2014-07-12 16.10.53I was having a discussion with my household about the way corporations tell the truth, but use weasel-words in such a way as to direct the public towards the conclusions they prefer. Then Tad posted the following article from Business Insider in the Okanagan Pipe & Cigar Club Facebook group:

Real Cigar Aficionados Know Cubans Aren’t A Big Deal Anymore

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/cuban-cigars-are-overrated-2015-1#ixzz3QtTRENs0

This seems like a perfectly legitimate article.  A cigar expert, Michael Herklots, vice president for retail and brand development for Nat Sherman, tells us with all seriousness that not only have competitors now created cigars that are equally worthy of a cigar aficionado’s affections and appreciation, but that Cuban cigars have poor quality control.

This is where the importance of critical thinking comes in.  First, let’s consider the fact that Mr. Herklots, while undoubtedly a cigar expert, is the vice-president of one of the major cigar companies that benefits from the US embargo.  This immediately makes his commentary suspect due to an obvious bias and conflict of interest.

The rest of the information in this article is subjective opinion presented as factual.  Mr. Herklots expresses his opinions on competitor brands being “just as good;” which is purely opinion, no more factual than our reviews, which also represent only our opinion.

The article also states the following:

And in the quality control department, Cubans fare even worse. There is a high chance of a few cigars in a Cuban box being “total dogs,” according to Herklots.  They don’t draw properly, are rolled too tightly, or are otherwise made without the care of an artisan craftsman.

“There is certainly a risk in investing in a Cuban product, because you are not guaranteed the best,” Herklots says. He hypothesizes that it may be the state ownership of cigar manufacturing and lack of entrepreneurship in Cuba that may be to blame for this quality control problem.

All right, let’s break this down.  What does “high chance” mean?  By whose estimation?  Statistics to support your claim, please.

The rest of that sentence reads somewhat like my review of the Gurkha Warlord, except that rather than being clear about numbers, Mr. Herklots makes a general statement that he does not substantiate in any way.

The last sentence appeals to the biases of the readers of Business Insider; namely, their belief that free enterprise assures that the “best man wins,” and that anything that is regulated by government is inferior by nature.  This belief is not shared by this Canadian.  My opinion of unregulated free enterprise is that the lowest scumbag who is willing to do the most cutting corners and outright lying wins, as proven by the continued existence of certain big box retailers (whose names we shall not mention.)  In Cuba, cigar-making is a national resource.  Cubans are very patriotic about their cigars and their international reputation as the world’s premier cigar makers is something they, as a country, take very seriously.

Here’s another quote from the article that I take issue with:

Cuban cigars aren’t highly regarded in countries apart from the US, where they’ve always been available. In fact, in places like Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Cubans are the most common cigar around. It’s merely their rarity in the US that excites the US cigar smoker, says Herklots.

Is that so?  If they are the most common cigar around . . . well, that suggests to me that they are the most preferred, don’t you think?  How cleverly Mr. Herklots has chosen the word “common,” which suggests “base, boring, normal,” as opposed to “the most popular!”

I suppose you have statistics to quote here that also substantiate your claim?  No?  Well, here in Canada (which is not, I remind you, the United States, and where we have always had access to Cuban cigars,) most tobacconists that I have observed have special sections for their Cuban cigars, usually featured prominently in a large display.  Cigar Chief, which is a major online Canadian cigar retailer, has two sections: Cuban Cigars, and Non-Cuban Cigars.  That tells me that at least in Canada, there is enough respect for the Cuban cigar that people seek them out specifically.  I know of at least three gas station retailers who keep humidors in their establishment: their signs all read “Cuban Cigars,” not “Premium Cigars.”  I think that tells me something too.

Also, I think it’s worth noting that even competitor brands are very clear in the write-ups about their cigars that they use “habano seed tobacco.”  In case you have missed it in our reviews, a habano tobacco is a Cuban tobacco; that’s what “habano” means.  A “habano seed” tobacco has been grown from seed that has been imported from Cuba, because that’s not illegal in the US and it removes it sufficiently to get the end product past the trade embargo.  So why, may I ask, do manufactures feel it necessary to go through all the trouble to import Cuban seeds, and advertise that they have done so, if Cuban cigars are not highly regarded in other countries than the United States?  My American friends, this article relies on America’s statistical ignorance of other countries than your own.  Don’t you believe it!

