Does a friendly relationship with Cuba mean we’ll get Cuban-made Cohibas in the U.S. soon?

The love-hate relationship between the United States and the tiny island nation of Cuba—a mere 90 miles SSW from Key West—is heating up for all the good reasons you can think of

Some say it happened this way and some say it is only a legend, but let’s imagine for a moment that the day President John F. Kennedy signed the Cuban embargo in 1962, his press secretary had reportedly gathered a stash of over 1,200 Cuban-made Petit Upmanns—at his own personal request—after the Bay of Pigs incident. For a man whose love for cigars was such that he was often photographed with one in his lips or hand (just like Fidel Castro), it must have been the hardest decision of JFK’s presidency. Not for nothing, I would have invaded and taken over the country so I’d have all the Cuban cigars I could smoke—but that’s just me.

Fidel Castro smoking a Cuban Cigar

Fidel Castro may be the most iconic cigar smoker of all time–but so was President John F. Kennedy, who ordered the U.S. embargo in 1962.

Fast forward six decades after Fidel Castro took control of Cuba—alongside fellow cigar smoker and revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara—and we find ourselves on the verge of the collapse of the last vestige of the Cold War. As the U.S. Government continues to dabble into what it takes to become friends all over again with their sworn enemy, the opportunity it creates for both sides is immense. And so, we find ourselves asking the question for which no one seems to have an answer… yet.

Currently, any person authorized to travel to Cuba with a valid permit from the U.S. can bring a limited amount of cigars (and liquor) as long as they are boxed, with labels and shrink-wrapped. However, the number of people with such a privilege is still limited, but is bound to increase by leaps and bounds as soon as the details of the “new relationship” between both nations are finally resolved. Cuban cigars are illegal still in the U.S. according to some and fair game to others. By the way, getting a permit to travel to Cuba is still not something that is given away freely and we have yet to see the borders open up with regular daily flights to Havana.

Now, if you are expecting to walk up to your local cigar shop and buy some crisp Cubans—don’t hold your breath. No one knows for sure when tobacco commerce will resume with Cuban manufacturers and suppliers. That said, the time has finally come to tone down our rhetoric, suck up our pride and finally deal with the deep emotion of strained U.S.–Cuba relations from the past. As the powers that be gather up facts, sort out details and mend the road to mutual trust, we Cigar Smokers will be waiting to see how we can finally enjoy the delight of a Cuban Cohiba, Montecristo or Romeo y Julieta—without the having to fear retribution for it.

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Old Rip Van Winkle & Eastern Standard Cream Crush Cigar Pairing

It almost doesn’t matter what cigar you choose to pair with this 107 proof ultra-rare bourbon, whatever you choose is going to pair almost perfectly. The caramel and pecan flavors on the nose of this Van Winkle will enhance most smokes on the spectrum from mild to wild, so for this pairing we choose to go with a newer cigar, the Eastern Standard Cream Crush. This cigar from the Caldwell collection is crafted with a Connecticut Hybrid Ecuadoriano or “Dark Connecticut” wrapper. This unique wrapper creates a spicy smoke not commonly associated with most Connecticut shade cigars and when combined with a mix of Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers, creates an extraordinary medium bodied flavor profile that blends perfectly with this wheated Kentucky bourbon.

 

The Eastern Standard Cream Crush starts with an earthy, acidic, black berry flavored smoke that mixes almost perfectly with this powerhouse of a bourbon to create a flavor explosion that ultimately enhances the flavors of both. As the Cream Crush develops in complexity after the first third, an unmistakable creamy citrus flavor develops that pairs well with the honeyed citrus notes that are present on the nose of the Old Rip. Produced at the Buffalo Trace distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year Old is crafted with wheat instead of rye, a key component in the famous Pappy Van Winkle bourbon recipe. Wheat gives this whiskey an extremely smooth and soft feel that pairs perfectly with the smooth creaminess of the Eastern Standard Cream Crush.

 

As the cigar burns into it’s final third, the citrus notes have evolved into a creamy almond butter that continues to complement the toasted, spicy bourbon. The Eastern Standard is a definite finger burner that winds its way through a series of flavor changes that will keep you on your toes…while working your way through about 3-4 fingers of the Old Rip Van Winkle. This unique pairing is a match made in heaven and will certainly please even the most sophisticated of today’s cigar smokers.

Corona Cigar Co. in Orlando is an extension of your Man Cave

If you love cigars and enjoy lighting up at a themed cigar bar or lounge, you are in for a treat because Corona Cigar Co. isn’t only that—it is the world’s largest cigar store.

Corona Cigar Co. was born from a small local smoke shop just outside of Orlando, Florida. The shop had a loyal customer base and its owner saw the opportunity to open a cigar haven where avid smokers and aficionados could mingle, talk, smoke, and drink without anyone giving them a dirty look.

When the first—yes, there are three locations in Orlando—Corona Cigar Co. opened up, no one could imagine that a cigar shop could become a destination of its own in a city known for theme parks and attractions. But that’s exactly what happened and today all three cigar stores have a full liquor bar and thousands of cigars to pick from in their massive walk-in humidor store.

We can embellish it all we want but you have to visit Corona Cigar Co. to fully grasp in full awe the size of their store and lounges. In addition, they stock a full array of cognacs, whiskeys, wines, port, and exotic beers—all of which can be paired with an exceptional cigar. When it comes to smokes Corona Cigar Co. is unbeatable in their selection of even the most premium cigar brands.

Next time you are in the Orlando area, be sure to stop at Corona Cigar Co. after you visit a theme park or while attending one of the many conventions held in the city. And don’t forget to tell them you learned about them on Hoochly.com.