Benito could very well be famous.
He is the man behind Cohiba, Habana, Cubana. All names of the finest, prestigious Cuban cigars you can find. They happen to be the most sought-after exports in the world. Cuba has the second largest area of tobacco plantations worldwide and Benito is tasked with keeping this globally-praised tradition well intact.
We took a day trip to visit Benito’s tobacco plantation in Viñales, just two hours from the city of Havana. About 80% of Cuban tobacco comes from Viñales, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each seed is hand-planted, harvested then sent off to the cigar factories where each cigar is hand-rolled. Benito and his family have been tilling tobacco fields in Viñales for five generations. He was so warm and welcoming to us, inviting us into his home, even sharing his “white coffee” with us – he almost gave me a live chicken to take home. How I could get it across the border I had no clue but we loved his quirky personality.
Benito showed us how to roll, and then smoke, a Cuban cigar in his own personal tobacco hut. It’s hard to believe this man is in charge of making the most premium smokes in the entire world.
Interesting Facts about Cigars
- A good cigar roller can roll 120 cigars a day.
- 95% of Cuban cigars sold in the US are counterfeit.
- A box of Cohibas can set you back $200-700.
- They taste better with scotch, coffee, Cognac, martini, or a good class of cab sauv.
- Don’t buy from a “Habanero” on a tourist beach dressed in a colourful hat. Unless you want to get caught with counterfeit and land yourself in a Cuban jail.
- The only place to get real Cuban cigars is in Cuba, from a habanos – a state-run store where workers wear government clothing that looks like military uniforms. The airport has a state store on the way to the gates.
- The fatter a cigar, the stronger it will be.
- Use old fashioned wooden matches to light cigars, not gas lighters – it will affect the taste.
- One cigar is equivalent to 3 cigarettes.
- Don’t inhale the smoke when you puff it. I learned this the hard way. Cigars are not cigarettes and they’re not meant to be inhaled. They’re about taste and appreciating their flavours by “drawing” air. Slowly.
I was a guest of Benito on his tobacco farm with Locally Sourced Cuba. You can book an 8-day tour which includes a trip to the tobacco farm or ask about their tailor-made day trips. As always all opinions are my own.