The article cites a recent article by the Washington Post that basically says the same thing.  Here’s the article if you want to read it: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/12/18/cuban-cigars-arent-actually-all-that-special/

The Washington Post article makes the following statement:

Yet the bold truth is that the Cuban cigar is not all that it’s made out to be.

Oh?  Okay, another opinion.  How do you substantiate this?

The following paragraphs are how:

Each year, Cigar Aficionado, the leading industry magazine, publishes a list of the top 25 cigars in the world. Last year, the number one cigar was the Montecristo no. 2, which is made in Cuba. But only two of the remaining 24 also came from the country.

By contrast, 11 were from the Dominican Republic, and 10 were made in Nicaragua. The magazine has yet to reveal its top pick for 2014, but among the remaining 24 the vast majority are once again from countries other than Cuba. And a similar pattern can be seen in virtually every year that the publication has issued its rankings. “The playing field has been leveled,” said David Savona, executive editor of Cigar Aficionado.

Okay, now that’s worth paying attention to!  But then let’s consider that Cigar Aficionado reviews new cigars that are sent to them by companies to review.  Obviously they overcome the difficulty of being an American company and getting access to those Cuban cigars somehow (perhaps by flying to Cuba or Canada; why not?  I’m sure they have a method.)  But have the Cuban manufacturers produced a lot of new products from their lines in recent years?  Or have they stuck with the classics, since they know those work?

Oh yes, and the number one cigar was a Cuban.  Just sayin’.

I also take exception to this paragraph:

In 2001, Marvin Shanken, the founder of Cigar Aficionado, lamented the decline of Cuban cigars. While the magazine has since written about a rebirth in the country (only a year later, no less), and even declared an entire year (2012) the year of the Cuban cigar, the real test will likely play out in the coming years, especially if the embargo is lifted and they can once again be sold freely in the United States.

This is presented as evidence of the decline in Cuban cigars.  But read it more carefully.  The statement about the “decline” came in 2001.  Only a year later he writes about a rebirth in the country!  And the most recent statement, which was only in 2012, was “The Year of the Cuban Cigar.”  Hmm, doesn’t sound like they’re “declining” to me!

However, I will agree with the following statements from Washington Post:

The trend has less to do with the deterioration of the Cuban cigar than it does with the improvement of cigar production and quality elsewhere. But it’s also incorrect to assume all Cuban cigars are exceptional. “Just because a cigar is Cuban doesn’t mean it will be a high-quality cigar,” Savona said. “There are good cigars and bad cigars from Cuba, as with other cigar producing countries.”

Yes, that’s absolutely true.  Just because the cigar came from Cuba doesn’t mean it’s going to be amazing.  I was not at all fond of the Partagas I smoked, for example.  I loved the Cohibas, though.  YMMV.  However, this is a logical fallacy, in implying that just because one cigar wasn’t very good, the rest of them will be poor also.  If I believed that, I would never smoke a Gurkha again.

And this is also a good point:

Now there are countless internationally acclaimed cigar makers not only in the Dominican Republic, but also in Nicaragua and Honduras. And they more than compete with the quality of the cigars being produced in Cuba—they often surpass it.

Yes, that’s true as well.  I have enjoyed many excellent Dominicans, Nicaraguans, and Hondurans, and two of my preferred cigars are international CAOs from Brazil and Italy.  And to be fair, I have enjoyed Nat Sherman’s products very much and they are certainly a top notch cigar manufacturer.

But, there is a unique habano terroire that can not be imitated, and the world knows it.  There’s a reason they tend to the most preferred cigars in the international market, despite assertions to the contrary.

I urge our American readers not to give up any of their old favourites for sure.  But I also wish you the joy that is a quality Cuban cigar.  Don’t let people with a vested interest in suppressing their competition dissuade you from giving them a try!  And remember, cigar appreciation is always subjective by nature.

2 thoughts on “Weasel-Words

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