Jacobsen: Cuban Cigars Are Actually Better

Following the recent announcement that the U.S. will normalize ties with Cuba, bringing with it an opening for American visitors to bring home up to $100 in Cuban alcohol and tobacco products, Vox decided to investigate the question: Are Cuban cigars really better? The answer, according to a 2003 paper by Andrews Professor of Economics Joyce Jacobsen and other researchers, is yes.

According to the article:

[The researchers] collected Cigar Aficionado quality ratings and price data for 689 different cigars, and sought to identify determinants of both high prices and high ratings. They took into account a battery of subjective factors — did the Cigar Aficionado review describe the cigar as mild? as well built? as smooth? was it nutty or cocoa-y or creamy? — as well as national origins.

They found that the single most important determinant of both prices and ratings was whether or not the cigar originated from Cuba. Being from Cuba bumped up a cigar’s rating by 4.05 points on a 100-point scale, on average; by contrast, being described as “well built” only gained a cigar 1.28 points, and being “leathery” only resulted in a 1.87 point gain.

“The ability of the judges to identify the Cuba characteristic in a blind taste test suggests the presence of a unique Cuban flavor (or potentially another identifying characteristic like color or shape),” Freccia, Jacobsen, and Kilby conclude.

Jacobsen is also dean of the social sciences and director of global initiatives.