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OTHER ITA SITES:
Spotting a Fake Cuban
My uncle always bragged to us about his Rolex watch. He showed it off, wore it constantly, and found ways to bring it up in conversations�...speaking of stem cell research, the other day I was winding my Rolex....
We figured he was just excited: the watch on his wrist was worth more than an arm and a leg. But, upon his death, when his watch was handed down to one of my cousins, we came to find that his Rolex was fake.�and he knew it all along.
Our society is full of these kinds of things, things that are fake. There are fake watches, fake breasts, and, unbeknownst to the male gender, fake orgasms. Not immune to this counterfeiting are cigars, particularly Cuban cigars.
Though Cuban cigars have been illegal in the US since a trade embargo was signed by JFK in the 1960's, they still seem to surface every now and then. In the grand tradition of America, making something illegal makes people want it even more (Prohibition�.anyone?), and cigar smokers everywhere have some kind of interest in what they are missing.
While smokers probably aren't bootlegging Cuban cigars, selling them in underground tunnels and publicly defying the law in Al Capone style, many people sell them, swearing up and down that they are the real thing. While some of these cigars may in fact be "the real thing," others are counterfeits and more likely "Made in Taiwan" than "Made in Cuba." In fact, it is estimated that 95 percent of Cuban cigars sold in the US are not real; they are simply masquerading as such, using fake Cuban accents and adopting Communistic views.
How to Tell
The quickest and most effective way to tell the authenticity of a Cuban cigar is simple: go smoke it in front of the Office of Foreign Assets Control. If you get arrested, then it's probably real.
But, for those not willing to risk possible incarceration, keep in mind that there are other ways to tell if a Cuban cigar is real or not.
A lot of these ways involve inspecting the box in which the cigars are packaged. For instance, all boxes of Cuban cigars have a green and white warranty seal applied to them. But, for those who are handed a single cigar (without any packaging), and told it's legit, its authenticity might be a bit harder to prove. Still, by keeping a few things in mind, you should be able to separate the Cubans from the counterfeits.
It Should Be the Right Length
Cuban cigars should be the exact length specified in the vitola (the Cuban name that defines the size of the cigar in terms of length and thickness). Almost always, there will never be more than 1/16th inch difference from the published lengths of Cuban cigars and the actual cigars themselves.
It Should Have a Nice Ring to it
The ringed Cuban cigars should all possess clean bands that are tight, of good color, and, for lack of a better word, pretty. When applicable, the rings should contain the word "Habana." If "Habana" is misspelled, marred, or written in crayon, chances are the cigar is fake. Along these lines, glue stains and creases are typical hints that the cigars have been rebanded; if the cigar contains enough glue for you to make a rubber cement ball, it's not something you want to buy.
However, keep in mind that the banding of Cubans isn't always perfect. Authentic Cuban cigars may still contain some discrepancies: be cautious, but not overly critical.
The foot of the cigar should be cut cleanly, with no rips or chipping. Anything that isn't well cut is probably not the real deal. The caps of the Cubans should always be finely finished and appear different from other cigars. Cuban caps have a three to four-layer circular appearance, which distinguishes them from counterfeits.
There are a few extra hints to keep in mind when purchasing Cuban cigars. First of all, be aware of any alleged "bargains" that may be attached to your cigar purchase. The terms "clearance sale" and "Cuban cigars" do not go together. Period. If someone is peddling Cubans at an extremely low price, it's because they aren't selling actual Cubans. Learn what Cubans should really cost and reject those who try to sell them much less.
It's also good to keep in mind that Cuban cigars don't need to solicit buyers; they don't need to go door to door begging for people to give them a try. They are in low supply and high demand, which basically means they sell themselves. Any seller who comes across as pushy, or with a semblance of a used car salesman, dressing up his cigars in plaid jackets and gold teeth and telling you that they are "hot, hot, hot," is more than likely desperate to unload counterfeits. Likewise, any seller who becomes agitated at any questions you may ask, grows inpatient as you inspect the cigar, or refuses to let you see the package in which they arrived, is also selling fakes.
Many counterfeiters sell cigars that they say are "Special Edition Cubans." In actuality, special editions are very rare, very expensive, and only distributed between reputable dealers and cigar connoisseurs. If a seller tries to pass off a Cuban cigar as "Special Edition," it's only because he's trying to explain why that Cuban may look different than other Cubans.
While some sold in the US are real, most of the Cuban cigars on the black market aren't any more Cuban than someone born in Oklahoma. Still, if you know your stuff, you should be able to tell when someone is handing you a real Cuban, or when someone is just blowing smoke up your ash tray.
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