Cohiba Pyramide: Is You Is, Or Is You Ain’t My Cuban?

The Possibly Cuban CohibaThis post is equal parts cigar review and international tale of intrigue. Well, actually, it’s more crackpot theory that happens to turn into a cigar review at the end. Anyways, the mystery is, what cigar did Brian smoke on the way back from the golf course over the holiday weekend?

The cigar was given to me by some friends who live in my building, fresh from a trip back from an exotic tropical location. (I know it sounds like I’m saying they went to Cuba, but I don’t think they did. I’m actually not sure where they went. Sorry to lead you on like that.) They know I’m really into cigars, and they swapped the cigar for the cookies my very cool wife decided to bake for our neighbors.

I’m no dummy, I immediately did some research. I started out with one of the better sources of counterfeit Cuban cigars I know of, the Cigar Aficionado’s counterfeit Cuban hall of shame. (I recommend you check it out before you try picking one up on your international travels. Also, as Bob and Dale of the Dog Watch Social Club will tell you, make sure you’re buying from a legitimate Habanos S.A. merchant.)

Well from what I can tell, the band is legitimate. So I smoked that baby after a long hard day of five-putting (but hey, my drives have improved and I actually got to experience playing on the fairway for once). And I really enjoyed it.

Case closed, right? Not quite. In doing some research to compile the cigar’s stats, I noticed something disturbing. Sure, the band looks legit, but the pyramid has two bands! Mine only had the one. And it fit very loosely. Take a look at the picture below I pilfered from a Canadian cigar website. Mine did not have the gold and black second band.

Actual Cuban Cohiba PyramidFigure 1: The Real Deal.

So it’s fake then, right? Well, maybe. What we have here is a couple of possible scenarios.

1.) It’s Cuban, and the bands were taken off. To facilitate passage through customs, it’s often recommended that people remove the bands from their tasty contraband. If that’s the case, it’s likely that the second band was either lost or forgotten about.

2.) It’s Cuban, and the band fell off. This cigar was, what I like to call, suitcase-pressed. That’s kind of like a box pressed, except the manufacturer has nothing to do with it. It’s generally caused by bumping into books, flip flops and tourist trinkets while hiding out in your luggage. As long as there is a band there, it’s likely that you wouldn’t realize one was missing. This scenario is probably less likely, as it would have to slide off over the other band on the cigar. The pyramid shape makes it hard to slide off the other end.

3.) It probably not a Cuban, and definitely not a Cohiba. In this case, the band was taken from another, possibly smoked, cigar of unknown origin and put on my cigar. This other cigar might be a factory second from Cuba (best case scenario), or some other more available, less expensive cigar.

I think it was scenario 1 or 2, but I can’t rule out unlucky number 3. In this case, the third time is not the charm. Unless it saves me from jail time. But that doesn’t seem a likely concern. :) (Did I say I smoked it? I meant my good friend and Cuban penpal Alberto Hernandez smoked it. We commonly speak of each other as I. It’s a funny inside joke that I haven’t made up yet.)

Anyway, let’s get to why I think mine might have been the real suitcase-pressed deal, the review:

Cigar Stats
Size: 6 x 52 (Torpedo/Pyramid) (Assuming it’s a Cuban, I didn’t measure it.)
Wrapper: Cuba?
Binder: Cuba?
Filler: Cuba?
Price Per Cigar: Free! :D

The Pre-Smoke
The first thing I noticed when I held the cigar was that the wrapper felt like velvet. If I wasn’t about to smoke it, I’d want to sleep on it. That immediately altered my impression of its uneven suitcase-pressed appearance. This cigar was a stamp away from looking like road warrior luggage.

I gave it the squeeze test, and it felt pretty uneven too, with some noticeable soft spots. I immediately had concerns that I was in for a less than stellar burn. But I wasn’t about to let that stop me from lighting it up. The cut was nearly perfect, in spite of the inconsistent feel.

Before lit, it had a bit of a honey/farm smell; definitely different than others I’ve smoked.

The Burn
I was surprised, this cigar did not have significant burn issues. While it didn’t burn even all the time, it did correct itself as it smoked. I didn’t have to touch it up or relight it until the near end. And at that point I should have probably put it down, but I was determined to smoke this until I got blisters on my fingers. Besides, I there wasn’t much else to do on the drive home other than puff and listen to the radio.

