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11th March Report on Festival del Habanos by our roving reporter Smokeymo!

Its good to be back in London after a very hectic week at the Festival del Habanos 2002. 

The Festival is held annually and its attended by over 500 people in the cigar trade as well as aficionados and connoisseurs. 

I spent some days walking around the excellent trade fair at the convention center in Havana examining the new products that are available. 

Humidors of every size and type from various manufacturers, as well as the new limited edition Humidors by Cohiba and Vegas Robaina were on display. 

Smokes Magazine had their own stand as did some of the collectors of antique pre Castro cabinets, vitofilia and other ephemera. 

There was even a new stand selling tobacco flavoured chocolate (not very impressive!) 

Alejandro Robaina of Vegas Robaina brand fame was at the Exhibition for the first day and you can see photographs on my website. 

Whilst I stayed in a private house in the Miramar area, I spent most evenings enjoying Mojitos and Havanas on the terrace at the Hotel Nacional, particularly with good friends from the Hunters & Frankau group including Mike Davis who incidentally was nominated for an award at the Festival Dinner, (and operates the most excellent retail cigar merchants of Frederick Tranter in Bath, Oxford and Cambridge), Paul Child of the excellent retail cigar merchants Hollingsworth in Birmingham and Hubert from J J Fox of St James's, a Havana cigar institution if ever there was! 

Smoked a cigar or two with James Suckling from Cigar Aficionado, James is the European Editor and is actually far more knowledgeable than I had previously thought regarding Havana cigars and in particular aged and rare Havana cigars. 

There is always a lot of talk in the newsgroups about Cigar Aficionado and many of my friends are not terribly keen on their tasting notes, particularly when they refer to 'lead or macadamia nuts'! I'm pleased to report that James is not on the Taste Testing panel! :-) 

Whilst stocks of all the regular brands and vitolas of Havana cigars were in abundance at all of the cigar shops in Havana, regrettably, there was no sign of the new Limited Edition cigars, such as the Cohiba Piramides, Montecristo Double Corona, Partagas Serie D No. 3 and Romeo Robusto (all Maduros). These are expected to be made available by the end of this month although we have been promised the same for over 6 months. 

I was invited to a cigar tasting of the new maduro limited edition Romeo y Julieta Robusto held by Habanos at the Villa Conda deNueva Hotel which was an enlightening and interesting experience. 

Our task was to evaluate a recent and rather dark Partagas Serie D No. 4 as well as the new Romeo LE Maduro Robusto upon which the consensus of opinion was that its a well balanced, very attractive cigar which shows great promise despite its youth. 

Ana Lopez, the Marketing Director of Habanos SA gave the most interesting talk about the cigar industry, quality control and the Limited Edition cigars following the taste testing. Tatiana Camacho and Simon Chase from Hunters & Frankau also attended the taste testing. 

The festival dinner was held at Havana's National Museum of Fine Arts, the reception and the meal was the best ever and of course the guest of honour was Fidel Castro who arrived before dinner with literally 100's of cameras eagerly taking photographs of him. 

I sat at the Hunters & Frankau table which coincidentally was the next table to Fidel so I have some good photographs of him on my website. 

Simon Chase the marketing director of Hunters & Frankau professionally conducted the auction to raise money for Cuban health-care. A total of approximately $628,000 was raised on some 10 auction lots of beautiful humidors containing very rare cigars. (take a look at some of the mouth watering photographs on my website) festival2002.htm 

Whilst mooching around the usual haunts in Havana, it was great to see the wonderful rollers practicing their skills and craft. Toboada, Luna and Valdes have all rolled some very special blended cigars for me, which I enjoyed during my trip and have a small quantity available for purchase by my clients. 

The weather was colder than expected in Havana and on the last day we even had plenty of rain and windy conditions (I almost thought I was back in London!) 

The buildings and roads are in worse condition than I can ever remember them since I started visiting Havana many years ago and I think the last hurricane caused plenty of the damage, which so far has not yet been repaired, more's the shame. 

Havana is a city that remains full of charm, beautiful music, friendly people, usually great weather and perfect cigars and wonderful rum. 

If you are thinking of taking a trip to Havana, contact my colleague Mike Mirecki through our Cuba Welcome Travel page on the website. 

Auction Lots at the Festival del Habanos 2002

LOT No. 1 Humidor with an Engraving Donated by the Fine Arts Museum of Cuba 
Bought: Max Gutmann
Country: Mexico
Mount: $50,000.00
LOT NO. 2 Romeo and Juliet Humidor 
Bought: Roque Navarro
Country: Spain
Bought: Alfonso Cirela Sta Susana Country: Spain
Mount: $30,000.00
LOT NO. 3 Hundredth Anniversary Painting and
Humidor of the BolĆ­var Brand 
Bought: Roque Navarro
Country: Spain Bought: Alfonso Cirela Sta Susana
Country: Spain
Mount: $70,000.00
LOT No. 4 120th Anniversary of Rey del Mundo Brand 
Bought: Cigar Shop Andorra
Country: Andorra
Mount: $30,000.00
LOT NO. 5 Old-Timed Cigar Boxes CabaƱas Old-Timed Cigar Box Bought: Hua Shan Read
Country: China 
Mount: $9,000.00
Hoyo de Monterrey Old-Timed Cigar Box Bought: Candice Marrocco Country: Brazil
Mount: $9,000.00
LOT No. 6 Hoyo de Monterrey 
Bought: Alzayani
Country: Qatar
Mount: $25,000.00
LOT No. 7 Fifth Anniversary Humidor of Vegas Robaina Brand 
Bought: Jose Maria Cases
Country: Qatar
Mount: $30,000.00
LOT No. 8 Montecristo Humidor 
Bought: George Sagredo
Country: Switzerland
Mount: $100,000.00
LOT No. 9 PartagĆ”s 
Humidor Collection 
Bought: Noelle Levy
Country: Switzerland
Mount: $29,000.00
LOT No. 10 Cohiba Humidors 
Bought: Emilio Llopis
Country: Spain
Mount: $250,000.00
Compay SegundoĀ“s Hat 
Bought: Katia Noventa
Italian TV Anchorwoman linked to the Berlusconi family
Mount: $25,000.00
Tablecloth hand-painted by Artist Nelson Dominguez 
Bought: Hua Shan Read
Country: China 
Mount: $3,200.00

