From time to time I read different cigar blogs and feel that there is a wealth of information for people who are interested in learning all there is to know about the passion we share concerning Cuban cigars. As a young man I felt that there was an element of mystery surrounding Cuban cigars and I knew that there must have been something more to cigars than the wonderful aroma in the air whenever I would walk by a cigar smoker. I never knew about a cigar’s complex flavour profile, the fact that a cigar’s burn was described in thirds or the older they were, the smoother they became.
After going to Cuba, my passion for Cuban cigars grew to the point where I now spend thousands annually on Cubans and I see no reason to curtail my spending because of the excitement I get whenever I toast the foot and light one up. Hey, ya only live once !
In cigar blogs, the question is sometimes raised as to what people think is the perfect Cuban cigar to introduce to a Non-Cuban smoker and I believe that if you want to taste a cigar that embodies all that is perfect with Cuban tobacco, you really don’t have to go further than the Cohiba Esplendidos. Cohiba gets first pick of all of the tobacco in Cuba and their cigars are, on an annual basis, as good as it gets.
The factory name for this cigar is the Julieta No. 2 and is a 47 ring gauge and 6.9 inches long. This is enough of a cigar to give you close to 2 hours of smoking time for the slow smoker, the complexity of the cigar’s flavour profile will simply dazzle you with flavours from black pepper to creamy chocolate and coffee. When this elegant cigar has had a few years in your humidor, your patience will be rewarded with, in my opinion, the perfect Cuban export. It just doesn’t get any better than this !!
Much has been written about the Cohiba Behike since last year’s release of the beautiful trio of larger ring gauge cigars containing the medio tiempo leaf. Initially the Behike was introduced in 2006 and rolled, exclusively by one roller, or in this case the “torcedora”, Norma Fernandez. The original Behike at a 52 ring gauge and 7 1/2 inches long was in a humidor of 40 cigars and only 100 numbered humidors. Thats a lot of rolling …. and rolling….. The more I hear and read about this woman, the more impressed I am by her stature in the Cuban cigar industry. She was given the task of blending and designing the cigar that became the most expensive in the world. Originally these cigars were around $440 each but I’m guessing that when auctions come up in our future, we’ll be seeing these initial prices skyrocket.
I smoked a few of the Behike 52′s last summer and creamy and sweet were the first two descriptions of the flavors, this cigar had in it’s profile, popped into my mind. I had a wonderful time smoking this smallest of the three and although my mind was always on the price, I felt that I truly had something special burning in my hand. I remember looking at the 52′s wrapper and remarking to myself that I had never seen a cigar so perfectly rolled, so smooth and free of any large veins and with a color and sheen that easily showed that Cohiba had raised the bar in cigar production.
The Behike 54, which I smoked a few months later had all of the wonderful visible characteristics of the smaller 52 but with flavors that had more power, more complexity and more evolution as the cigar progressed. The 52 and the 54 had slight similar flavors but the richness of the 54′s chocolate and creamy coffee notes had me guessing which other Cohiba cigar, or cigars, this middle child could be compared to. The Maduro series always captivates me whenever I smoke one, the Genios being my favorite and for a while I found myself comparing, very slightly, some of what I was tasting in the Behike 54 to that other series… But only for a moment, these are very different lines in Cuba’s prestigious brand and the similarities are few.
The Behike 56 was again a beautifully constructed cigar and, as before, I felt a bit of sadness as I clipped off the pigtail cap and lit the foot. I feel great pride and adoration for cigars like the Behike whenever I lift the lid of my humidor and gaze upon them as they rest and age, surrounded by the beautiful aroma of Cuban tobacco and Spanish cedar. But really, why do we go through all the trouble of obtaining fine cigars, quality humidors, hygrometers that give you accurate moisture readings without actually smoking these handmade Cuban products?
