Cuban cigars are a rarity in the United States because you cannot legally buy them here. But if you’re travelling outside the country, it is perfectly okay to bring back Cuban cigars for yourself or a connoisseur you know, who will of course, love you forever for the precious gift.
The problem is counterfeiting.
Especially with premium Cuban Cohiba cigars, which is one of the most counterfeited cigar brands in the world.
This fact will probably surprise you, but 99% of cigars purporting to be Cohiba are fakes. Yes, 99%! Which means that unless you know how to tell an authentic Cohiba cigar from a counterfeit one, or have access to a licensed outlet, you’re probably being duped.
It is hard enough for cigar connoisseurs to tell the difference between a real and fake Cohiba. For a casual shopper, it is even harder because their knowledge of cigars is not extensive. To make sure you’re not coming back home with a box of really disgusting fakes, we’re listing 13 important clues to look for when you’re about to buy a box of Cohibas in Cuba or Mexico or Canada or wherever else you’re travelling.
Remember to take close-up pictures of a real Cohiba off the internet before you go shopping. The differences between a real and fake Cohiba are sometimes subtle and they’re hard to compare and contrast unless you have a visual example of the real thing in front of you.
LOOK AT THE COHIBA CIGAR BOX
Start at the very beginning, which is finding visual clues of counterfeiting on the cigar box itself.
# 1: Glass Top Cohiba Boxes Are Fakes
• Authentic Cohiba cigar boxes do not have glass (or lucite) tops. If the product you’re looking at has a glass lid, you don’t need to investigate any further. It is obviously a fake.
# 2: The `Republica de Cuba’ Label Is Not Correct
• Every box of Cohiba cigars has 2 important labels on the outside that you have to study carefully. One is the `Republica de Cuba’ label, which is printed in green-and-white and located on the upper left corner of the box.
On one end of this label, there should be a hologram design that shines with a silvery light when you move the box around. If the label you’re looking at does not have the hologram, or has the hologram design printed cheaply in a flat, grey color, it is a fake box.
The second thing to look for on the `Republica de Cuba’ label is a bar code on the other end with a number printed below it. If you run a verification check on this number on the Habanos website, you can quickly establish its authenticity.
# 3: The `Habanos’ Label Looks Shoddy
• The second important label is the `Habanos’ ribbon seal across one corner. All Cohiba cigar boxes carry the Habanos seal as a mark of the cigar’s denomination of origin. No box of Habanos is shipped from Cuba without it. If this ribbon label is missing or looks badly printed with pale orange and yellow colors, you have good reason to suspect its authenticity.
# 4: The “Habanos Hecho En Cuba” Stamp Is Not Engraved
• Turn the cigar box over and look at the bottom. You should see a stamp there that says “Habanos Hecho En Cuba”. Run your fingers over the stamp to feel the grooves of engraving. If the stamp is not impressed into the wood, and merely printed on top, it’s a sure sign the box is fake.
# 5: The Factory Code And Date Stamp Is Missing
• On the bottom of the box, there are two more important clues: a date stamp which shows when the cigars were made and a code number to denote which factory they were made at. If one or both of these markers are absent, just walk away.
# 6: The Quality Of The Cigar Box Itself Is Inferior
• Fake Cohiba cigars come in fake boxes. Besides all the other visual clues we mentioned above, take a minute to study the construction of the wood box itself. Is the laquer wood polish uniformly applied? Are the hinges of good quality? Have the tongue-and-grooves on the box been smoothened and sanded down? Have the labels been stuck on slightly crooked?
LOOK INSIDE THE COHIBA CIGAR BOX
# 7: Are the Cigars Inside Looking Uniform?
• The first thing you will notice inside the box is the uniformity of the cigars placed inside. This is easy to do at a glance because all the cigars wear a label band. If the labels are not in a straight line, but at different heights, then that is a cause for concern.
LOOK AT THE COHIBA CIGARS
• Finally, check the cigars for obvious signs of counterfeiting.
# 8: Does The Band Design Look Right?
• The famous canary yellow and white-and-black checkerboard band design on Cohiba cigars has undergone several modifications over the years, but you can still see signs that quickly identify a fake cigar as fake. Because too often, counterfeiters will copy the basic design so you are fooled if you take a cursory glance, but they will not bother to be exact with the details.
Compare the depth of colors in the band, and look at finer details like borders, embossed letterings, lines etc. Then turn the cigar around to see where the band is joined together. In authentic Cohiba cigars, the glued joint is barely visible. In fakes, the job is not so good and the edges may not even match up!
# 9: Do You See A Head Within A Head?
• There is a holographic image of the famous Taino Indian head on cigars with the modified design band. (The Taino Indian head logo is a graphic depiction of Cuba’s native tribe. The word “Cohiba” in fact, is the Taino word for tobacco.) If you inspect this logo closely, you should be able to see that there is a smaller head within the larger one in the hologram. This “head-within-head” effect is a clear sign that the band – and therefore the Cohiba cigar — is authentic.
# 10: Three Caps Or One?
• Authentic Cohiba cigars have triple caps on top. Look for three fine rings from where the wrapper was rolled, trimmed, and pulled back. If you see only one ring, and therefore only one cap, the cigar is certainly fake.
# 11: Does The Cigar Have Prominent Veins?
• Authentic Cohiba cigars are made under such stringent quality control that the veins should be very, very fine on the body of the cigar, or not visible at all. If too many veins are clearly marring the smoothness of the cigar surface, be very suspicious.
# 12: Cut The Cigar Open To Check Tobacco Length
• This is a test you obviously cannot do unless you own the cigar box already. And yes, you have to sacrifice one cigar to check the authenticity of the others. But here’s what you do. Take a thin, sharp blade, like an X-acto knife, and gently slice lengthwise into the outer wrapper leaf.
Once you take that off, you will see a layer of binder, which holds the tobacco fill. Slice open the binder roll as well, and then check the packed tobacco fill for length. True Cohibas are packed with long-strand tobacco. If the fill is cut into little bits, then it is surely a fake. What’s more, you have no idea what other material, like twigs, factory floor sweepings etc, has been used besides tobacco to fill the cigar.
# 13: Price Is An Obvious Clue
• If you’re on holiday in Cuba and buying Cuban cigars on the beach from a vendor who charges a fraction of the original Cohiba price, obviously it’s a fake. Instead of wasting your money like this, visit Habanos.com and find licensed La Casa del Habano shops to buy true Cohibas from, and you will know for certain that you’ve not been cheated. You’ll find licensed La Casa del Habano shops in many countries around the world.