My first shipment from a new vendor came in, and as promised I'm going to do a quick overview of the authentication process. The first thing to note is that in the country of origin it is required by law to add large warning labels that warn the buyer about the health dangers of smoking cigars. What you need to know is that I've removed these labels via razor blade prior to taking the photos below. As a result, there may appear to be a rectangular shaped area on both the top and the bottom of the box that either look slightly marred, or look as though some sort of residue is on the box. The marring was caused by inexactitude with the razor blade, the film was caused by the stickers themselves.
First we'll cover the top of the box. In this case the box itself contains 12 purported Trinidad Robusto Extras (TREs from here on out). As you can see from the photo, the "Habanos" sticker is correctly placed, running diagonally across the top right of the dress box. The warranty sticker is also placed correctly, running from top to bottom, with the shield on the sticker precisely bisected by the edge of the lid. Unfortunately, a small part of the warranty sticker was covered by one of the health labels, so in removing it, it peeled up that small part of the warranty sticker.
Here is a photo of the warranty sticker as can be seen on the front side of the box.
And here is the bottom of the box which contains the rest of the warranty sticker, as well as the stamps "HABANOS s.a.", "HECHO EN CUBA", and "Totalmente a mano". A tactile inspection of these three stamps reveals that they can all be felt with the finger, and that they are indeed stamped into the wood, the "HABANOS s.a." stamp being the easiest to feel. Underneath that is the factory code "OUS", and underneath that is the date of production "ABR-09" which means these cigars were produced in April of 2009. Again, the sticky film and marring of the box you see in this photo is due to my incompetence with a razor blade.
Next comes a visual inspection of the inside of the box as it is first opened. The paper on top measures ~4 1/4 inches by 2 3/4 inches and should be the first thing you see in every box of cuban cigars you open. From experience I can tell you that the paper you see here is legitimate. On the inside of the top lid you see "TTT TRINIDAD HABANA-CUBA" logo in the form of an oval shaped sticker, this is normal for this particular box of cigars. So far, so good.
Next you'll find the Trinidad logo parchment paper, this is also all well and good for this brand of cigar.
Now we get to the top layer of the cigars themselves. As I mentioned previously, this is a box of 12, so there are two layers of six separated by a thing slice of spanish cedar. Here is where I was slightly disappointed, but not terribly so. I've seen better presentation, but I'm going to chalk this up to jostling caused by these smokes having travelled halfway around the world. The bands are all for the most part aligned. The color of the cigars is consistent within the box. The cigar on the bottom has a slight imperfection toward the foot of the cigar, but I can overlook that. Additionally this box has slightly more waterspots (they look like small what spots that are not visible in this photo) than some previous boxes I've ordered, but waterspots are considered a minor imperfection. The golden cloth band wrapping the cigars is present as expected. Also note that all the cigars on the top layer of this box have the trademark TRE "pigtail".
Thin slice of spanish cedar separating the layers with thumb cutout. Again, this is all as expected.
On the bottom layer of cigars, which was more tightly packed, you'll note that the bands are aligned perfectly with not the slightest deviation. You can see a few waterspots in this photo. See the cigar next to the top one, just underneath the band. Again, this is a minor imperfection and not a cause for concern. There is absolutely no chipping or damage to any of the cigars in this photo. The tiny white dust like particles on the cigars are called plume, and they are not a bad thing. Again, the trademark "pigtail" is present on each cigar.
In the next photo, on the top we find a TRE from a previous known good source. The color is slightly darker than the one on bottom which comes from the present box, but this is not a concern as color only needs to be consistent within a given box. The cigars are otherwise the exact same length and consistency. The bands even align perfectly. The only minor difference I found was the number of "TTTs" on either side of the main logo on the bands. The bands are otherwise identical and this is probably due to a change in the bands themselves.
The side of the box, for reference. There is nothing of exceptional interest to be garnered from this photo, but I felt I should include it for the sake of thoroughness.
Lastly, the box smells like a barn, so overall, I'm 98% confident that this new vendor I'm trying out is legit and I will be placing another order from them. I hope this helps.