I wanted to talk about my experience with smoking REAL Cuban cigars vs FAKE Cuban cigars which I got burned on. Although I am new to the hobby, I have gained a lot of knowledge to be able to distinguish a real vs fake cigar simply because I bought a box of 25 fake Cohibas Maduro 5. I also bought real Monte Cristo cigars and can notice the difference between smoking a fake and a real cigar. Let me tell my story:
After going through the whole Cuban cigar experience and being burned by buying fake Cubans I started researching about Real Cuban Cigars VS fakes. The thing in Cuba is that there's so many fake Cuban cigars floating around so you need to be careful where you buy them. You don't have to go to Cuba to receive fake cigars as there are plenty of websites that also sell fake cigars so you need to do your due diligence. Any cigar being sold to you other than an official Havana House or Resort Gift shop/Cigar Shop is most likely fake. Typical places of where fakes will be sold are on the beach of your resort (by the workers themselves), by an independent house (someone claiming they work/worked at the cigar factory and have left over cigars to sell), or obviously anyone on the street. Anyone who goes to Cuba for the first time will hear about something called "Private Tours". This service is offered by a third party business where you get one personal guide and a tour for a whole day (costs around 150 Convertible Pesos). This service is normally mentioned by resort workers "secretly" so that your airline rep at the resort doesn't hear about it; they also offer this service but you'll pay triple and you won't get to pick & choose where you want to go in Cuba. It's a legit excursion so don't be scared just because of my story (if you ever go to Cuba). Anyhow, during your "private tour", your guide will bring you to their "friends" house in Havana that sells (what they claim) official Cuban cigars. The place I went to was some house in the city where the man and his wife claimed they work at the cigar factory in Havana. They say that every year the factory allows them to take home some cigars and in turn sell them for dirt cheap because they received it for free. So you will see a bunch of beautiful boxes, nice presentation of cigars that look very real all for a very cheap price. I ended up buying a box of 25 Cohibas Maduro 5 in the nice elegant black box that came with a certificate. Long story short, the cigars were fake (which I found out many months later). So if anyone goes on these "Private Tours", tell your guide that you want to buy your cigars ONLY at the cigar factory in Havana or at your resort . I was also offered fake cigars on the beach by the workers (this is common in Cuba). The workers were trying to sell me Limited Edition Monte Cristo's from 2013. Common sense kicked in and I turned down the offer. I simply said I had bought all the cigars I needed.
Anyhow, fake Cuban cigars are hard to point out because they are done so well all the way from the box and certificate to the labels on the cigars, but I'll give you guys some tips that I've learned to help you.
1). The first and real way to find out if you have a fake Cuban cigar is by the serial number. Each box you buy has to have that green serial sticker. Take the serial number on the left side of the sticker and input it here: http://www.habanos.com/Sellos/Info/VerificaSelloCajon. The system will tell you if it recognizes the serial or not. But be careful because I bought my fake Maduro 5 box of 25 cigars and it came with the "Republica de Cuba" cigar certificate also, however, when I entered the number in the system last week it said that the serial was for Romeo y Julieta Churchills, which of course is not what I bought.
If you happen to buy a "single" cigar there are many ways to find out as well:
2). Take the cigar and stand it up on a table. If the cigar can stand up on it's own, that's a good indication that the cigar is real. Fake cigars will have a hard time standing up and will fall over.
3). Take the cigar and flip it so that the tip that you light is facing down. You want to "roll" the cigar in your hands (like someone lighting a fire with a wooden stick at camp). If anything falls out of the cigar it's fake. Real cigars have long leaves stacked together and should never have any pieces falling out.
4). Smoking a fake cigar is quite difficult. A real cigar goes down easy with no fight. A fake cigar will be hard because your saliva blocks the tip of the cigar and makes it harder to puff. A real cigar won't have this issue because of the way it's made (signature Habanos).
5). The "label" on the cigar itself is a very good indicator as well. For example: my fake Cohibas were pretty darn good, but the "gold lettering" of Maduro 5 on the label was coming off a little and the printing wasn't as crisp. The yellow color (signature Cohibas) was also off. Comparing it to online pictures showed that the yellow was a little bit dim compared to a more "vibrant" yellow. Of course, you cann't know this unless you have several years experience which is why you need to compare to pictures online from reputable sites.
If anyone else has experience here I'd love to hear it. If you have other ways of picking out a fake cigar please say!