The Flavor
Since I was driving the whole time, I didn’t take any notes. But this cigar was memorable enough that I didn’t have to. (And the details I don’t remember, I can always make up. Just kidding. :) ) It started out creamy with a very nice subdued pepper after taste. Very subtle, but I immediately loved it. As I proceeded through the first 3rd and into the second, it picked up a nice amount of cinnamon, almond and the occasional bit of vanilla. The pepperiness went away in the second third, but returned with a tasty amount of molasses in the final 3rd to finish of a delicious cigar.

The Price
I encourage you to buy any cigar at this price. Free cigars rule! (Unless it makes you sick, and then it’s just funny! Sorry Jerry, but I still laugh when I think about that review.)

The Verdict
I might have been a bit biased when I smoked it, thinking it was a Cuban. But whatever it was, I really, really enjoyed this cigar. I don’t know what it actually cost my friends to buy, but it was worth it. I made a point to thank them. I believe the phrase I used was “work of art”.

Quick Summary
Like It: HELL YEAH!
Buy It Again: YES!
Recommend It: YES!

What Other People Are Saying
Unfortunately, there are not a lot of thorough reviews of this cigar online. At least not many that my Google prowess was able to harvest. I guess that isn’t too surprising with the U.S. embargo!

My Other Reviews

In Memory of My Favorite Cigar Cutter 2003 – 2007
You didn’t cost me a lot, and you didn’t always cut clean, but we had a lot of fun together. If you had to take a fatal spill, I’m glad you had a chance to share this cigar with me first.

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6 Comments

  1. Alex said,

    February 17, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    This cigar might have been part of the Habanos S.A. “Seleccion Piramides” gift box. I picked one up in Japan and it included 5 piramides one from each Cohiba, Montecristo, R&J, Partagas and Hoyo de Monterey. the Cohiba was banded with only a single band like you described.

  2. Brian said,

    February 18, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Thanks Alex,
    That is possible. When I spoke to my friend, she said she believed it did have a second band, but she lost it in transit. Also, she doesn’t smoke cigars all that often, so had it been part of a set, she probably would have had the others on hand too. So the most likely scenario is #2. But thanks for the possible fourth scenario!

    I may have to keep an eye out for that “Seleccion Piramides” you speak about. That sounds great! (Ahem, I mean my friend Alberto Hernandez will need to keep an eye out for them!)

  3. Pat Sherman said,

    April 4, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Although it is true that the band is taken off by a lot of shipments (Pretty much everyone does it) so it goes through US Customs. However, the removing the band thing is only required when shipping to USA. You really need to find out where your friends went because if it was within the USA and the band was removed, I guess you can say its authentic. Also as you mentioned, ask them if they got it from a Havana House SA certified location. Remember, their are LOTS of cuban cigar sellers that are not selling cubans. The only way to tell if its a fake is if you’ve smoked one before. Because the taste of a cuban leaft (Especially a cohiba leaf) stands out really high – and its totally different from a dominican cigar passed on as a cohiba (A lot of people are doing this unfortunatley on the internet and around the world).

    So make sure your friends got it from an authorized dealer, and ask them if the band was on it if they got it outside of the US.

    Cheers!

    Pat Sherman
    Cigar Aficianado
    http://www.vancouvercigar.com

  4. Brian said,

    April 5, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Thanks Pat!
    I’ve actually gotten pretty good at spotting a fake by the band. Of course a real band doesn’t guarantee a real cigar! I didn’t find out where they bought it, but one friend mentioned removing the bands to bring it back in the the U.S. I think they had a very good time, because they didn’t remember a lot of the specifics. And at this point, it’s been a year since I smoked it! Based on my recollection of the incredible flavor, and my (very) occasional experience with other Cohibas that are legit since, I’d say this was the real deal.

  5. Bill Sandweg said,

    December 2, 2008 at 10:39 am

    My friend, I’ll call him Kevin, spent a good deal of time in and out of London and New Delhi over the last few years, and he sent MY friend Alberto Hernandez (no relation) a box of the seleccion piramides as described above. Not only are they fantastic, but the Cohiba included did not have the second band either. I know that you seemed to have solved your problem, but “Alberto” says the Romeo y Julieta was the best cigar he ever had!

    Great article (sorry I’m reading it so late!).

  6. Brian said,

    December 2, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Hi Bill,
    Thanks for the kind words. I like to think of my posts as timeless, so reading them late is just as good as reading them fresh. (Does that sound too narcissistic? LOL) And that philosophy helps, as I’ve been bad about keeping this blog updated as of late.

    I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for the forbidden Romeo y Julieta (the domestic is OK, but nothing that excites me much). Of course, *I* wouldn’t smoke one, as they are illegal, but my very good friend Gilberto would love to try one.


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