The first few puffs of the Behike 56 were mild but complex, again revealing what I had tasted in the 52 and 54 but it didn’t seem to have the strength as the middle size cigar. Here is where I will probably get in trouble with a lot of you who have smoked the 56. I will be the first to admit that in order to be an authority on the subject of judging this cigar, perhaps smoking 15 or 20 ….. Or 1,500 to 2,000 of these large ring gauge cigars would be a proper place to start but I’m simply offering what I noticed. The 56′s flavors evolved very nicely as the cigar burned into the second third but I kept remembering what the 54 had to offer and I wondered if I am alone with my observations in comparing the two. The one thing I DID notice was that the 56 might have needed more time in the humidor, more so than the smaller two. Of course, any Cuban cigar only improves with age but I remembered being quite blissful during the smoking period of the 52 and 54. The 56 had me asking myself more questions about it’s youthfulness and wondering what it’s future would reveal after a year or two of rest.
Volumes could be filled with everyone’s opinions of these three cigars, and I’m only one person, but the more I read about last year’s Cohiba release, the more I see that I may not be alone with what I’ve discovered. The one thing I DO know is that I feel very fortunate in knowing that I’m able to buy, smoke and lose myself in the flavors of the Behike whenever I feel wealthy enough to go to the Vancouver Cigar Company and pick up a few. I feel sad whenever I read about people getting counterfeits of this cigar but feel fortunate that I have a reputable source for a cigar of this calibre.
If you have any opinions you’d like to share, please leave a comment..
Ever wonder if a Cohiba tastes better in Cuba??? Would the moist tropical air affect the taste and give you more than if you were smoking the same cigar, let’s say, in Montana?? Probably !!! But if thats the case then it would probably taste the same in Miami since its only a handful of miles away. I love Miami with it’s beaches, sun and stone crab.. I could go on for a while about stone crab but this is a cigar blog!
While smoking cigars with a few buddies a few days back, the topic of how cigars taste in Cuba came up and all who had been there seem to agree that cigars have an incredible taste in the country of their origin. I guess to some degree I have to go along with that because I remember smoking cigars from the Siglo series, the Maduro series and Non-Cohiba Cuban cigars. To be honest, they were all great but I was drinking a lot of rum from breakfast onward so everything was great.
I DO remember that cigars tended to burn a bit slower in Cuba, not much, but definitely noticeable. The air is heavy and moist, warm and to die for. Holidays tend to do that to you, your senses are heightened and everything is beautiful. Maybe not having a care in the world and no cel phone has a lot to do with it! My cel stayed in the hotel room safe and got turned back on when we landed in Canada.
Lately I’ve been hearing a bit about Monsdales… Can anyone shed a bit of light on those cigars??
Taking the fly rod, food for the day, warm clothing and your best Cohiba, whether it be a Robusto, Esplendidos or one from the Cohiba Maduro series, down to the river may or may not be the best idea.. OK, not like its a bad idea to have a beautiful cigar when fishing, but there are conditions that are better suited for smoking one of Cuba’s finest creations.. My feelings are that the ride in the car on the way to the river would be better for having the ability to taste every nuance that the cigar’s profile has to offer.
Wind, rain, sleet and hail are just a few of the conditions I’ve run into when fishing in British Columbia on any given day and I think that cigarettes would probably be the lesser waste of money during that kind of day. I’ve had the good fortune to smoke a few Cohiba Behikes these last few months and, believe me, they ARE as good as people have been saying in their reviews and blogs. Any cigar that starts out with a 52 ring gauge and has brothers that are 54 and 56 will only let you know that there is a lot of tobacco blended in this size of cigar, so why would you fight to keep a cigar dry in a torrential downpour when fighting a 16 pound salmon on a fly rod? Save it for a quiet moment by the fire at the end of the day.
A round of golf with a cigar in the cart is probably the most popular place to enjoy a stogie these days but there ARE some courses that do NOT allow smoking…. Just avoid these courses ! Golf elsewhere and enjoy the freedom that you have …. For now……
A garage, den, rumpus room or a computer room can be a place where you have the freedom to do what you want, as long as you aren’t endangering the health of anyone else.. Scared of smelling up one of the rooms in your house?? Know what a paintbrush is? Real men know how to paint and clean up any kind of issue a cigar has caused before you sell the house !
