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Cigars/Cuban Authenticity

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QUESTION: Hi Mr. Yee.  If a box of Habanos was sealed with the appropriate labels and the serial number checked out on the Habanos S.A. website is there any way that the cigars could be counterfeit?  I ask this question because I have seen a box that does not have the highly detailed embossing that one would expect to see on the lid yet the serial number checks out and the micro serial number is in the appropriate places on the label.  Thanks for your time.

ANSWER: Hello Patrick,

To answer your question, it's possible but not very probable.  Although counterfeiters have been known to steal genuine labels, boxes and cigar bands to make their cigars appear more authentic, the serial barcode number usually doesn't match the box.  In most cases, the serial number is either invalid or does not match the cigar and box details (For example: barcode is registered to Bolivar cigars but affixed to a Partagas box.)  Despite this however, it's still possible that the box may not be authentic as counterfeiters are becoming more sophisticated and creative with their counterfeiting techniques.  

The best method to protect yourself as a buyer is to ensure that you always buy cigars from authorized Habanos SA retailers. If you are purchasing cigars from private sellers, be sure to inquire as to where the cigars were purchased from and always request to see the store receipt.  If the private seller is selling the cigars for well below market price (even below prices in Cuba), be suspicious.

Lastly, always remember that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.

I hope this helps. If you have any more questions, please feel free to just ask and I will be happy to help.

Regards,
James

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks.  Very helpful.  I have a follow up question.  Theoretically speaking, would authorized Habanos SA retailers ship to the U.S. given the restrictions?

Answer
Hi Patrick,

They can but it depends on their store policy so you will need to contact the stores that you're interested in ordering from and check with them. To ensure that you receive your cigars safely, some retailers may remove all the original packaging such as the box and cigar bands before shipping them. Some retailers may also use a private courier service to ship.  Also, when ordering cigars online, you should always check with Habanos to see if the retailer is definitely an authorized retailer. A list of authorized distributors is available at Habanos.com and you can contact them to inquire about a retailer in the country that they distribute to.  There is only ONE approved Habanos distributor for each country so they confirm whether or not a retailer is supplied by them.

If a retailer claims to receive their Cuban cigars from a Habanos distributor other than the appointed distributor for their country, be suspicious.  Authorized Habanos retailers are only allowed to receive their cigars from the appointed distributor for their country. Any retailer that claims to receive their cigars from another distributor because of "lower taxes" or cheaper shipping rates to "pass the savings on to you" are receiving their cigars from questionable sources.

I hope this helps.

Regards,
James

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James Yee

Expertise

My main area of expertise is Cuban cigars and I can assist you if you have questions pertaining to Cuban cigars. I can also assist you with the following:

- General cigar-related questions and advice
- Humidor maintenance and troubleshooting (How to treat humidor mold, correct high/low humidity, humidor seasoning, etc.)
- Accessory maintenance and troubleshooting (Cigar cutters, hygrometers, humidifiers, etc.)
- Cigar restoration, preservation and troubleshooting (How to treat cigar mold/tobacco beetles, restoring vintage/dry cigars, etc.)
- Cigar/Brand identification
- Cigar etiquette

Unsure of a certain cigar brand? Wondering what a certain cigar tastes like? Have a question about Cuban cigars? Having problems with a humidor or Just let me know! I have smoked every brand of Cuban cigars and most reputable non-Cuban cigar brands on a regular basis so I know a fair bit about taste profiles, cigar etiquette and other fine nuances to cigar smoking. (NOTE: My main focus is on premium, hand-rolled cigars and not cheap, machine made, convenience store cigars.) IMPORTANT: PLEASE NOTE THAT I DO NOT PROVIDE CIGAR OR CIGAR-RELATED APPRAISALS. If you have a vintage cigar item and you want to know if it's worth something, please contact an antique dealer that specializes in "TOBACCIANA".

Experience

I currently have 19 dedicated years of cigar smoking and counting. I have smoked every brand of Cuban cigars and most reputable non-Cuban cigar brands on a regular basis so I know a fair bit about taste profiles, cigar etiquette and other fine nuances to cigar smoking. For 5 years, I studied with Cuban torcedores (rollers), catadores (taste testers) and revisadores (inspectors) on every aspect involving the production of the Cuban cigar and I am currently writing a book that will help beginners understand everything they need to know about cigars and cigar smoking.

Publications
Maple Leaf Gardens: Memories & Dreams 1931-1999 (1999; ISBN: 0920445616)
50 Things Every Guy Should Know How To Do (2006; ISBN: 0452286654)
The [London] Times (October 8, 2009)


Education/Credentials
B.A. University of Toronto

Awards and Honors
Allexperts Top 25 Shortest Average Response Time: 2008-2009
Highest Rank:
- 2008 - 6th Overall, July
- 2009 - 10th Overall, February

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