“Free Cuba!” A phrase you might not hear very often on the streets of Cuba, but a sentiment shared by many who live there. The call for the return of Cuba to its citizens is one we can hear echoing through the Cibao Valley of the Dominican Republic and uttered in cigar-smoke filled downtown bars where cigar masters gather and discuss their lingering discontentedness surrounding their flight from their homeland. Not surprisingly, the “Free Cuba” sentiment is popular in the Dominican Republic, which helps explain the origins of our 4th featured cigar this month—Free Cuba.
Formerly produced by the makers of Signature Collection by Santiago Cabana, Havana Classico, Calle Ocho, Morro Castle, Domino Park, West Indies Vanilla, Island Amaretto, Celestino Vega, Regalos, and Rum Runner, the Free Cuba Robusto was first introduced in 1996 by the Caribbean Cigar Company. In 1998, they focused their marketing efforts on four of their premium brands, Free Cuba included. And during the cigar boom, the old-fashioned quality construction helped propel Free Cuba to tremendous success. Unfortunately, a shortage of quality wrappers and the financial problems of the manufacturer caused the brand to be pulled from the market, and until very recently, it has been seen only scarcely. But it’s back now baby, and how! Today Free Cuba is still made handmade in the Dominican Republic, but by a new manufacturer. The able hands of cigar maestro Jochy Blanco have made this smoke even better than ever. Thanks to his use of a Java wrapper and blended filler, Free Cuba lives up to its fiery name with premium flavor. Note the attractive Indonesian wrapper, medium-brown and perfectly oily. It conceals a combination of Habano seed and Dominican Piloto Cubano long filler, as well as some choice tobaccos from Nicaragua. It is a medium-to-full-bodied smoke with hints of cocoa and sweet spice flavors on the palate with a sweet wood finish. Quite nice when paired with a full-bodied Merlot.