XIV Habanos Festival

This week’s blog comes to you from sunny Havana 🙂 where I am proud to be participating in the 14th annual Festival Habano.

After a rather bumpy Virgin flight (turbulence seems to be the same in Upper Class – even if laying flat!) I actually managed to zoom through immigration and grab my cases before I had time to herf a Partagas Shorts which is a record for Havana airport arrivals! Headed straight to Palacio for a smoke and to grab some Montecristo Gran Reserva to enjoy over the next few days… may as well enjoy Havana in style.

After a few worries as to whether I would even have a hotel room at the Nacional, it was a pleasant surprise to find I had been booked into a very comfortable suite with fabulous views of the Malecon. Spent the evening on the Terrace with numerous friends from all over the globe and ended the evening having a smoke with the Hunters and Frankau group. Simon Chase kindly gifted me a delicious San Cristobal (new size – looked like a Maravillas) and another friend gave me the new Cohiba Piramides extra which is not only a great size but also an excellent blend. I am looking forward to these cigars becoming available as I am certain they will be exceptionally popular.

Thursday has been a whirlwind days of herfing round the cigar stores starting with coffee and a BHK52 at Miramar LCDH and moving on to the Melia Habana where I hooked up my laptop and emailed the office 17 photos in 3 hours (so much for fast wifi!) but managed 2 BHK56’s whilst going through the painful email process. The cigar stores are well stocked and  there are plenty of the H Upmann Royal Robusto wooden boxes of 10 which I believe are only for sale in Cuba.

I visited the trade fair at the Convention Centre which was the busiest I can ever remember it (as well as the hottest) and collected some beautiful ceramic jars that were made for me. Some will be used to display Havanas in our retail cigar stores and a few may be sold in the future. Found a fabulous original photo of Che that will go nicely in our collection and a few large ‘tronquitos’  then back to the Nacional terrace for more smokes and drinks with Christoph from LCDH Hamburg and friends.

Hunters and Frankau invited the top UK cigar specialists including Eddie Sahakian of Davidoff and Parresh Patel of Regal to the first tasting of the UK regional edition Bolivar Britanicas – a celestiales finos shaped cigar – 5 3/8” length and 48 ring gauge cigar, presented in wooden boxes of 10 and hopefully due to arrive in our humidors this month.

After smoking two of these cigars I can report that this is another winner for the UK regional edition series. The blend is full flavoured, smooth, complex and medium to full strength. The construction was perfect with an even burn and an attractive Colorado maduro wrapper. Only 3000 boxes of 10 will ever be made and they are likely to sell out very fast. Despite having no confirmed price as yet we already have almost 500 orders!

This Festival has a buzz like no other I can remember. Havana seems jam packed this year and there is an amazing atmosphere. The weather is hot and sunny during the day and balmy in the evenings – just perfect.

There are some great cigars being introduced at the gala dinner including this year’s Romeo Gran Reserva which is a Churchill in possibly the most beautiful presentation box yet.

The highlight of the  Gala dinner of course was the Humidor Auction with all proceeds going to the Cuban National Health Service and conducted by Simon Chase. Each auction Lot can only be described as a unique creation. The cigars in the humidors are rolled by the most skilled master rollers and the humidors are quite breath taking.

Lot 1 H Upmann Humidor, ceramic jar and ashtray with 350 cigars, including H Upmann no.3 which has not been made since the 1970’s, as well as grandes and short piramides which are not commercial production vitola.

Lot 2 Hoyo de Monterrey, 350 cigars including specially made Obseqios, Extravaganza,Colosales and Belicosos no.1

Lot 3 Romeo y Julieta, 350 cigars including Fabulosos no.6, Seleccion de Luxe – a vitola not made since the 1960’s, Petit Piramides and Aguilas.

Lot 4 Partagas, 350 cigars including Serie D no. 1 and 2, Serie C no.4, Salmones no.2 and Sobrasalientes

Lot 5 Montecristo, 375 cigars including Gran Reserva, Double Coronas and Maravillas no.1

Lot 6 Cohiba, an incredible humidor of El Laguito complete with 520 cigars including the incredible 2009 Gran Reserva

I’ll scan the brochure and put up on the website soon as I get back to London so you can see the full descriptions.

I have been coming to Havana for 16 years, 54 visits so far! and have attended the last 12 Festivals but I think I have enjoyed this one the most due to the incredible atmosphere and the good times herfing with so many friends from all over the world.

The Gala dinner was a slick affair with nonstop entertainment by singers and dancers over a long evening that finished around 1.30 am. We enjoyed Romeo Exhibition no.4 on arrival followed by the new petit Churchill, Wide Churchill and finally Gran Reserva… with plenty of wine, port and rum served in a red Romeo imaged room at Pabexco that was very impressive.

Ana Lopez (marketing Director Habanos SA) welcomed us and the highlight of our evening was Jemma Freeman winning the Habanos award for business which was richly deserved. The UK market is a mature and sophisticated market and clearly a growing market. This is thanks to the stringent quality control by Hunters and Frankau that we believe make our English Market Selection (EMS) Havanas the finest in the world.
Results now in: Habanos Festival Gala dinner Auction results In Euros


1. 60,000
2. 40,000
3. 130,000
4. 60,000
5. 80,000
6. 360,000

Total 730,000 Euros

Peaceful puffing  and best wishes from Havana