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Fake Cuban cigars

Dr Gonzo was right - they really are out to get you.

What if you are American and looking to buy Cuban cigars? Should you worry? Should you take care in choosing the right supplier? Should you test the waters with a small order? We suggest you do all of these things and more. The point is that when it comes to Cuban cigars and the United States of America they really are out to get you.


Who is "they" and why are they out to get me?

The American cigar market is the largest in the world. The finest cigars in the world are generally considered to be Cuban. Since the 8th of July 1963, however, the US government has imposed an embargo on all things Cuban. This embargo includes Cuban cigars from Habanos - for full details of the US Customs & Excise position on Cuban cigars click here.

"They" are the people who have worked out that here is a vast market ripe for exploitation - for example, check this recent story out by clicking here.


Why are there so many fake Cuban cigars in the USA?

Look at it this way. You order your "Cuban cigars" from a duty-free internet supplier somewhere off the coast of China. You get a box of cigars that might or might not be Cuban. How do you know? There are no official outlets in the USA to which you can take your box for checking. You cannot browse your local cigar shop and have a savvy through the boxes on the shelves to see if they look like yours. "No idea, son. Could be Cuban, could be a walk in the park." With nothing to check your box against you resort to checking with other peoples boxes and find out that the other boxes look different to the ones that you bought. But maybe those other boxes are also fake...and so on... In other words there is no stable reference point in the USA to which a box of Cuban cigars can be checked. The same goes for the cigar bands or rings on the cigars themselves - how do you know what is real and what is not? This is complicated even further when you find out that the Cuban cigar industry regularly changes the appearance of the cigar bands and that there is inherent variation in the printing of these rings anyhow. Click here to see how Montecristo recently changed their cigar rings.


How many fake cigars are there in the USA?

Let's do some simple maths. According to the CIA the current estimate of the USA population is 293 million people. According to ASH the estimated percentage of the US population who smoke cigars is 2% - about 5.86 million people. Lets say, for arguments sake, that of that 5.86 million people 10% bought a single box of Cuban cigars every 2 months (it might be more, it might be less, who knows?). If 10% of the US cigar smoking population bought one box of Cuban cigars every 2 months that would add up to 3.5 million boxes per annum. Suppose, on average, each box cost $150 that could mean a revenue of $525 million dollars per year.


So there are 3.5 million boxes of Cuban cigars knocking around the USA?

Apparently not. The American website estimates that at least 95% of the Cuban cigars in America have never been anywhere near Cuba, not even on vacation. In other words of the estimated 3.5 million boxes of Cuban cigars in the USA only 175,000 of those boxes are the real thing. Of course everybody thinks they have the real thing but the statistics tell another story.


I'm worried.

Good. You should be.


What can I do to make sure I get the real thing?

  • The fact that you got so far in reading this is a good sign. The point is that regardless of what people may think they are buying, America is full of fake Cuban cigars. 95 out of every 100 purchases are of a dubious nature and the internet is full of operators only too willing to sell dud cigars to a gullible public. The single biggest factor is that of price. We are sometimes accused of being too expensive. Frankly we are proud to be this expensive if that is what its called. We cannot reduce our prices and stay in business because we only supply genuine Cuban cigars. The internet sites selling the fake cigars are always going to be able to undercut suppliers such as ourselves and other genuine dealers. Its a fact - no matter what the official price is in any country the counterfeiters can always undercut that price - that is the nature of their business plan. Of course if the clients were to pay attention to this factor then the USA would not be full of fake cigars but that's another story...

  • If you want to be 100% sure of buying genuine Cuban cigars you should be very wary of sites offering unbelievable prices and "duty-free deals" on Habanos cigars. If you are looking for a "cheap" Habanos Cuban cigar we would suggest that you are on the wrong tack - there is no such thing. There are Habanos cigars "hecho en Cuba" and, like any hand-made product of quality, they come at a price.

