The Cuban Connection
There is a small corner of Cuba in La Antigua on 5a avenida, north of Los Arcos. Walk into Tabacos y Vinos, turn left at the entrance and face the glass-fronted case. Open the doors where the scents of the earthy Pinar del Rio, the Vuelta Abajo and other heady aromas of the finest cigars in the world are waiting for you.
There are colorful boxes of Romeo & Julietas, Montecristos and Cohibas. Epicures, Upmanns and many other top-rated brands, all available in various sizes and shapes. Is your favorite Cuban size a robusto or a lonsdale? There are torpedos and Churchills, as well as petite, after-dinner mini-cigars to go with the glass of cognac or espresso.
Ricardo Rueda, 42, has been in the cigar business for several years but his appreciation of the finer things of life began when he was a flight attendant for Pan American World Airways some 20 years ago, covering Latin American routes.
His stock of Cuban cigars is absolutely fresh and from the only source available for retail distribution: La Casa Del Habano, the marketing arm of Habanos, S.A. Cuba’s
cigar industry might be said to have begun when the Taino inhabitants offered Columbus their version of a robusto. Five centuries later the Cuban cigar continues to set the standard for excellence. About 10 years ago the government began offering franchises all over the planet, with over 100 retail outlets from Qatar to Beijing.
With cigars of quality, storage and preservation are usually concerns. However, one doesn’t need a temperature- and humidity-controlled humidor here. Why not? Antigua has the perfect temperature and humidity levels, usually considered to be 70/70 — 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 degrees of humidity. The “Tubos,” sealed in an aluminum canister, will keep their freshness longer, as long as the temperature range is kept.
If you’re planning on traveling to a colder or drier climate and don’t have a portable case, use a double ziploc bag, with a damp paper towel in the outer bag.
Ricardo’s favorite smoke? A Hoyo de Monterey petite robusto.