I simply believe that a controlled environment free of wind and cold should be your main quest before applying a flame to the head of some of the finest cigars in the world,
Cigar Aficionado’s latest piece on counterfeit Behikes was informative and heartbreaking at the same time.. Its great to know that we can access sites like theirs and learn so much about cigars, wine, scotch and well.. almost anything in life that is decadent and worthwhile.. I read their on-line magazine daily and believe that anyone who has ever put a match to the end of a cigar, whether it is Cuban or Non-Cuban, should take the time to learn from a site like theirs..
I’ve had the pleasure of smoking the amazing Cohiba Behikes and can agree with many of you out there that Cohiba has raised the bar and given us a new line of 3 sizes of cigars that will tantalize many a palate for years to come… The introduction of the Medio Tiempo leaf has added a subtle new dimension to these pricy little babies.. But….. Its always heartbreaking to know that the dark side of the underground cigar industry in Cuba is now counterfeiting Behikes as well and…. are we surprised??
I’m sad that many gullible cigar smokers going to Cuba for the first time will run into serpents of every description telling tales and taking hard earned money for the same old banana leaf and floor sweepings that we know all too well.. If you’ve been smoking cigars for as many years as I have, I’m sure you’ve tasted these mild nondescript counterfeits with the black, gold and yellow band… The individuals selling them on the streets of Havana need to feed their families and I don’t hold this against them but the next time I get the great fortune to walk those beautiful streets, I’ll visit the government stores and shell out my cash for the real thing…. Compared to the prices in Canada you can’t go wrong!!
Although we were promised a long winter of foul cold weather, extreme differences of winters we’ve ever had before, the Pacific Northwest has been a place to golf…. All…. Winter !! I ask myself as I watch the weather reports about storms and record snowfalls in other parts of our continent I have to tell myself how lucky we are for being able to get out on a great golf course, play on lush green grass, putt on excellent greens, smoke cigars when its not too windy in December, January and February !!
A place that I spend a lot of time at is Riverway Golf Course in Burnaby, British Columbia. This course has, through the years, spent a lot of time developing their 18 holes into a scenic links course and has ended up being the busiest place to golf in the Vancouver area. Their drainage on all of the fairways is such that they can have a good rain in the early morning and allow their golfers you to drive a power-cart on their fairways that same morning….. 12 months of the year.. Sure we go out for the exercise but let me drive right up to the ball, put my cigar down, select a club and if I’m lucky I tell myself that choosing the right club is the only issue worth thinking about at that moment in time. Thats living life to the fullest, those are the days you’ll be remembering when you’re too old to get out to golf…
Now to the cigars…
In the early part of the winter, in December for example, I brought out some very nice Cohibas, Montes or maybe a Partagas, but after a few colder days and me thinking that I might want to save the better cigars for warmer locations, I started taking out Cuban Bundle cigars or maybe a Non-Cuban just in case the wind came up… Nothing can ruin a good day like watching your cigars burn quickly and un-evenly in a cold wind.. Save the Esplendidos for the rec room and a game of billiards with a good buddy. A quality Cuban bundle cigar, even when young and excitable, can be a wonderful companion on the links.
Traditionally, New Year’s Eve is one night when we pull out all the stops, dress up in our finest garb and ring in the new year with Champagne, music, dancing and for some of us, handing out and smoking some of the best cigars in our humidors. Cubans and Non-Cubans are usually set on fire and sacrificed to the tobacco gods so that the new year will surely bring prosperity, comfort and good health. All should unfold nicely as long as you light something that pleases them.
Christmas, of late, has resulted in more than a few new cigars sitting in my humidor so as time goes by I find myself with something that can’t wait to be lit and a night like that is a good enough reason for me so I’m thinking of taking a few options in my travel humidor. I DO have friends that love cigars but quite often are not carrying any so I’ve become the guy that passes a few out to close friends. I love sharing the experience with my friends and look forward to contributing to their evening.
I plan on taking Cohiba Lancero, Robusto and maybe a Genios for the maduro guy in the room… Maybe I’ll be the maduro guy… Don’t really feel like making any plans yet and will let everything unfold.
Please leave a comment and let me know what you plan on smoking.
