SAN JUAN --
Although Puerto Rico has lost some of its cachet as a source of
fine cigars in the last three decades, the reality is that the
island still produces some of the finest hand-rolled Puros found
anywhere in the Caribbean.
The cigar market
tends to be faddish and, at the moment, the Dominican Republic is
grabbing all the headlines -- and economic rewards -- that come
with high ratings from such oracles of the trade as Cigar
But for true
aficionados and weekend warriors alike, Puerto Rico offers several
brands well worth seeking out.
In addition to
their high quality, one advantage of buying cigars in Puerto Rico
is that all tobacco products imported into the U.S. must be
fumigated, which is widely believed to damage their flavor. This is
not required of cigars brought in by travelers.
By far the
best-known of the islands premium cigar makers is Don Collins
Cigars, whose shop at 59 Cristo St. is a must-visit landmark in Old
This is not just
a store but a legendary tobacco company. In fact, owner Don Collins
said that the firm that today bears his name is the oldest company
of any kind in the hemisphere, tracing its roots directly to the
Puerto Rico Tobacco Co., founded in 1503.
can rightly claim that his factories in Toa Lata, west of San Juan,
and San Lorenzo, an hour south, are the oldest continuously
operated factories in the Americas.
premiums that his company makes today span the spectrum of types,
sizes and blends.
Like other Puerto
Rican makers, Don Collins features the legendary native tobacco
known as Hoja Prieta, one of three native tobaccos developed on the
island over the centuries. Many cigars employ Hoja Prieta for all
three components -- filler, binder and wrapper.
cigars are premium products, and they carry a premium price. A
25-cigar bundle of the companys Indios Puros sells for $299.75, or
just under $12 each, while a bundle of the vanilla-cured Lonsdales
sells for $224.75.
Not all premium
Puerto Rican smokes are as expensive.
Cigar PR, a small shop in the Isla Verde shopping mall, offers
several Puerto Rican brands, including its own, along with premium
brands from throughout the Caribbean.
Cigar PRs Flora
de Cuba, available in Presidentes, Churchills and Lonsdales, sells
for about $80 for a bundle of 25. A self-branded Cuban-seed
Churchill sells for about the same price.
editor Rob Fixmer, send e-mail to [email protected].
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