Smoking A Cuban Cigar from 1960's... How Amazing is it?

Brandon Hayes:
In recent years, I've heard a lot of talk about pre-embargo Cuban cigars. I've heard stories about people going into shops across the country and the owner bringing out something really special, which was a pre- embargo Cuban cigar that was found in a basement somewhere. And I've also seen high ticket cigars selling at auctions that are pre-embargo Cubans. My question is, |Are they any good?" Not was the cigar originally any good, but is it still good today?

Brandon Hayes:
I found a 1960 pre-embargo Cuban cigar. I tried to do a little research on it, [Bock 00:00:38] and Co. Havana seems like the name on it but there's not a lot of information online about this cigar. But this dates back before the internet so I'm not surprised. My guess is this cigar probably is going to be well made. But I think that it's probably going to had lost a lot of flavor over the years. I've heard stories about how excellent they are, how much flavor they get out of these cigars, so I hope that I'm wrong. I hope that this is a very enjoyable smoking experience. Let's cut this baby open and see what it's all about.

Brandon Hayes:
Just on first light, it's not delivering a ton of flavor, seems to be extremely mild. Getting a little bit of a grassy flavor to it, which is something that I kind of would expect out of a Cuban cigar but maybe not a Cuban cigar of this age. People ask me all the time, "How long cigars stay good?" And I typically give them a kind of a generic answer, just from my experience, which is roughly about 10 years. Now, I always try to explain that a fuller bodied cigar with thicker leaves, a little more oil present in the wrapper, those cigars may age out and last a little bit longer, where a milder cigar may just kind of get too mellow where you don't enjoy it. But 10 years is just what I've experienced through the cigars that I've personally aged. I don't know the exact answer on this so it's going to be kind of interesting to see how this cigar really... How it develops over the next couple of minutes as we get into it.

Brandon Hayes:
I tell you, as I get about a quarter inch into this cigar, the intensity is starting to build a little bit, which surprises me. I really thought when I got off the first few puffs, which was very little flavor, was what I was going to expect throughout the cigar, but I'm starting to get a little bit excited. I'm starting to get some intensity building in this cigar. Let me we get a little further into it before we make a judgment call on this.

Brandon Hayes:
I thought maybe since it's a special occasion and we're smoking a cigar from the 1960s that I would break out some rum. This is Havana Club rum from Cuba. This is something that I brought back on my trip about four years ago that I've kind of just been saving for a special occasion. Let's pour a glass of that and see how it pairs with the cigar.

Brandon Hayes:
One thing that I am noticing about this cigar, even with the age, is how perfect the draw is. The burn line is not perfect but that could be a result of me setting it down and picking it up. But I'll say my biggest complaint about Cuban cigars over the most recent years is how bad the construction has gotten. I think that they're using very young tobacco, generally speaking. And I think that the quality of construction has been going downhill over the last five, six, seven, eight years.

Brandon Hayes:
I remember when I started my cigar smoking experience, I smoked a lot of Cuban cigars. A lot of it was just because of the cool factor of it but I do truly believe that 10, 12 years ago, Cuban cigars were much better than what they are today. But I think that the construction on this cigar, even with the age, is far better than probably what you're going to get out of most Cuban cigars today so, from a construction standpoint, I've got no complaints on this Cuban.

Brandon Hayes:
I'm really trying to take my time with this cigar. One thing about milder cigars, in general, and Cuban tobacco, in particular, is Cuban tobacco tends to be a little bit thinner than what tobacco out in Nicaragua or the DR is. And when you're smoking a cigar that utilizes thinner tobacco, you typically want to smoke it a little bit slower. If you smoke it too fast, what happens, it's going to heat up on you too much and it's going to start tasting harsh. I'm really trying to take my time and smoke the cigar a little bit slower because of how thin the tobacco is in this. Anytime you're smoking a mild cigar, and then that's also true with a smaller ring gauge cigar... I really like smaller ring gauge cigars, but you do have to really make sure that you smoke them nice and slow so that the temperature doesn't heat up too much and the cigar doesn't get harsh on you.

Brandon Hayes:
I'm going to really just take my time on this. Like I said earlier, the flavor intensity is picking up a little bit. It's not quite where I'd want it to be, especially when you're talking about a cigar that sells for big dollar amounts in an auction. But I will say that it's much better right now than it was when I started.

Brandon Hayes:
I get asked about Cuban cigars on a regular basis. And I think that, like all cigars, a lot of the flavor that you enjoy is a matter of an opinion. I can't say that one cigar tobacco is better than another. If you like Cuban cigars, for sake of argument, Cuban tobacco may be the best tobacco on the planet but when you tell me that you're smoking a Cuban cigar or when people tell me they're smoking Cuban cigars and they like how complex the cigar is, I feel like with almost a little bit of authority I can disagree with that.

