Entertainment

24 Cigars That Prove The Best Come From Latin America

Cigars, scotch, and fine wine share one thing in common: it’s all subjective! In the case of cigars, some connoisseurs say that nothing out of Cuba could be good, although there is a good number of challengers from all across the Americas. And here is a list of some cigars worth trying right now whether or not they’re allowed to be here.

1. Opus X

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A powerful and bold statement from the Fuente family, who started cigar making in the early 20th century. It was said that Dominican tobacco was good enough for filler and binder, but never for the delicate wrapper which is the only part the smoker tastes directly. The myth was dispelled with the Opus X line more than 20 years ago, with it still being one of the most sought-after smokes in the world.

2. Padron

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Nicaragua has come into its own as a major player in the premium cigar market, and there’s no better representative than Padron. Commanding prices well in excess of $25, they had become the benchmark for anything Central American especially with their Anniversary line, the one preferred by smokers celebrating something special or simply kicking back and chilling.

3. Cohiba

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Considered the personal blend for the deceased Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, the cigars really took off in the 90s when they began being mass produced for the international market. Of course, they were banned in the U.S. because of the embargo of the early 1960s. A very well-made blend, with delicate floral nuances, it is one of the most counterfeited cigars in the world.

4. Montecristo

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For many years it has been the standard by which all Cuban cigars are measured. A powerful, well-balanced, torpedo, it has been enjoyed since the early part of the 20th century by smokers who favor its medium body and fuller flavor. By the way, torpedoes are cigars with a tapered tip.

5. Davidoff

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This line was originally produced in Cuba until the early 90s when it shipped production over to the Dominican Republic. Some of the original Cuban Davidoffs are sold for a hefty premium at auction houses in Great Britain. The newer Dominican lines are extremely well made, mild in their body, and represent some of the best things in life.

6. Don Pepin

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A Cuban émigré, Don Pepin fled the island for Spain then came to the US in the 90s where his blends became an instant hit. Cigars often reflect the personality of their Creator, and the blends made by Jose “Pepin” Garcia have become legends in a very short span of time. Worthy of trying are his Cuban Classic and My Father lines, made in Nicaragua.

7. La Flor Dominicana

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Created by Litto Gomez Diez, an affable Uruguayan with a huge smile, he rocked the cigar world when he created the Ligero blends. The blend is made from the strongest leaves in the tobacco plant while still maintaining a delicate balance in the overall product. His LFD blends often times have been awarded with cigar of the year honors.

8. Macanudo

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Seasoned cigar smokers snub at the mention of this venerable brand, but the truth is more than 90% of cigar smokers in the US started off with a Mac, as they’re called. It has always been one of the strongest sellers in the country with popular line extensions such as Maduro – darker wrapper leaf. This brand is known for its tasty smoothness, typical of the Dominican Republic.

9. Liga Privada

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Jonathan Drew is known for creating wacky cigars with wacky, infused, flavors. But just when you thought it was all gimmicks, he creates Liga Privada No. 9, an intense powerhouse of a smoke. Using the most powerful leaves in the tobacco plant, with just the right fermentation, Jonathan surprised the cigar world with his Nicaraguan creation.

10. H. Upmann

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This Cuban classic dates back to the 19th century and has been present in discerning aficionados’ humidors since way back then. One of its most popular lines is Magnum 46, a Corona Gorda size that offers a good 60 minutes of enjoyment, preferably alongside a strong drink, or maybe just even iced tea. It’s that good!

11. Oliva Serie V

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A Nicaraguan work of art in the blending, the Serie V has several times been named cigar of the year by the most popular magazine in the industry. Bold, tasty and just plain wonderful, it has endured the test of time although being released only within the past 20 years. One can spend hours just gazing into the thick plumes of smoke out of this beauty.

12. Tatuaje

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The brainchild of Pete Johnson, a true lover of the leaf, who had a dream about creating his very own personal cigar. Almost by chance he met Don Pepin Garcia, it was a match made in heaven. Garcia blended a cigar to Johnson’s exacting standard and thus Tatuaje was born. Although it has many line extensions, each of them features the trademark power and balance.

