Like most rare items on the market, Cuban cigars suffer from the ‘forbidden fruit’ syndrome, meaning that their price reflects how difficult they are to obtain above everything else. Not to say that Cuban cigars aren’t refined, because they are some of the finest cigars in the world. Their price, however, as good as they may be, is heavily inflated by how hard it is for a person to get a hold of them.
This being said, Cuban cigars have always been in short supply, despite being in very high demand. In the 18th century, for example, Cuban cigars were exclusive to nobility not only due to their exquisite taste but also due to their prestige. Like most high-end products, you would be inclined to believe that Cuban cigars are made from only the finest of ingredients and for the most part, you would be right.
It has long been said that Cuban cigars are in a class of their own when it comes to craftsmanship, and rightfully so. While specific fertilizers, farm equipment, and machinery are difficult to come by in Cuba, the work that’s being put into making them certainly makes up for it. For instance, Cuban cigars are entirely hand-made, which is an aspect other high-end cigars on the market haven’t put much focus on.
Required to manufacture a large number of cigars within a relatively short period of time due to them being in high demand, some manufacturers employ machinery that according to connoisseurs have a negative impact on how the cigars taste. Cuban cigars on the other hand, are 100% hand-made, which even if we cannot entirely agree that they taste better because of this, are in high-demand just due to this fact alone.
The World Market
Like we already pointed out, there is a high-demand for hand-made cigars, which is why Cuban cigars command very high prices compared with cigars made with the help of machinery. It does seem that premium hand-made cigars are far more expensive when compared with the majority of the cigars on the market which are not. Speaking of the vast majority of cigars on the market, it would be interesting to point out that among the many types of cigars being marketed throughout the world, most aren’t Cuban, nor are they of premium quality.
You see, there are three categories of cigars on the market nowadays: Cigarillos, Cheroots, and Cigars Proper. According to the U.S. Federal government, both non-cigarillo and non-cheroot cigars are classified as small or large. Small cigars are supposed to weight no more than three pounds per thousand whereas large cigars have to weight more than three pounds per thousand to fit the category. Most premium hand-made cigars like Cuban cigars are considered ‘large’, yet most large cigars are not hand-made.
For a very long time, since the late 1800s actually, most cigars have been made using automated machinery, meaning that most cigars manufactured nowadays cannot be considered premium sticks like Cuban cigars. Like we said, the fact that so much work and craftmanship is being put into making them, certainly adds to the price. Jokingly of course, Fidel Castro himself once said that Cuban cigars are so good because they are ‘rolled between the tights of virgins’. While this is a humoristic exaggeration, of course, it does reflect how fine the craftmaship is and why people are willing to pay so much for them.
There is a famous story going around about how John F. Kennedy secured 1,200 Cuban cigars for himself just hours before enacting the Cuban trade embargo in 1962. He specifically requested of his head of press, Pierre Salinger, to acquire 1,000 Petit Upmanns, knowing very well that it would be almost impossible to get them after the embargo would be put in place. It has been over 50 years since the embargo was put in place and although all Cuban products are illegal within the United States, wealthy people in America can still acquire them albeit being very expensive.
Being extremely hard to come by certainly adds to the overall price of Cuban cigars, no matter where people buy them from. As expected with products such as these, there are also plenty of knock-offs being sold all over the world, as people who haven’t yet had the pleasure of smoking a premium hand-made cigar are fooled into buying what they believe are genuine Cuban cigars.
This being said, Cuban cigars could definitely be less expensive should the U.S. lift their embargo, and there is a lot of talk these days about lifting the sanctions given that they hurt the people of Cuba more than they hurt the repressive government responsible for the embargo to begin with.