I’m always poking around the internet and looking for good cigar deals on some of the sites that the public use to sell items and for some reason Vancouver is seeing a lot of ads from people who have just returned from Cuba with cigars to sell. The last few days have seen more activity than usual and it gives me an opportunity to make a deal or two.
I’m not going to buy the first Esplendidos that come around.. ( I’ve done that a few years back )…. NOTHING is more annoying than getting a box of cigars for a great price, taking them home and after a few terrible sticks, you realize that you’ve been duped. Well, let the buyer beware, I always say.. I’ve spent good money on counterfeit cigars and I won’t be doing that again.
After looking around the internet this morning I was, once again, amazed at the amount of information available to people who want to learn about Cuban cigars… It is actually mind boggling! I believe that there are many many informed compassionate cigar smokers that are more than willing, for no reason other than to help out, to share their experiences and knowledge with anyone who cares to read their pages.
The Habanos site is one of the greatest aides in checking to see if cigars for sale are actually authentic. Go to their site and on the top of their home page there is an authenticity check that helps you identify cigars by the bar codes that are now on the green seals folded around the left hand side of the box.. No bar code= FAKES.. Of course there are always aged cigars without the bar code but its getting harder to find aged cigars in Cuba and the ones that people are buying are usually going home with them and smoked with extreme enjoyment.
I have nothing against the people who actually don’t know anything about Cuban cigars, my beef is with the people who sell the counterfeits in the first place. Cohiba Esplendidos, Robustos, Montecristo No. 2 and 4 seem to be the cigars that get copied and sold the most because of the quality of the real thing so these are usually the first to be offered on the local buy and sell pages.
I guess it will only be a matter of time until we start to see the Behike copied and sold but that band is going to be either stolen from the factories ( good luck trying to copy that one ) and the boxes are going to be expensive to mass produce with any believable results. Anyone who has had the good fortune to smoke a Behike or two has probably noticed the immense quality of construction and I’ve NEVER seen very many Cuban cigars that can come close, let alone a counterfeit.
Do a bit of research before blindly diving into the market of cigars from private sellers and you may just be able to pick up a good cigar at a good price.
Sunday my wife and I, along with two close friend, will be leaving Vancouver and taking a couple of cars to Penticton in the Okanagan valley for wine, golf and cigars… A lot of emphasis will be placed on the golf and cigars.. OK OK, there’ll be Scotch, Grand Marnier, port, cigars and Golf.. We’ve been doing this for the last five years and we all agree that these are our best days of the year. We come home with cases of some of the best wine our country has to offer and a few big hits on the old credit cards. Hey, what’s life all about anyway??!!?!?!
The weather will be hot and calm, wind wise, so that will make for some of the best early evening cigar smoking I can imagine. I especially love the no wind part. Being able to golf for 5 days in a row is something my friend, Tom, and I have been talking about for the last few months. We work extra hard to make sure that we can pull this off and when it does we feel very victorious indeed!!
The Behikes that I’ve picked up will be sacrificed on this trip as will be a few Esplendidos and some Cohiba Robustos. When spending time in a great environment with friends, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pull out all the stops and decimate your humidor to the best of your ability.
After leaving Lethbirdge and my misguided friend who was setting out on a journey to nowhere with his standup comedy career, I drove through the night to Calgary to see my oil and gas workaholic buddy and maybe settle in for some R&R in that little cow-town in the foothills. I was feeling exhausted by the time I pulled into his driveway and was very grateful that he left the back door open for me, I let myself in, found one of the spare bedrooms on the ground floor of his house and drifted off to sleep until 3:00 PM the next day. I woke up to find a beautiful sunny day almost over and decided to go pick up some Cuban rum at one of the many liquor stores in his neighborhood in southwest Calgary.
I needed a coffee before my shopping trip and stopped in to one of the many malls in that town to find one. Aaaaahh, there’s nothing like a double espresso in the morning, well afternoon in this case, and as I sat down to do some people watching I heard a bit of a commotion coming my way. There was a small family walking towards the bench I was sitting on and the loudest sound echoing down the hall was coming from this crying 4 or 5 year old boy who had just fallen down and was yanked back to his feet by his father who had an irritated demeanor and an even louder voice as he set his bags down on my bench, shook his son and told him that trouble was in his future when they got to the car. The fuming man picked up his bags and then directed his frightened family to the nearest exit.
