The Perfect Counterfeit Cohiba...Almost
Posted 27 January 2007 - 11:01 PM
In another article soon to come, I will be describing my methodology of investigating and diagnosing counterfeits but one point is worth mentioning in regard to this analysis. Packaging is often the most important clues one looks for. A lone cigar presented without the context of its procurement or the packaging carries significantly less information on which to base an assessment of its authenticity. In recent cases of really good fakes, if I did not know anything about the packaging or where it came from, there would be no way to find out if was real or fake using non-destructive methods. It would have to be smoked or dissected. Counterfeiters are getting that good. This is one such case.
Now let's take a look at the accigar specimen.
1. Overall Appearance
We begin with a series of side-by-side shots comparing the ACC to an authentic Cohiba Pirámides EL 2006. At this point, I won't give away the punchline but I will say that the cigar that is on the left is always the same cigar except for one photo and that will be clear. In this first photo, we see a full length comparison of the two cigars. Construction quality is comparable, dimensions are reasonably in agreement and both the Cohiba and EL bands look pretty good. Let's take a closer look at the bands.
2. The Bands
Here are three photos of the bands on these two cigars showing the left to right progression. Do you see any significant and meaningful differences in terms of lettering, printing, embossing, quality? If you answered "no" then you're right on. Any minute differences you do see are inconsequential and likely invisible to the naked eye. For all intents and purposes, these bands are identical and that's scary. Not only is the lettering identical, the rows of dots on the counterfeit are executed perfectly. This is one aspect where many counterfeit Cohibas fail and that is in the ratio of white dot to black background. Post 2003 Cohiba bands using the gold foil embossed band all have a uniform white-black ratio and this is something that the naked eye can readily discern. You'll see what I mean later when I present the worst counterfeit Cohiba Pirámides I've ever seen.
Another key feature to look for is in the bronze pigmentation of EL band. Genuine EL bands appear to use a large flake pigment that has a characteristic "grainy" appearance. If the bronze looks smooth and uniform like foil or paint, then it is suspect. One point to keep in mind is that metallic flake pigments tend to settle out in the printing equipment and great efforts need to be taken to insure that the ink delivery contains a consistent amount of pigment throughout the printing run. This means that potentially, some bands could appear very heavily gritty while others might appear smoother. It's possible but I have not seen enough ELs to observe this variation. This type of pigment is different from that used in the gold border such as on Bolivar bands but is not hard to specify. In fact, JR Cigars uses an apparently identical ink on their Genuine Counterfeit Cuban Cigar, EL series. Tatuaje goes for the same effect on their Reserva and Cojonu year of issue sub-bands however they do not use the flake pigment and as a result, they resemble most of the bogus EL sub-bands I've seen.
And here are two photos of the Tatuaje Cojonu 2006 and a Cohiba Pirámides. The first one is taken at a low magnification to show what these two bands might look like to the naked eye. The second one is at a higher magnification to highlight the dramatically different pigment appearance.
3. The Wrapper and Filler
Moving on to a close inspection of the wrapper leaf, we start to see a divergence in the appearance and quality. In this first shot of the head region, we see a dramatic difference in the wrapper appearance but not the head construction. Again, this is troubling as fake figurados often have poorly constructed caps. Further, since the method of closing the head does not result in the appearance of a "triple cap" that is one less clue you have to rely on when investigating pirámides, belicosos, and perfectos. I'd also like to point out that the illumination you employ when inspecting cigars can play a big role in determining what you see. In this case, the photos were taken very close up and very close to a compact fluorescent lamp. The lighting is harsh and accentuates certain features. I will often manipulate the lighting to show salient details that might otherwise pass unnoticed under the low intensity illumination where most casual examination occurs. For example, I was recently given a few cigars to authenticate in a dimly lit tavern. Luckily I always carry a bright white LED flashlight on me.
So, which looks like the $25 Edición Limitada? Which one looks like the fake?
In this next photo, you see a close-up of the barrels of these two cigars. Aside from a slight difference in shade and a slightly rougher appearance in the cigar on the left, there is not much to differentiate the two. Both are only lightly veiny and both feel supple to the touch.
Moving on to the feet, we now start to see some differences that might be meaningful. Or, perhaps not. Aside from the circumferential wraps of tobacco that make up the wrapper and binder, the counterfeit does not seem immediately obvious. However, if you look carefully, you will see several sizeable stems in the filler bunch. Also, the bunching is quite non-uniform.
***** Continued in next post *****
Posted 27 January 2007 - 11:03 PM
So, have you made a decision? Does one clearly pop out as the counterfeit? Or the authentic item? At this point, if I only had the fake to examine, my confidence that it was indeed fake would be approximately 25-50%. If I had a genuine item to visually compare against, my confidence would jump to 50-75%. But my actual confidence is in fact 100%. The two reasons are the scent of the cigar and the packaging. Accigar's cigar smells exactly like many of the well constructed Miami-based counterfeits I've collected. Instead of a rich, sweet tobacco scent, there is a distinct bitter leathery character. Very characteristic and completely unknown in any authentic Habanos I've ever smelled. The upshot is that not only is this a counterfeit, it is clearly not made with Cuban tobacco. The other clincher is that accigar's cigars came in this packaging:
Authentic Cohiba Pirámides EL 2006 ONLY come in varnished 10-count full boite nature chests. The cigars will look like this:
So there you have it. Accigar's counterfeit is the cigar on the LEFT.
Since I remarked that this was the best counterfeit Pirámides I've ever seen, let me show you the worst. The following cigar was sent to me by a serviceman stationed in Iraq. It seems that a local had set up a stand selling Cuban cigars outside of the base. Among other things, there were these EL's in shrink wrapped bundles. The first photo shows the full body shot and close-up of the two bands. From a distance, the cigar doesn't look too bad. The wrapper is oily, supple and reasonably well applied. However, when you take a closer look at the bands, you can see all sorts of badness. First, the white dot to black background is way off. The dots are far too small. Second, the font in which "Habana, Cuba" is rendered is wrong. Witness the infamous penetrated top loop of the "C." But what about the EL band. Well, it does look sort of gritty, but aside from the lack of embossing, something else seems very wrong.
In this high magnification photograph of the EL band, you can see that it is in fact printed in halftone! It's not bronze flake pigment ink at all. However, you've got to love the extra effort these guys took to lighten and shift the print to make it "appear" three dimensional like a genuine emboss.
So there you have it. I hope you've enjoyed this little excursion into the fascinating world of counterfeit Cuban cigars.
Posted 27 January 2007 - 11:32 PM
This one's going to be good for future reference.
Posted 27 January 2007 - 11:33 PM
Best Regards - B.B.S.
Posted 28 January 2007 - 12:23 AM
Edited by Karma, 28 January 2007 - 12:23 AM.
Posted 28 January 2007 - 12:27 AM
Thanks for the in depth examinations, Wilkey. Cigar super sleuth strikes again.
Awsome job, truly amazing, if I ever purchase that cigar this will be the first place I'll look to compare.
Like everyone else has said before, know/trust your source.
Edited by Dave, 28 January 2007 - 12:29 AM.
Posted 28 January 2007 - 12:40 AM
Initially, I chose the left one as the fake. In the first photo, the cut of the foot seemed suspect. If the real one wasn't next to it I would never guess it was a fake.
Posted 28 January 2007 - 12:45 AM
Posted 28 January 2007 - 01:41 AM
Posted 28 January 2007 - 02:22 AM
The fake appears to have been rolled without a binder.
Posted 28 January 2007 - 08:39 AM
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