certainty. In a brief non-scientific survey of people’s opinions online (i.e. I Googled it), I found that like the Cuban-Dominican blend, people were split as to whether or not this cigar was for real. Maybe a review will help shed some light. It couldn’t hurt. And since it’s my turn for a review anyway, let’s check it out.
Can’t read it? Don’t worry, neither can I.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. The five pack I bought came with an incredibly bad photocopy of a “Certificate of Provenance.” I guess that will come in handy with the agents of the ATF break down my front door looking for contraband. Talk about a Family Guy moment. (“Oh. Oh! You have a Certificate of Provenance?! Wow. Totally our bad. Have a good day sir. Lovely place you have here. Terribly sorry about the door.”) Now onto the review. This time for sure.
Size: 4.5 x 48
Filler: 1/2 Cuban, 1/2 Dominican
Smoking Time: 1 hour
See any Cuban tobacco in there?
Visually nothing about the cigar says to me, “Hi, I’m Cuban tobacco.” It has a triple cap, but that doesn’t prove anything. In fact, the wrapper doesn’t visually appear to be that old, making me wonder if my second hand information on the wrapper leaf was correct. Perhaps it’s actually the younger Dominican leaf. From a cosmetic standpoint, that might make more sense.
What really surprised me about my pre-smoke inspection was the scent of the wrapper. Wow. Very, very pungent compost. We talking about a drive through Tillamook, Oregon here. (Tillamook, by the way, is a huge cheese producer on the west coast, which is accordingly surrounded by hundreds of famously, ahem, aromatic farms. You smell the city 30 minutes before you get there.) It surprises me that tobacco this old would have such an intense smell. This again makes me suspicious of the wrapper. If this is truly is tobacco that qualifies for a senior discount, it must have been aged in somewhere with very little airflow. Perhaps in a barrel or some sort of sealed crate or something. Or maybe it was actually aged on the floor of a barn on a cheese farm. But hey, the worse it smells, the better it smokes, right?
Also noteworthy was this cigar was softer than most cigars, which is the only thing in the inspection that seems consistent with delicate aged tobacco. But that could also be the result of poorly rolled tobacco.
This cigar wasn’t very well behaved in the burn department. It would burn evenly for a little while, and then it would stray, frequently needing a touch up to even out again. I never actually canoed or anything, but you had to keep an eye on it and keep rotating the cigar to manage the burn.
The ash, while a lovely shade of white, tended to be flaky. Often it looked more like an ice sculpture of a palm tree trunk than cigar ash. (The one photographed below had the most impressive ash of the bunch.) In spite of the obvious instability of the ash, one cigar was able to hold a surprising inch and a half length.
Don’t stare into the psychedelic spiral burn…
The flavors of this cigar were both interesting and inconsistent from one cigar to another. The cigar opened up with a creamy, earthy flavor, but in one cigar, I got an unpleasant stale tobacco flavor. Fortunately, this flavor didn’t last too long. The first third quickly settled into an earthy vegetal flavor with a salty finish.
The second third became more creamy and leathery in one cigar, and more like charred wood in another. In both cigars, I found this third to be more pleasant than the rest of the cigar. Though the charred wood flavor had a bit of a harsh edge to it.
In the final third the flavors became more bitter and harsh. The profile was pretty similar to the previous third; a combination of pungent leather and bitter vegetal flavor that reminds me of some of the leaves of a dry mixed salad. One of those up-scale ones without iceberg lettuce. Both cigars also got to be considerably more salty.
The price I paid seemed reasonable. Actually, it was too cheap for such old and theoretically valuable tobacco. From that you can conclude one of two things about the “pre-embargo Cuban” tobacco. Either it wasn’t stored in the right conditions (i.e. forgotten in the back of a warehouse) or its bogus. Well, OK, there is a third option: Maybe it just wasn’t a very good cigar to begin with, and just didn’t sell. I’m not sure if you can actually buy these cigars anywhere but at auction, but I’m thinking you probably wouldn’t want to pay whatever the original MSRP was.
This cigar is kind of like sea salt and vinegar potato chips. I’m never sure if I actually like them, but I keep eating them to find out. Likewise with this cigar, I found myself liking some aspects of the cigar, but being put off by other aspects. The fuller flavor and saltiness plays differently with my palate at different times. Generally, I liked that. What I didn’t care for was the bitter edge, and the harshness of some of the flavors, particularly in the first and last thirds.
So is this real, pre-embargo Cuban tobacco? Well, I don’t know, I’m still skeptical. I think there is some old tobacco in it but how old and where it came from I can’t say. Some people seem to really love these smokes. So if you’re interested in trying them out, I would advise you to buy them not for their glamorous (and dubious) pre-embargo status but because you enjoy the flavors.
Liked It: Yes and no. Mostly no.
Buy It Again: Probably not, there’s just too many good things out there to smoke.
Recommend It: Maybe. Like sea salt and vinegar potato chips?
Tower of Burn
Here for your viewing pleasure is my trademark Tower of Burn.