I was speechless and felt disgusted at this man’s behavior towards his young son when I looked over beside me and saw that a bag had been left behind. When I looked at the writing on the bag and then looked inside I found myself at a moral crossroads because of it’s contents. The bag was from a cigar store and what I found inside were 3 lovely, longer length cigars with Cohiba bands in a sturdy zip-lock bag and a small box of wooden matches. There was a receipt in the bag saying that these were Esplendidos and I felt that if I didn’t hurry to return these cigars to their rightful owner I’d be too late. This was where I took a wrong turn down one of life’s many highways and instead of chasing after this Joseph Stalinesque despot I sat there and re-lived all of the moments in my youth when authoritative figures had been unfair and heavy handed towards me.
With a few bottles of dark rum and my new found 7 inch freebie cigars I returned back to my friend’s expansive home for a great dinner, some beautiful red wine and stories of some of the more foolish moments of our youth before settling into his smoke-friendly den. I thought I detected the subtle stench of sulfur enter the room and you could see and feel things rapidly change as soon as the flames from our torches licked the feet of these Cohibas. We continued to laugh and reminisce, and I have to say, these were very tasty cigars but, in no time, the hair on the back of my neck started to rise and my skin went cold. The phone rang….
I watched the color drain from my friend’s face as spoke into the phone and blankly stare at me as he kept repeating, ” I’ll kill him…… I’m going to kill him!” I continued to hear this mantra when my own cel phone vibrated in my shirt pocket, I hit the green button and strained to make sense out of the screaming on the other end of the line saying something about a flying outboard boat motor and lawyers surgically removing my scalp with some rusty garden shears. After a moment or two I recognized that I was talking to my next door neighbor telling me about some runaway dump-truck careening across my lawn, smashing into my “uninsured” boat in my driveway and launching my brand new 90 horse outboard engine over our hedge and through the windshield of his Lexus which was now on fire. I tried to explain that I wasn’t hiding upstairs with my curtains closed but out of town and that maybe instead of calling the law firm of Damian, Beelzebub and Lucifer, the fire department should be contacted. I told him that I’d be home in a few days and that there was no need to exact any revenge, we were bigger than that and could settle this like adults.
My host hung up his phone about the same time I hit the red button on mine and for the next few moments we sat in silence smoking what could be the best Cohibas we’d ever run across. He then stood up , carefully set his cigar into the ashtray without knocking off the ash, took a sip from his rock glass of rum then hurled it past my head into the shattering mirror on the wall behind the leather chair I was sitting in. I sat without moving while my friend took another puff all the while being mindful of the ash which was still intact then told me that the comptroller of his company went into the safe, removed about $900,000 in cash and stock certificates then left town. My phone rang again and this time I was speaking to a very angry dump truck driver saying that my lawn was overly wet and slick and that I owed him for a new dump truck.
I hung up my cel phone, turned it off, put it back into it’s leather case, went over to the wet bar and opened a can of cola. I found a beautiful fresh lime in the small refrigerator under the bar, cut a generous wedge, squeezed it and dropped it into a tall glass then reached for the rum. This was a rather expensive 15 year old Metusalem Gran Reserva and maybe should be consumed without any mix but this was a special occasion and I was in a special mood, I thought 3 ounces would be just about perfect. After dropping 3 or 4 ice cubes into the rum I reached for the cola and poured almost half the can into the glass. I took my cel phone and placed it into the glass of rum, lime and ice then topped up the drink with a bit more cola.
I wondered what would have happened if I would have hurried out the door of the mall to return the forgotten cigars to the tyrant and his family. Would this evening’s events been a little less memorable? Perhaps I unknowingly opened the gates of hell and unleashed demons into my Calgarian friend’s den and life would never be the same for the both of us. I sat down with my drink and finished the final third of the best cigar I have ever smoked and will probably ever smoke in my life…. Well I did have 1 left………..