THE eagle-eyed cigar lovers among you may have realised that getting hold of your favourite Havanas – particularly the larger ring gauges – is getting tricky.
If you have a penchant, say, for Cohiba Behikes, you may as well put your money on the lottery at the moment, for they are about as rare as a winning ticket. But even if you like cabs of 50 of Partagas Lusitanias, you’ll have to work your socks off to track down enough to keep you in happy puffs.
A recent excellent article in France’s L’Amateur de Cigare paints a thorough picture, but to sum up, supply has been of increasing concern to Cuban cigar lovers for years and it has now been massively exacerbated by the Covid pandemic.
Combining shortages of the best large longfiller leaf at the agricultural level in Cuba with the worldwide distribution havoc caused by delayed, reduced and cancelled shipments, have created arguably the biggest crisis to hit the supply chain from Havana since the heydays of the counterfeiters.
Of course, the cigar market is no different intrinsically from any other; it’s driven at its most pure by the power of supply and demand. And greed and fear.
We can all relate to the frustration of finding supermarket shelves empty of seemingly innocuous goods thanks to the greed and panic buying of those who just can’t seem to help themselves. Remember all those ‘bakers’ who emptied the aisles of every type of flour known to mankind once they read of shortages in their newspapers and websites?
It’s one thing to do your best to try and ensure a steady supply of your favourite smokes and another to go out buying everything you can lay your hands on ‘just in case.’
So, what should the Havanophile do in these difficult times?
“Buy while you can – but also exercise some patience,” says Sautter maestro, Laurence Davis. “Things are ever-changing in the Cuban market; they always have been to some extent. As ever, keep your ear to the ground in regard to your must-haves; stock can come in in tiny amounts, seemingly at random. If you are friendly with your local store – like Sautter, for example – and they know your preferences, you’re more likely to hear when some of your favourites come in.”
“I would also say, as well as picking up stock where possible, learn to broaden your horizons; try a few different brands and vitolas. Since lockdown started, Sautter has sold a much wider range of cigars than ever before, and many of our customers are experiencing New World cigars for the first time. For the first time in its history, Sautter sells cigars from right across the cigarmaking world, from Nicaragua to Dominican Republic and beyond. We’ll always be about Cuba – it’s what we’re famous for – but more than anything else, we are about cigars and getting the best ones to you.”
A shortage of our favourite smokes will at least make us appreciate them in a whole new way. As this column has often espoused, take your time, savour your smoke. They’ve been lovingly grown and created and may just have gone through hell, high water – and a slow boat from Havana – to get to you.