I like cigars. I also don’t like paying a lot of money. And with the increased sanctions on Cuban goods and the lack of European travel recently, I’ve found myself needing to replenish my supply of Cuban cigars — more specifically, replenishing from here in the States without breaking the bank. Which is why the Cuban Rounds brand of cigars piqued my interest — if I could get something of equivalent quality at a fraction of the price… well, problems solved.
Founded in the 1980s, Kretek International is a California based importer and manufacturer of tobacco products in the United States. The company has a number of sub-companies and sub-brands, one of which is the Ventura Cigar Co. which produces the Cuban Rounds brand of cigars.
According to the marketing materials, Cuban Rounds is a brand of cigar designed especially to provide a premium experience at a budget price.
Let’s get the 800 pound gorilla out of the room: these look like a Cohiba. The branding on the label and the band is unabashedly designed to “evoke” or “pay homage to” the famous Cuban brand of cigars, which already has a serious enough problem with counterfeit versions that some smokers simply stay away altogether. But the label only really borrows the polka dot pattern and yellow and black color pallet, they aren’t quite brazen enough to try and duplicate the name as well.
The cigars are typically sold in larger value priced bundles wrapped in cellophane and do not come in a box.
Despite being named “Cuban Rounds,” none of the tobacco inside actually comes from Cuba. Well, technically the seeds for the tobacco came from Cuba, but pretty much every modern cigar can trace its genetic lineage to the same handful of Cuban tobacco seeds so there isn’t a true differentiator there. Just like the branding, it seems like an intentionally misleading statement to make to the public.
For this review, we tried the toro sized natural Cuban Rounds cigars. For that product they claim that the filler, the binder, and the wrapper are all Nicaraguan sourced for a medium body result.
Overall, the cigar quality is rather poor. The wrapper shows some obvious defects on the outside, which is actually pretty common for other budget priced cigars we’ve tried and doesn’t always impact the experience. Something that does have a major impact is the quality of the internal construction though, and in that area the cigar falls apart… literally. Cutting off the cap is almost like cutting the bottom of a bag of leaves, as the filler is loosely packed and seems to be disintegrating. You almost need to pick out all the loose bits and pieces before you start smoking or you’ll have them floating in your mouth with each puff.
Smoking the cigar is a bit of a challenge on its own, with consistently inconsistent burning of the tobacco requiring near constant attention and touch ups with a lighter to keep it from canoeing too severely to continue smoking.
At first things are pretty good with the taste and the aroma of the cigar. Before you light it, the cigar smells like a combination of leather, cedar, and nutmeg, which are all great things that go well together.
Cutting the cap and taking a draw (after removing all the detritus), I got some toffee notes from the unlit tobacco as well as some milk chocolate. Almost like a candy bar.
Once lit, the flavor almost delivers on the medium body promise. Its a little light in my opinion, but the flavors are still pretty good. They actually do remind me of a good Cuban cigar at first, with floral notes alongside some black tea. Very favorable in comparison to my favorite Montecristo cigars.
The problem is that those flavors don’t last. The more you smoke, the less flavor comes out, and the more it just trends towards straight tobacco flavor. Honestly, I think I might get more flavor out of a cigarette, and the aroma of the smoke isn’t entirely appealing either. My wife, who typically isn’t bothered by my cigar smoke (and who once bought a cigar scented candle without realizing it simply because she said she liked the way it smelled) complained about the smoke after a few minutes, something that normally doesn’t happen.
Don’t buy this. There are plenty of other budget friendly choices out there to try before even considering this one.