Counterfeit Analysis: Glass Tubed RyJ Churchills


Welcome to this chapter of Counterfeit Cubans: Exposed! This time, we're going to take a look at an absolutely fascinating specimen. This sample first came to light here. I contacted forum member IslesFan and was able to acquire it for the archives. Mike, thank you for making it possible for me to share this with the online cigar community.

Counterfeits are almost always intended to be direct copies of their genuine counterparts. At least they attempt to mimic the general appearance of the item with sufficient fidelity such that casual scrutiny would not raise any red flags. This style of counterfeits could be called "knock-offs."

Another category of counterfeits plays it a little looser and you might find vitolas that don't actually exist in the marca. For example, Hoyo de Monterrey Piramides, Montecristo Churchills, and Partagas Robustos (not the Serie D No. 4 which is of the robustos vitola de galera but an actual "Robusto" vitola de salida designation which you would find on the box.) It appears that these are attempts to attach popular vitolas to any marca whether or not such things are actually in regular production. As these items have no analog in the ranks of the authentic, they might be called "bogus." While most of these are pretty pedestrian, once in a blue moon, you come across one that is as audacious as it is artful. Such is the case with the cigar we're going to take a closer look at.

While I have come across many counterfeit tubos such as Punch Churchills and Cohiba Siglo VI, the RyJ Churchills is probably the most common because it is familiar almost to the point of becoming iconic. This one, however, is unique. It is a rendering of the classic Romeo y Julieta Churchills tubo in glass!

in this first photo, an authentic RyJ Churchills tubo is the cigar on the left and the glass tubed specimen is on the right. In the pairing on the left, we see the external details of both items, full length. The counterfeit comes in a plain glass tube, much like a test tube. In contrast to the authentic item which has the printing applied directly to the tube surface, the glass tube actually has a printed adhesive label applied to it. It is this label that contains all the print details of the real thing. There are two notable aspects of this label. First, the label stock has a satin finish providing a nice translucent surface to provide contrast for the printing. Second, they've added a tiny graphic of the island of Cuba to the left of the word "Romeo" at the cap end.


The cap is not a screw-on unit as is found on the aluminum tube but a simple lathe-turned or plug-cut wooden stopper that's held on by the "Handmade Habanos" adhesive label at the cap end. As a result of this design, the overall length of the counterfeit is about a quarter inch longer than the real thing.

Let's take a closer look at some of the external details. In this next photo pairing, we see a close-up of the head end of the tubes. There are obvious but slight differences in the fonts and typography but nothing that would jump out at the eye unless an authentic specimen were on hand to compare against. If the fact that the cigar was in glass did not tip one off, tiny details such as this would not be of much additional help.


Turning to the backs of the tubes, we see pretty much what we saw on the front. The makers of this counterfeit did a reasonably good job of mimicking the real thing. They even included the recycling symbol to the right of the main text box. This symbol is missing from my tube as it it pre-2000.


Referring back to the first photo, in the right hand side pairing, we see the two naked cigars. Aside from a slight length differential and a shade difference in the band, they don't appear radically different. The wrapper leaf does not appear totally out of character and if you were to hand me an unbanded specimen, I would not be immediately suspicious. However, closer inspection would reveal some details that would be cause for concern. As usual, comparison against an authentic reference specimen highlights the differences one can notice.

This next photo is a close-up of the bands. There are clear differences again in the font and typography and these are of a qualitative and not quantitative nature. Quantitative differences are appearance variations one would expect based on normal variations in the production process used to produce them. For example, shallower or deeper embossing, print registration, opacity of the metallic pigment (bronze ink). These properties vary along a spectrum from perfect to poor, light to dark, and shallow to deep. This type of feature difference can almost never be used to gauge authenticity with any degree of confidence.

Qualitative differences are differences that cannot occur if authentic materials and processes are used. For example, if the font should be serif (Times Roman) but appears sans serif (Helvetica). Or if white squares that should be the exact same width as a black grid appears only 40% of the width. These differences are impossible in the authentic item and are immediately diagnostic of counterfeit status. The only exceptions are in the vitola printing on the sides of dress boxes. I have, on occasion seen qualitative differences that I suspect are a result of "that's Cuba" type situations involving either materials or training issues.


In this photo, we see a mix of quantitative and qualitative differences. Can you guess which is which? We have registration of the print/emboss details relative to the trimming of the band. We have a difference in the appearance of the metallic nature of the band. We also see subtle differences in the fonts which I already indicated where of a qualitative nature. In this case, by the time I've noted these differences, I would be pretty confident about calling fake. But for instructional purposes, let's look at the two ends of the cigars.

In this next photo, I show the heads and the feet. The head shot is pretty illuminating. The authentic specimen on the left shows a well constructed head with the classic "triple cap" appearance. The fake on the right has a bizarre appearance that I've never seen on a Cuban cigar whether totalmente or mecanizado in manufacture.

The feet are somewhat less revealing. The authentic specimen is perhaps a bit underfilled but appears reasonably bunched and uniform with an acceptable number of stems of small diameter. The counterfeit does not appear horrible by comparison. The center of the bunch does not appear to be packed with short filler and the bunching is not unusual. There does appear to be quite a few stems though and they appear substantial but not grotesquely so.


And that's a look at one of the more artful counterfeits in my archive. As fakes go, a specimen like this is a genuine pleasure to behold. The challenge and interest in a case such as this is not merely in determining whether it is in fact genuine. Here, that was the least interesting question to address. In this case, I tried to understand the motivation that gave birth to something so audacious. The challenge was in reverse-manufacturing the processes used to create such a curious and ingenious homage to the iconic Romeo y Julieta Churchill.



New Member
What an interesting read. Fantastic pictures. Thanks for posting this. From what I can tell, other than the glass vs. aluminum, the biggest difference appears to be in the cap.


What an interesting read. Fantastic pictures. Thanks for posting this. From what I can tell, other than the glass vs. aluminum, the biggest difference appears to be in the cap.
The cap is pretty bad. The band is also different but it would be hard to discern the critical differences without a reference right in front of you.



I smoke therefore I am!
Wilkey as always nice tracking down those counterfeit puppies and the analysis that goes with it. Can't wait till the next chapter appears.


Where did all my money go?
Thanks for the informative piece you did on this. Much better than anything I have read in a magazine.


Active Member
Gensing, That was a nice read, one of many I have looked over on this subject, that you have posted. I will have to send one of my "A's" your way, as to get to the bottom of it once and for all.


Like what you smoke, smoke what you like
Well done, professor. BTW, when can we expect to officially add that PhD to your name? I'm envisioning a herf to celebrate the occasion.