Brandon Hayes:
Even the tobacco itself, for sake of argument, let's say it's the best in the world. Really, Cuban tobacco is grown in one region with very few varieties available in Cuba. And so, it's really hard to get layers of flavor when you're really dealing with one major growing region. Let's take Nicaragua, for example, there's really five growing regions in Nicaragua, four very popular ones, there's the Jalapa Valley, there's Estelí, there's Condega, there's Ometepe. All of those growing regions yield very, very, very different flavors. And what I like in a cigar is I like the layers of flavor. It's much harder to get layers of flavor using one tobacco from one region. And we just gave an example of Nicaragua having multiple growing regions that yield very different flavors. That is where you get the sweetness. That's where you get the creaminess. That's where you get the earthiness. That's where you get the saltiness, and then you get the spices.

Brandon Hayes:
Using different tobaccos to create a blend, I really like that. I like to taste different flavors. I like a cigar to start one way, I like it to transition. I like to have the sweetness. I like to have the earthiness. I like it to stimulate different parts of my palette. And in my opinion, Cuban tobacco is going to be a little more one dimensional. What I think would be the Holy Grail is given the opportunity to utilize Cuban tobacco and blends with Nicaraguan, Dominican and Honduran tobacco. I think that it would just add another layer of complexity. It would be another tool that cigar makers have to use when they're making cigars is they can utilize that Cuban tobacco.

Brandon Hayes:
But I think when you take a Cuban puro, it's oftentimes hard to get a ton of complexity, even if you love one flavor, sometimes they get a little bit boring because it doesn't pay off at the end. It doesn't change on you. It's not stimulating different parts of your palette. It doesn't start one way and then kind of build and then transition and get a little spice at the end. All those layers that kind of add up, in my mind, to make a really well balanced, really complex cigar, it's very hard to get out of a Cuban puro. That's kind of what I'm experiencing here.

Brandon Hayes:
I'm about an inch into the cigar now. The cigar is still burning very well. I haven't had to touch it up or relight it. The draw on it's fantastic, but I get kind of a grassy or a barnyard, maybe even a hay taste to it, and that's really the only flavor that the cigar is delivering at this moment. I'm hoping that as it continues to develop, I get some additional flavors out of it. But right now, it's pretty one dimensional, which is sometimes what I come to expect out of Cuban cigars.

Brandon Hayes:
I'm now a little halfway through the cigar and I have to admit, it's held up better than what I would have expected. It's certainly got more strength than what I expected. I really thought I was going to smoke this cigar and I was just going to get nothing out of it. I thought it would be just like smoking air. It's certainly not that. It's delivering a little bit of strength. I would still say it's mild to medium, maybe closer to medium from a strength standpoint. Hasn't developed any new flavors though. I'm a little disappointed in that. This is a cigar that... It's a little auspicious that I'm getting the opportunity to sit here and smoke it. If this was a cigar that was available on the market today, I would be very underwhelmed by it. But the cigar has got so much age on it that I don't know that I could really expect much more out of it.

Brandon Hayes:
It's certainly interesting though. I didn't expect the strength or the intensity to be quite where it's at, and I am impressed by that. I don't think that I've really aged cigars for much more than 10 years. Typically what I do, I start to notice that the intensity starts to go down. It starts to lose flavor, not continue to build and gain flavor. And so, that's typically when I smoke them. I feel like each year I try to pull one out and smoke them and they get better and they get better and they get better each year. And then somewhere around that eight, nine, 10, 11 year mark, I smoke it and I say, "I just don't think it was quite as good as it was last year." So that's when I'll just finish whatever I have left.

Brandon Hayes:
But I would have never guessed a cigar with this amount of age on it would still have this much intensity, so I certainly learned something there. And I may experiment with aging cigars a little bit longer. I'm just going to smoke a few more minutes of this cigar. I'll give you guys a final recap.

Brandon Hayes:
All right. I'm about three quarters of the way done with this cigar. I think I'm probably going to call it quits on this one. This was certainly a fun experience. I'm glad that I did it. I've had this cigar for several years and I was really just waiting for the right occasion to smoke it. But I thought this would be something that it would be interesting to share.

Brandon Hayes:
One thing that it's a little off putting about the cigar is how much flavor lingers in your mouth. I really like when I smoke a cigar, I like a lot of flavor. I like a lot of intensity, a lot of palate stimulation but then I like it to leave my mouth very clean. This cigar really kind of leaves a lingering taste in your mouth that's a little bit off putting to me. Probably not something that I would spend my own money on. Not something that I would go out and try to hunt down. It was a very nice gift. It was a very cool thing to gift me, because that's something I've never had so I appreciate it as a gift. I don't think it's something that if it was available today, with the same result, that I would purchase.

Brandon Hayes:
And I certainly don't think it's something that I would run off to an auction and buy, unless it was really for investment purposes, or just for the cool factor of it maybe. I do think there's something cool about being able to show a cigar off that was pre-embargo Cuban. I just don't think that smoking it really is... I just don't think it's a good use of the money or the time, to be completely honest. Again, the intensity was there a little stronger but it ended up getting a little harsh, a little bit halfway through. A lot of linger on the palate that I didn't enjoy. I think that I picked up this bottle of Cuban rum for about $20 when I was in Cuba. I certainly think the rum is exceptional. So given the opportunity to pick up another bottle of Havana Club rum or a pre-embargo Cuban, I think that I would lean towards the rum. But I appreciate you guys hanging out with me. I hope this was educational. I hope it was a kind of a learning experience. It certainly was for me. Cheers, guys.






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