13. Rocky Patel

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Either you love them or hate them, but Rocky’s cigars are all over the place. He’s perhaps the most hard-working man in the cigar world, traveling almost nonstop throughout the country and his cigar factories in Central America to make sure you’re getting a top-notch product spanning the entire price range. Worthy of mention are his Decade lines.

14. Ashton

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Blended in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, the cigars are owned by the Levin family in the United States. Their blends used tobaccos from many different countries and are also made in different factories. One of the distinctive features of their line is the initial spice that segs into a balanced and very satisfying finish.

15. Partagas

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Stemming from the mid part of the XIX century, in Cuba, this has been one of the most revered brands of all times. Like all of the major players in the Cuban cigar world, it was also seized by the revolutionary government of Castro in the late 50s toppling its original owners. Today, it remains one of the best-selling brands in the Cuban cigar portfolio, with the Partagas Serie D#4, or PSD4 being king.

16. Alec Bradley

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A true cigar lover from the U.S., Alan Rubin set out to leave his mark in the industry with his Alec Bradley product, named after his two sons. One of his blends was awarded cigar of the year honors a few years ago. He isn’t shy to declare his one and only goal as a cigar maker: to give the cigar smoker an unforgettable experience. To think, he didn’t know anything about cigars before 1996.

17. Romeo Y Julieta

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Also, one of the oldest brands in the original Cuban portfolio, dating back to the mid-19th century. It is preferred all around the world and releases special editions every now and then dedicated to a specific region of the world such as Asia-Pacific, Spain and even Mexico. They’re offering spans many different sizes and levels of strength, all of them perfectly balanced.

18. Punch

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Another Cuban gem created over 150 years ago, it has gained considerable traction in Europe, most notably in Great Britain and Germany. As is the case in many of the Cuban cigarss, they have a wide variety of sizes and taste profiles fit for almost any cigar smoker, from the typical noob that doesn’t know where to cut and light it, all the way to the most discerning aficionado.

19. Bolivar

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Although it’s not one of the most commercialized products in the Cuban portfolio, well-educated smokers flock to the few remaining offerings in the Bolivar portfolio. It is considered one of the strongest exemplars of Cuban cigars, made mostly with different primings of tobacco leaves from the traditional Vuelta Abajo region in Cuba.

20. Gurkha

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Despite being one of the most sold cigars in the U.S., people just can’t seem to get to grips with this brand; either it’s love or loathe, nothing in between. One of Gurkha’s most famous cigars – a cognac infused rarity – is sold for well over $1000, although most of its lines sell for around $5 to $10 a piece. No matter what, they’re worth giving a try.

21. Acid

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Created by Jonathan Drew, mentioned previously, these cigars orbit around the biker crowd, so prominently featured in their packaging and advertising. Cigar purists would rather scoff these blends, with their aromatic botanical infusions, but they become a hit with the younger generations, always willing to try something new, something different.

22. Room 101

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Innovation and pure marketing have become strongholds in the newer version of cigar brands, and none more brilliant than Room 101. Whether the name refers to the infamous L.A. road where owner Matt Booth makes his home, or the tortuous punish room in Orwell’s book, expect a good smoke, chock full of flavor and power. It has many line extensions, all good!

23. Hoyo De Monterrey

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One of the oldest and most legendary brands in the Cuban portfolio, Hoyo was considered for years a milder blend, until half a century ago when the blenders began experimenting with different leaf combinations to create a bolder taste profile. One of its best sellers is the “Epicure” line extension, also featured in some special releases worldwide.

24. Behike

Save the best for last! One of the newer extensions of the Cohiba line, Behike was created to cater to the most discerning aficionados in 2010. It has definitely left a mark in the industry. Behike is the top of the line product of Cuban cigarmaking, with only the best rollers, or torcedores, entrusted with their production. And speaking of price, each cigar can easily be sold for 60 bucks and more, and that, if you can get your hands on one!

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Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Entertainment

Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Luis Fonsi is kicking off 2021 with a new single. The Puerto Rican superstar premiered the music video for “Vacío” on Feb. 18 featuring rising Boricua singer Rauw Alejandro. The guys put a new spin on the classic “A Puro Dolor” by Son By Four.

Luis Fonsi throws it back to his románticas.

