OFFICIAL VOICE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Some 2,000 participants from over 60 countries attended the 18th Habano Festival. Photo: Yaimí Ravelo

A haze of smoke still hangs in the air following the celebrations of the 18th Habano Festival, the largest international event for enthusiasts of the best tobacco in the world. The festival brought more than 2,000 participants from over 60 countries to the Cuban capital, from February 29 to March 4.

This year’s edition was dedicated to Cohiba, the flagship Habanos brand, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, which was celebrated in style with a closing gala held at Havana’s Pabexpo exposition center.

In this context, the presentation of the new Cohiba Medio Siglo (ring gauge 52 x 102mm long) was a landmark event, a product that joins the brand’s regular portfolio within the Línea 1492 line.

Likewise, two other special edition products were launched to mark the occasion - a limited edition vintage-style humidor containing the exclusive Cohiba Majestuoso 1966 vitola (ring gauge 58 x 150mm) - aroused particular interest among worldwide tobacco manufacturers and suppliers, as well as artisans and smoking accessory collectors and dealers.

The luxury “Cohiba 50 Aniversario” humidor cabinet was also presented during the event, a limited edition of just 50 units, which is lined with Cuban ligero tobacco leaves plated with 24-carat gold. Each humidor is numbered and contains fifty “Cohiba 50 Aniversario” cigars.

This unique format vitola has a ring gauge of 60 by 178mm long, and is the first of this gauge (23.80mm) in the Habanos range, designed especially for the anniversary.

The 2,500 Habanos in this edition have been made with the signature taste the brand has become known for over the past five decades, all rolled completely by hand with long fillers at the El Laguito Factory in Havana.

The humidor, meanwhile, is made from a variety of precious woods, such as Macasar ebony, sycamore and pink cedar from the guarea cedrata family.

It was produced by the firm Elie Bleu, based on a design by Jean-Philippe Martin. The leaves used in the new Cohiba were meticulously handpicked from the best tobacco plantations in San Juan y Martínez and San Luis, in the region of Vuelta Abajo, Pinar del Río.

While Cohiba featured center stage during the close of the festival, the Hoyo de Monterrey Reserva Cosecha 2012 did the same during the Welcome Evening held at the beautiful Antiguo Almacén del Tabaco y la Madera, in the San José warehouse district on Havana’s Avenida del Puerto.

The new Cohiba Medio Siglo vitola was presented to mark the 50th anniversary of the brand, to which the Festival was dedicated. Photo: Yaimí Ravelo

This is the first Reserva line from Hoyo de Monterrey, in the form of its iconic Epicure No.2 vitola (ring gauge 50 x 124mm). All of the leaves used in this Habano (wrapper, filler and binder) were subject to a three year process of careful ageing, resulting in a unique and exclusive production of just 5,000 numbered boxes, representing the absolute excellence of the brand. Undoubtedly, they will be a sensation among Habano enthusiasts.

Hoyo de Monterrey is one of the oldest and most prestigious Habanos brands. The brand name dates back to 1865, and owes its origin to the plantation of the same name, also located in San Juan y Martínez, in the heart of the Vuelta Abajo region. This new Reserva cigar is true to the unique character of Habanos, recognized for their Protected Denomination of Origin status.

Other new products presented during the event included the Cuaba 20 Aniversario vitola, the H. Upmann Magnum 54, as well as the 2016 limited edition lines: Montecristo Dantés and Romeo y Julieta Capuletos; and the Trinidad Topes from the Habanos Añejados range.

Enjoying these exclusive Habanos in this rebellious yet hospitable land is, without a doubt, to discover the roots and secrets of a centuries-long tradition of tobacco in Cuba, dating back to the island’s indigenous population.

AN INTENSE PROGRAM

National and international delegates and guests enjoyed a series of special moments during the Festival, which ranged from the traditional visit to tobacco farms in the Vuelta Abajo region of the province of Pinar del Río, to tours of the El Laguito factory, the headquarters of the Cohiba brand and the Trade Fair, as well as the International Seminar with master classes and talks by recognized Habano experts. The program also included tastings and pairings with exclusive products such as Chianti wines, Royal Salute 21 Year Old whiskey from the Pernod Ricard company, Bodegas Torres white wine, the Tributo and Unión rums from Havana Club, and the Caney and Isla del Tesoro rums from the CIMEX corporation and Cubaron company, respectively.

PARTICIPANTS HAVE THEIR SAY

According to Javier Terréz de Ercilla, vice president of Development at Habanos. S.A., the Habano Festival is the biggest premium tobacco public relations event in the world.

“There is no event like this in any other country, in which over 2,000 people, from more than 60 countries come together over one week to surround themselves with the Habano culture. It is a unique showcase to launch new products, introduce our own products and exchange with consumers.

“I've been working in Cuba since 2000 and increasing numbers of enthusiasts of the cigars made on this island come, which makes us strive each year to offer the very best to our customers,” Terréz de Ercilla, from Madrid, explains.

When asked what the company means to him personally, he confesses: “I think that anyone working in Habanos S.A. has to be aware that it is a privilege, as you are in contact with a unique product, a leader in the world market; a product that represents Cuba in every sense.”

Meanwhile, Australian-Canadian Dwight Mullally-Zakus, a retired university professor aged 65, attending the Habano Festival for the first time, stated that he thought it was a great and truly unique event.

After explaining that this was his third trip to Cuba, he revealed, with a clear twinkle in his eyes, his love “for Habanos, for Cuba and her people.” He continued, “I would like to move to this country and live here with my wife.”

REALITIES AND CHALLENGES

Habanos S.A. exclusively sells 27 brands of Habanos across the world, and saw sales amounting to $428 million dollars in 2015, representing 4% growth in constant currency terms in relation to the previous year. This result was considered positive by Luis Sánchez-Harguindey, co-president of the joint venture.

Supported by its exclusivity and appreciated by smokers of premium cigars worldwide, the Habano has become an absolute world leader in the sector. The cigars are sold in 165 countries worldwide, with the exception of the U.S., due to the blockade against Cuba.

This 18th Habano Festival offered the perfect context in which to enjoy the passion that surrounds the Habano.