Mar 1st 2009 9:43PM Have smoked mostly (95%) Havanas for 20+ years (Canada). Some of the best are cheap. You do not need to spend lots of $$$. Outside of Cuba they are ridiculously overpriced because of taxes and greed and hype. There are some exceptions e.g. Argentina.
Aside from the current hysteria about fakes, Cuban cigars do in fact often have construction quality issues. But I would still smoke a less than perfectly constructed Havana - or even what the Stateside experts would call a "fake" - simply because the tobacco is frankly unmatched by DR, Nicaragua & Honduras. At times, close. But no cigar...Cuban seed tobacco is fine; Cuban terrior and processing is what makes the difference.
The non-Havanas are generally better made, many significantly so (e.g. 601 & DPG) - which is a plus and a pleasure. I have been very impressed by the higher-end non-Havanas especially. Problem is the good ones are priced as if they were serious Havanas. A Flor Dominicana Chiselito is a worthwhile experience - but @ US$5+ there are many fine "Cubans" which are better value. At least for now. When (not if) the embargo ends, US demand will run up the price. Will be interesting to see what happens to the price of non-Havanas.