“I called Omar Alfanno, the writer of ‘A Puro Dolo,’ who is a dear friend,” Fonsi tells Latido Music. “I told him what my idea was [with ‘Vacío’] and he loved it. He gave me his blessing, so I wrote a new song around a few of those lines from ‘A Puro Dolor’ to bring back that nostalgia of those old romantic tunes that have been a part of my career as well. It’s a fresh production. It sounds like today, but it has that DNA of a true, old-school ballad.”

The world got to know Fonsi through his global smash hit “Despacito” with Daddy Yankee in 2017. The remix with Canadian pop star Justin Bieber took the song to new heights. That was a big moment in Fonsi’s music career that spans over 20 years.

There’s more to Fonsi than “Despacito.”

Fonsi released his first album, the fittingly-titled Comenzaré, in 1998. While he was on the come-up, he got the opportunity of a lifetime to feature on Christina Aguilera’s debut Latin album Mi Reflejo in 2000. The two collaborated on “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” Fonsi scored multiple Billboard Hot Latin Songs No. 1s in the years that followed and one of the biggest hits was “No Me Doy Por Vencido” in 2008. That was his career-defining romantic ballad.

“Despacito” remains the second most-viewed music video on YouTube with over 7.2 billion views. The hits did not stop there. Later in 2017, he teamed up with Demi Lovato for “Échame La Culpa,” which sits impressively with over 2 billion views.

He’s also appearing on The Voice next month.

Not only is Fonsi working on his new album, but also he’s giving advice to music hopefuls for the new season of The Voice that’s premiering on March 1. Kelly Clarkson tapped him as her Battle Advisor. In an exclusive interview, Fonsi talked with us about “Vacío,” The Voice, and a few of his greatest hits.

What was the experience like to work with Rauw Alejandro for “Vacío”?

Rauw is cool. He’s got that fresh sound. Great artist. Very talented. Amazing onstage. He’s got that great tone and delivery. I thought he had the perfect voice to fit with my voice in this song. We had talked about working together for awhile and I thought that this was the perfect song. He really is such a star. What he’s done in the last couple of years has been amazing. I love what he brought to the table on this song.

Now I want to go through some of your greatest hits. Do you remember working with Christina Aguilera for her Spanish album?

How could you not remember working with her? She’s amazing. That was awhile back. That was like 1999 or something like that. We were both starting out and she was putting out her first Spanish album. I got to sing a beautiful ballad called “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” I got to work with her in the studio and see her sing in front of the mic, which was awesome. She’s great. One of the best voices out there still to this day.

What’s one of your favorite memories of “No Me Doy Por Vencido”?

“No Me Doy Por Vencido” is one of the biggest songs in my career. I think it’s tough to narrow it down just to one memory. I think in general the message of the song is what sticks with me. The song started out as a love song, but it turned into an anthem of hope. We’ve used the song for different important events and campaigns. To me, that song has such a powerful message. It’s bigger than just a love song. It’s bringing hope to people. It’s about not giving up. To be able to kind of give [people] hope through a song is a lot more powerful than I would’ve ever imagined. It’s a very special song.

I feel the message is very relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic we’re living through.

Oh yeah! I wrote that song a long time ago with Claudia Brant, and during the first or second month of the lockdown when we were all stuck at home, we did a virtual writing session and we rewrote “No Me Doy Por Vencido.” Changing the lyrics, kind of adjusting them to this situation that we’re living now. I haven’t recorded it. I’ll do something with it eventually. It’s really cool. It still talks about love. It talks about reuniting. Like the light at the end of the tunnel. It has the hope and love backbone, but it has to do a lot with what we’re going through now.

What do you think of the impact “Despacito” made on the industry?

It’s a blessing to be a part of something so big. Again, it’s just another song. We write these songs and the moment you write them, you don’t really know what’s going to happen with them. Or sometimes you run into these surprises like “Despacito” where it becomes a global phenomenon. It goes No. 1 in places where Spanish songs had never been played. I’m proud. I’m blessed. I’m grateful to have worked with amazing people like Daddy Yankee. Like Justin Bieber for the remix and everyone else involved in the song. My co-writer Erika Ender. The producers Mauricio Rengifo and Andrés Torres. It was really a team effort and it’s a song that obviously changed my career forever.

