Fakes Aren’t Just For Cubans

June 5, 2010

It’s been said that over 90% of the Cuban cigars bought and sold in this country aren’t what they say they are.  To get the forbidden fruit one has to find the right sources and be the type of person who is willing to break an antiquated law or two.  Even then it’s not guaranteed that the cigars will actually be what was ordered.  Thankfully most of us, and those of you who are interested enough in cigars to be reading this, are armed with knowledge and want to learn as much as possible about cigars. But in reality, the typical person doesn’t assume the counterfeit industry even exists.  What is more fascinating is that it isn’t only Cuban cigars that are being counterfeited.   A good rule of thumb is that any country or area full of tourists will also be full of counterfeit products, especially cigars.  A little research and knowledge goes a long way.

The only true test to find out if something is authentic or not is to smoke it, and that’s if there is even a need to get that far in the evaluation.  One would also need the experience of smoking the real deal to know if what they are smoking is authentic.  Packaging is the easiest way to tell if a cigar is counterfeit.  If the packaging is off, or the cigars come packaged in a way they normally wouldn’t, such as glass top boxes of Fuentes and Cohibas, they are fake.  Most of the “fakes” are poorly made with cheap materials and are obvious to spot out.  All street vendors and flea market shops are guaranteed to be filled with poorly made counterfeits of all names and marks such as Davidoff, and Fuente.  Anything with a famous name sells and any vendor with a little bit of know-how will take advantage of that.

Fake Fuente Cigar

Fake Arturo Fuente Cigar

The Fuente pictured here was bought at a five star resort in La Romana, Dominican Republic.  Surprisingly the only two counterfeited Dominican cigars here were Davidoffs and Fuentes.  The rest consisted of the entire catalog of Cuban brands.  If you didn’t see what you wanted the vendor would somehow manage to get it by the next day.  The best part in this particular shop was that the actual cigars were the all same regardless of the band on it.  The same color, the same taste, the same smell.  All of the cigars were packaged identically (glass top boxes of 5, 10 and 24 count).  The only thing different was the extremely poorly made bands on each of the different brands.  If you look closely at the Fuente pictured here you can see that it was printed on a cheap laser printer.  The quality of these particular cigars is some of the worst counterfeit cigars made, and the sad part is that tourists actually buy them due to the lack of some basic information.

In regards to Cuban cigars, a small island can only produce so many cigars a year.  And even though Cuba is pumping out as many cigars as humanly possible without regard to the condition of the land, it isn’t possible for every single tourist junk shop in the world to carry all of the most popular Cuban cigars.  For most of these junk shops it is much easier to acquire, sell, and even produce “fakes” since the people who are buying them have never smoked a Cuban cigar before and wouldn’t know what it is supposed to look like, let alone taste like.  We can’t say it enough, experience and knowledge is the only golden ticket to the world of Cuban cigar know-how.  Tasting the good and tasting the bad is the only way to learn.  Even through authentic boxes, bands, and packaging, the tobacco inside may not be what you think it is.  Taste is the only true verdict on authenticity in this hobby.  And with the counterfeit industry producing a gross amount of profits every year, they are getting better and better at producing not only the cigars, but the packaging as well.

Most of the counterfeit cigar trade comes from poor, and more times than not third world countries.  If there is a country that produces cigars – there will also be counterfeit cigars guaranteed.  In those environments the panhandlers and street hustlers will sell tourists the dirt they walk on in order to make a buck.  They will sell anything with a brand name and care less where it came from, who made it, or the companies who actually own the rights to sell the real thing.  The counterfeit industry is an underground operation that generates a ton of cash each year from unsuspecting and unknowing customers who just like the idea of smoking a Cuban cigar or a hard to find domestic readily available in the United States.

If people just want to buy a Cuban cigar on a whim during vacation, chances are they won’t know the difference between an authentic cigar and a counterfeit cigar.  The idea that they are smoking something great is enough reason to make them believe that they are. The bad side to that is that counterfeit cigars are just giving the real ones a bad name.  The positive note is that there are more of the authentic ones out there for those who research and are in the know.

Fake Cuban Cohiba

Fake Cuban Cohiba

If someone has never smoked a cigar in question then there is really no way they could tell if it’s fake other than the packaging.  It’s always good to smoke the bad for the sake of education, but it’s always better to actually learn about the real thing and know as much as possible.  Getting to know certain brands is the only true way to get to know how it should taste and know if it is authentic or not.

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