Legal Cubans!


There's a sign in a cigar shop window in downtown Las Vegas that screams "Legal Cubans!" (If you're an American then this is meant to generate astonishment that Cuban cigars might be sold in a civilized manner.) I pass this sign almost everyday on my daily sojourn to work in downtown Las Vegas, but I've always passed on the cigars as well, until one day I noticed the "Legal Cubans" were all gone. (These were the Pinar brand.) Still the sign remains, in the hopes that the seemingly endless last crop of 1959 will spawn yet another source.

I'm reminded of the passage in Stanford Newman's Cigar Family where he talks about the single bale of 1959 Cuban tobacco he kept in his factory's storage so that in spite of the embargo he could say "Yes, we still have Havana." Bits and pieces of the final 1959 crop seem to be miraculously discovered on a frequent basis, as if bales of tobacco were like antique heirlooms your aunt might forget about in the attic.

But on the subject of the Cuban embargo I'm with Kinky Friedman : we're not supporting their economy; we're burning their fields. But Kinky ain't governor of Texas yet, let alone President. And W's got many many bigger problems at the moment, so I think we're going to be stuck with "Legal Cubans" for a while yet.

This one is from M&R. Never heard of it? Well, you would have if you were a roll yer own cigarette kind of feller. As far as I know they're not big in the cigar business, except when they come across one of those magic bales of pre-embargo tobacco. But I speak too soon: Cigarcylopedia shows they make two other brands– a Dominican puro and a Brazilian puro, both sold in "economical bundles". But I can't say I've ever laid eyes on either one.

Officially, this is the M&R Pre-Embargo Limited Edition Churchill. Made in Santiago, Dominican Republic, with a Brazilian wrapper, Indonesian binder, and Dominican filler. Oh, wait– Cuban, I almost forgot, Cuban filler as well. The exact proportion of Dominican to Cuban tobacco is not known. This is evidently a proprietary secret. I picked this one up at my local tribal smokeshop on a whim. I had planned on reviewing this for April Fool's Day but forgot about it.

It comes in a flimsy plastic tube, and upon opening it there's a smell that reminds me of nothing more than air let out of an old tire. Not a good omen, I'm afraid. It's lumpy and bumpy and it looks like someone got busy with the Elmer's when they wrapped it.

But much to my surprise, this is a smooth and tasty smoke. With really good construction to boot. I can't believe a cigar that quite honestly looks like something my dog would leave in the back yard smoked this well, but it did. It didn't blow my socks off, but it definitely blew my expectations out of the water.

The flavor profile is woody, veering towards earthy, with a light spice, and the smoke is very smooth, almost creamy. It peters out at the half way point, but stays pleasant to the end. The wrapper is a bit sticky and slightly bitter, but the flavor of the cigar makes up for that. I'd qualify this as a really decent bundle smoke, Cuban or no. With better presentation and a flashy band this cigar could probably pass for premium. No kidding. What a surprise!

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