What was the experience like to work with Demi Lovato on “Echáme La Culpa”?

She’s awesome! One of the coolest recording sessions I’ve ever been a part of. She really wanted to sing in Spanish and she was so excited. We did the song in Spanish and English, but it was like she was more excited about the Spanish version. And she nailed it! She nailed it from the beginning. There was really not much for me to say to her. I probably corrected her once or twice in the pronunciation, but she came prepared and she brought it. She’s an amazing, amazing, amazing vocalist.

You’re going to be a battle advisor on The Voice. What was the experience like to work with Kelly Clarkson?

She’s awesome. What you see is what you get. She’s honest. She’s funny. She’s talented. She’s humble and she’s been very supportive of my career. She invited me to her show and it speaks a lot that she wanted me to be a part of her team as a Battle Advisor for the new season. She supports Latin music and I’m grateful for that. She’s everything you hope she would be. She’s the real deal, a true star, and just one of the coolest people on this planet.

What can we expect from you in 2021?

A lot of new music. Obviously, everything starts today with “Vacío.” This is literally the beginning of what this new album will be. I’ve done nothing but write and record during the last 10 months, so I have a bunch of songs. Great collaborations coming up. I really think the album will be out probably [in the] third or fourth quarter this year. The songs are there and I’m really eager for everybody to hear them.

Read: We Finally Have A Spanish-Language Song As The Most Streamed Song Of All Time

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Lifestyles Of The Rich And Dangerous: Cartels Are Using TikTok To Lure Young People

Things That Matter

Lifestyles Of The Rich And Dangerous: Cartels Are Using TikTok To Lure Young People

If you’ve ever wondered what someone with a bulletproof vest and an AR-15 would look like flossing — the dance, not the method of dental hygiene — apparently the answer to that question can be found on TikTok.

Unfortunately, it’s not as a part of some absurdist sketch comedy or surreal video art installation. Instead, it’s part of a growing trend of drug cartels in Mexico using TikTok as a marketing tool. Nevermind the fact that Mexico broke grim records last year for the number of homicides and cartel violence, the cartels have found an audience on TikTok and that’s a serious cause for concern.

Mexican cartels are using TikTok to gain power and new recruits.

Just a couple of months ago, a TikTok video showing a legit high-speed chase between police and drug traffickers went viral. Although it looked like a scene from Netflix’s Narcos series, this was a very real chase in the drug cartel wars and it was viewed by more than a million people.

Typing #CartelTikTok in the social media search bar brings up thousands of videos, most of them from people promoting a “cartel culture” – videos with narcocorridos, and presumed members bragging about money, fancy cars and a luxury lifestyle.

Viewers no longer see bodies hanging from bridges, disembodied heads on display, or highly produced videos with messages to their enemies. At least not on TikTok. The platform is being used mainly to promote a lifestyle and to generate a picture of luxury and glamour, to show the ‘benefits’ of joining the criminal activities.

According to security officials, the promotion of these videos is to entice young men who might be interested in joining the cartel with images of endless cash, parties, military-grade weapons and exotic pets like tiger cubs.

Cartels have long used social media to shock and intimidate their enemies.

And using social media to promote themselves has long been an effective strategy. But with Mexico yet again shattering murder records, experts on organized crime say Cartel TikTok is just the latest propaganda campaign designed to mask the blood bath and use the promise of infinite wealth to attract expendable young recruits.

“It’s narco-marketing,” said Alejandra León Olvera, an anthropologist at Spain’s University of Murcia, in a statement to the New York Times. The cartels “use these kinds of platforms for publicity, but of course it’s hedonistic publicity.”

Mexico used to be ground zero for this kind of activity, where researchers created a new discipline out of studying these narco posts. Now, gangs in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, and the United States are also involved.

A search of the #CartelTikTok community and its related accounts shows people are responding. Public comments from users such as “Y’all hiring?” “Yall let gringos join?” “I need an application,” or “can I be a mule? My kids need Christmas presents,” are on some of the videos.

One of the accounts related to this cartel community publicly answered: “Of course, hay trabajo para todos,” “I’ll send the application ASAP.” “How much is the pound in your city?” “Follow me on Instagram to talk.” The post, showing two men with $100 bills and alcohol, had more than a hundred comments.

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