  • Inform yourself of the methods by which Cuban cigars are distributed and sold around the world. Enquire of your prospective vendor as to where they obtain their cigars from. All of our cigars are supplied to us from Altadis the only official supplier of Cuban cigars in France and Spain. In the United States the company is known as Altadis USA - Habanos S.A. are the only company responsible for the marketing and promotion of Cuban cigars throughout the world. Contrary, however to what many people think and to what some websites erroneously state as fact, Habanos S.A. are not the company that sell the Cuban cigars to the retailers. There is a worldwide distribution network of official suppliers appointed by Habanos S.A. who control each country's supply of Havana cigars. The list of each country's official distributor can be found at the website of Habanos S.A. - click here for details. More details about the role of Habanos can be found by clicking here.

  • Inform yourself of the fake cigar "giveaway" signs when buying Cuban cigars. e.g. did you know that on a genuine box of Cuban cigars the green dollar seal should be folded so that the coat of arms is bisected in half by the top edge of the box?

  • A good primer on fake cigars can be found here -

Genuine Cuban Cigars

Habanos Cigars - the top lid of the box runs through the centre of the coat of arms on the Cuban dollar seal - verdict, genuine.

fake cigars

Fake Cigars - the entire coat of arms on the Cuban dollar seal is visible on the top of the cigar box. The seal is also normally on the left hand side of the box on Romeo y Julieta cigars - verdict, fake, fake, fake...


Our cigar boxes have all the markings associated with the genuine Cuban article and with their official Spanish distributor Altadis:-

1. A factory code and date is ink-stamped on the base of the wooden box.
2. The Cuban dollar seal is placed with the lid of the box running through the centre of the coat of arms.
3. The Habanos seal is placed across the corner of the box.
4. There is a heat-pressed stamp that reads "Habanos s.a. HECHO EN CUBA Totalmente a mano" on the base of the box.
5. There are certificates of authenticity inside the boxes.
6. All boxes come with the round blue official seal of Altadis.



Which websites are selling fake cigars?

About once a month we get sent a cigar from clients in the USA - "can you verify this cigar for me, I bought it from such and such and it tastes like dogweed etc ..." We pass the cigar on to Habanos who then perform an expert autopsy on it. Invariably the verdict comes back "fake". Maybe a good fake, maybe a poor fake, but fake all the same. In this way we are building up an interesting database of our competitors on the web. We have the proof of what they sold, to whom they sold it and what is wrong with it. A more ruthless company than ourselves would publish this list together with its photographic proof and autopsy report from Altadis but we prefer not to. We know who they are, they know who they are and we are warning you to take extreme caution when purchasing Cuban cigars on the internet.


Why should I believe you?

  • You should believe us because we know what we are talking about. We know our "el capote" from our "fortaleza 1".

  • Not a month goes by without someone offering to supply us with large quantities of "genuine Habanos cigars". We never reply to these offers because our interests lie with long-term supply of the genuine product to our knowledgeable customers. Which brings us to the next point which is that most of our business is taken up with supplying Cuban cigars to Europe. We do have many American clients but the majority of our business is with the EU countries. What difference does this make? What it means is that if we tried to sell fake Cuban cigars to places like the UK or Germany where the cigar population are well informed we would not last very long in business. Our unhappy customers would take the box to their nearest official source, compare the product and never return to us for repeat business.


Are your cigars from Cuba or are they from tobacco grown with Cuban seed and planted in the Dominican Republic?

  • The short answer is that our cigars are made of Cuban tobacco grown from Cuban seed and planted in Cuba by Cubans. The cigars are then rolled and packaged in Cuba under the supervision of Habanos S.A. In other words our Cuban cigars are the exact same cigars available from the official outlets of Cuba.
  • The longer answer involves the following - on the 8th of July, 1963 the US Government imposed an embargo on Cuban goods under The Trading with the Enemy Act in response to "certain hostile actions by the Cuban government". Click here, here and here for further information. One of the many victims of this policy has been Cuban cigar sales in the USA. With the vast American market closed to Cuban business the cigar manufacturers made attempts to by-pass the embargo - hence tobacco grown with Cuban seed and planted anywhere but Cuba. The end result is Montecristo and other Cuban brands being made in the Dominican Republic and distributed for sale in the USA. The important point is that the embargo of Cuban goods has always been restricted to the USA. There has been no need to create a European market for cigars made out of tobacco grown with Cuban seed etc. We could not sell you Montecristo made in the Dominican Republic because we do not know where to obtain it. In fact if anybody out there would care to send us a test sample we would love to try some out of curiosity.


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