If you’re from the U.S. and are reading this then you are already thinking “Cuban cigars”! The real deal Montecristo, H. Upmann, Partagas, Cohibas, but not so fast! I have 3 things you should know before buying or smoking these cigars:
1. Much like the counterfeit money here in Argentina, there are counterfeit Cuban cigars. If they do not have a “Puros Tobaccos” hologram sticker (the only Cuban cigar importer in Argentina) on the box signifying that they were legally imported then there is a good chance that they are crap.
Cuba is plagued with imitators just like China and their knock offs. These fake Cuban cigars may have been purchased abroad and brought to Buenos Aires with the best of intentions then sold to a tobacco shop or maybe even the tobacco shop owner himself bought them. They are likely fakes and the taste will be nothing like a fine Cuban cigar.
I know what you are thinking, “couldn’t they just put individual fakes in a legit Puros Tobaccos stickered box?” Yes, I suppose they could, check out the Cigar Aficionados guide to fake Cuban cigar labels if you want to learn a couple of tricks on how to spot them.
2. Importation is problematic with the current protectionism tactics used by the government so supplies can sometimes be limited. The importation taxes are also a bit steep in Argentina and can crank up the prices of these premium cigars. Expect the same prices for premium cigars in the U.S. or maybe a bit higher for the Cuban delights here in Argentina.
3. Look for a good humidor where the shop is storing their cigars. If the case is glass without humidification, being baked in the sun or appears to be less than air tight then chances are they have no clue what they are doing. The cigars are going to be dry with stale cracking wrappers and a waste of money.
Now let’s get to the good stuff, where to buy these cigars and where to smoke them?
Cigar smokers are not as common as you may be imagining in Argentina. Smoking has been banned from almost all indoor public locations with the exception of “tobacco focused businesses” so expect to either smoke in a cigar shop or outdoors some place. If you are anything like me I get a little paranoid about bothering people with my cigar smoke so here is a good list of places to both buy and smoke cigars in Buenos Aires:
View Where to buy and smoke cigars in Buenos Aires in a larger map
La Casa del Habano, San Martin 690, Centro
A bit run down, they usually have a decent selection and it is conveniently located for those wandering Florida pedestrian street. The owner was once the owner of “Puros Tobaccos” the afore mentioned Cuban cigar importer.
Prado y Neptuno, Ayacucho 2134 (Near Recoleta cemetery)
One of my favorites; good lounge chairs, nice drink selection although their stick selection is often thin because of importation issues. At least you know they are legit Cubans though! Check out the upstairs area (bathrooms are up there too) for a bit more privacy and nice street view. Ring the bell for service.
Vuelta Bajo, Vuelta de Obligado 1932, Belgrano (near D-line Juramento subte stop)
If you happen to be up in Belgrano or are in Palermo Hollywood this is worth your while. Probably the widest, most well stocked selection in the city. Their smoking room is a bit tight, but they have nice tables out front. If the owner “Nico” is around he lived in the U.S. for a while so his English is solid and he can really chat about cigars!
Puro bistró, Thames 1920 (in Palermo Soho)
Probably the best smoking lounge space (large, long room) plus it is a very convenient location for those that are staying in Palermo. Chairs a little worn down and the selection is limited like many others in the city, but once again this is a good sign that they are legitimately importing and being frequented by many locals and travelers alike.
For cigar friendly smoking environments try:
La Faena hotel (Poolside outdoors area), Martha Salotti 445
Every time I have been here there are a few guys smoking cigars out by the pool. I have never purchased cigars from La Faena though. Good drink selection, service is a bit slow sometimes and they have a weird minimum at night after 9:00 pm.
Alvear Palace Hotel (cigar bar), Avenida Alvear 1891 (Near Recoleta cemetery)
It is rumored that the cigars here are not from the importer Puros Tobaccos, but I fail to see how Argentina’s five star hotel is carrying bogus Cubans. It is much more likely that they have a good under the table contact- you be the judge. You can bring cigars in just be sure to buy a drink or two.
To just buy some cigars:
Cienfuegos, Independencia 399 (near the corner of Defensa)
Inspect their sticks before purchasing, I have bought a couple of cigars in tubes that when opened were a tad moldy. It was a bad shipment and likely not their fault. They do have a great selection of middle of the road priced Cubans, mainly Robustos (35 minute cigars).
I operate a private tour for small groups of 3 to 6 guys (girls are welcome to join as well) that includes a visit to one of the above cigar bars plus a hot towel shave, beers, empanadas, a visit to a 103 year old handmade hat shop plus some other surprises. Check out the Man Tour of Buenos Aires if you are interested in hanging out and seeing the city in a unique fashion.