SmokeyMo Herfing at the Festival del Habanos 2002

Mike Mirecki from Cuba Welcome & SmokeyMo herfing in Havana at Don Giovanni Italian Restaurant SmokeyMo, Mike Mirecki & Hubert of J J Fox enjoying a smoke on the terrace of the Hotel Nacional James Suckling, European Editor of Cigar Aficionado and Alejandro Robaina at the convention center for the Festival del Habanos James Suckling, Alejandro Robaina and Smokeymo
Photographs of Fidel and Che displayed
 at the Hotel Nacional
Valerio Cornale displays his incredible collection of pre castro cigar cabinets and collectibles at the Hotel Nacional
Fellow ASCers Rafael Bernardo, SmokeyMo and Capt'n Keith on the terrace of the Nacional The VIP room and humidor in the Partagas Casa del Habanos Kiki, Assistant Manager of the Partagas Factory Casa del Habanos showing off a beautiful bunch of Diademas Mike & Viv of Cuba Welcome
Smokeymo with Jorge Luna one of the finest rollers in Havana One of the lovely ladies greeting the guests at the Festival del Habanos 2002 dinner Paul Child of Hollingsworth, Denis Frucot the runner up of the cigar Sommelier contest and Mike Davis of Cigar Connoisseur
Buy! Buy! Buy! Taste Testing Panel for the New Limited Edition Romeo y Julieta Robusto Maduro at the Villa Conda de Nueva
Ana Lopez Marketing Director of Habanos SA, Tatiana Camacho, Cuban Director of Hunters & Frankau and Smokeymo at the Romeo Taste Testing   Alberto Manager of the Casa del Habanoss at Villa Conda de Nueva with Simon Chase Marketing Director of Hunters & Frankau SmokeyMo and James Suckling of Cigar Aficionado at the Romeo Taste Testing by Habanos at the Villa Conda de Nueva
Simon Chase in a Haze of smoke Swedens famous journalist and Cigar Aficionado Johan Markwall, one of the taste testing panel Simon Chase & Smokeymo Rudolpho Toboada at the Casa del Habanos in the La Corona factory
This is how close I got to Fidel!! Osmany, Manager of the Casa del Habanos on 5th Avenue Cocktail party at the Casa del Habanos in the Partagas factory Rafael Bernardo enjoys a longer length Havana these days!
Fidel Castro at the Festival del Habanos dinner

The Festival dinner auction was conducted by Simon Chase from Hunters & Frankau ~
and $660,000 was raised.  Roving reporter MO enjoyed the dinner, auction and Rum and is currently flying back to the UK! Full report to follow.

The lots included the following humidors:

Montecristo Humidor
contains 100 cigars 
35 Especiales, 20 No. 2s , 25 A size and 20 Robustos 

Vegas Robaina Humidor
containing a varity of vitolas from this brand. In a most beautifully
presented humidor.

Hoyo de Monterrey Humidor
contains 100 cigars
20 Epicure No. 2s , 20 Churchills, 20 Epicure No. 1s, 20 Double Coronas, 
and 20 cigars of a size that has not yet been confirmed.

El Rey Del Mundo Humidor
To mark the 120th anniversary of the El Rey Del Mundo brand.
contains 120 El Rey delMundo cigars 
30 Grandes de EspaƱa
25 Choix Supreme
25 Lonsdales
25 Coronas de luxe
15 TaĆ­nos

Our roving reporter MO is currently in Havana enjoying some fine cigars and
lots of sunshine........ full report to follow.

Here's a brief glimpse at some of the items he will be bringing back!

 Superb Vegas Robaina Limited Edition Humidor to celebrate the 83rd birthday of Don Alejandro Robaina, individually numbered and signed by Don  Alejandro. These beautiful humidors contain

40 Vegas Robaina Don Alejandro (Double Corona),
40 Vegas Robaina Famosos (Hermosos)
3 Vegas Robaina Familiars

Cohiba 35th Anniversary Humidor - beautifully
designed and crafted by HUMIDIF.

 We will be selling the Cohiba 35th Anniversary cigars in singles
and sampler packs at the end of March.

The new Romeo Robusto Limited Edition Maduro was enjoyed at the taste testing organized by Habanos SA at the Condor Villa Neuva Hotel in Old Havana.

 MO reports that although fresh this cigar is well balanced, nicely constructed and of beautiful appearance.  The general impression by the taste test panel is that this cigar would be very popular and well received by Havana cigar smokers eagerly awaiting the four new Limited Edition vitolas.

We have managed to secure the last few boxes of the extremely
limited production Cuaba Diademas.

Once again by popular request........ Baseball Bats made out of 100% Havana Tobacco and crafted by a tobacco artist.  Encased in their own glass tube and a very attractive conversation piece. Limited number available of course so email now to purchase.

MO's also been walking the trade fair at the convention center in Havana and no doubt as well as enjoying the rum and the cigars he'll be bringing back some new and interesting cigar accessories and humidors, not to mention vitofilia and pre castro cigar cabinets and photographs of Che and Fidel.

Full report including 'the dinner' follows later next week.