"I can announce that the United States has agreed to formally establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba, and reopen embassies in our respective countries. This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people, and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas."
Following this speech, news broke that Vice President Biden will be travelling to Havana to raise the American flag over the U.S. embassy for the first time in the half-century length of the embargo.
In Havana, the current Cuban President Raul Castro spoke on television with similarly positive news:
"We want to develop a friendship between our two nations that is based on the equality of rights and the people's free will."
His speech was followed by an announcement of the reopening of Cuban embassies in the U.S. by July 20th. Both leaders' speeches highlighted a willingness to work together but they did not hide the fact that there will be some issues with the reopening of relations between the two old enemies. However, it is clear that both are aware that isolationism simply does not work between two countries located so closely geographically to each other and that the past 54 years have been a failure on the part of both governments.
We have been getting a lot of questions lately from readers about the status of Cuban cigar imports. With the US finally normalizing relations with Cuba, restrictions are already beginning to loosen, although not too quickly. Here’s the skinny on bringing Cuban cigars into the country so that you know what you currently can and cannot do!
If you are authorized to travel to Cuba, you may purchase alcohol and tobacco products for personal use (not to re-sell) totaling up to $100 in value. That is a combined total. You may personally bring the alcohol and tobacco products back to the USA when you return to the country.
One thing you still cannot do legally is purchase Cuban tobacco or alcohol products online or in another country. So you cannot for example buy Cuban cigars in Nicaragua and then bring them back with you to America. But if you are visiting Cuba, you can buy up to $100 in Cuban cigars, and bring them back to the USA.
As for the future, hopefully restrictions will continue to loosen. In order for full trade to be restored, however, Cuba is requiring that the US return the base at Guantanamo Bay, stop broadcasting anti-Castro messages into Cuba, and also pay millions of dollars for damages due to the embargo. Odds are none of this will be happening any time soon. These are some pretty hefty demands. It is hard to say for sure that Cuba is serious about moving forward. So for now, keep purchases down to $100 or less while you are visiting the island. We will update you if there are any more changes—and we sure hope there will be.
When President Obama announced he was opening talks with the Cuban government, cigar smokers across America rejoiced. After five decades of an embargo, there was finally hope that Cuban cigars would soon become available to consumers in the US. Would we finally be able to buy CCs without looking over our shoulders? Unfortunately, at this time, the terms of the negotiations indicate that legal Cuban cigars may be a long way off for Americans.
In order for full trade relations to happen, Cuba is demanding that:
The US stop broadcasting anti-Castro radio/TV into the island;
The US pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for losses due to the embargo.
These demands illustrate that the Castro regime has no real interest in rapprochement with the US. Additionally, the Helms-Burton act of 1996 states the embargo can only be lifted by Congress. Under this act, Cuba must hold free elections, release political prisoners, guarantee worker’s rights, and allow freedom of the press. But the Castro brothers have as much revolutionary zeal as ever, and no interest in promoting democracy and privatization. Unless there is a regime change, the terms of Helms-Burton will never be met. And history has shown that only overt war can bring about such a change. No one wants that.
The 17th Annual Habanos festival kicked off on February 23rd at the Palacio de Convenciones, and will run through the 27th of the month. Participants were welcomed to the event at the historic Almacén del Tabaco y la Madera at the port of Havana. Yesterday gave manufacturers, suppliers, and enthusiasts from around the world an opportunity to network.
Scheduled events for this year’s festival include pairings between Habanos and Chianti wines, lectures on Habanos, and master classes. There will also be contests, including the longest ash competition and the Habanosommelier International Contest. Participants will also be able to tour the plantations of Vuelta Abajo and the historic H. Upmann Habanos and La Corona factories on Tuesday and Thursday. On Wednesday, the 25th Anniversary of la Casa del Habano will be celebrated at the Salón de Protocolo de El Laguito. Finally, the event will conclude with the Gala Evening, when the Montecristo brand will launch its much anticipated 80th Anniversary vitola. Guests will have the opportunity to sample the special vitola during the gala dinner. Finally, awards will be given out and custom humidors will be auctioned off to benefit the Cuban Public Health System.
One of the highlights of this year’s festival is the Taste of Tuscany. This is the pairing event where participants can enjoy the nuanced flavors of Habanos and Chianti wines. Participating vineyards include Pieve De’Pitti, Castello del Trebbio, Azienda Agricola Pugliano, and Chianti Colli Fiorentini. The first two vineyards will provide wines to be tasted with the Montecristo Open Eagle, and the second two will provide wines to be tasted with Le Hoyo San Juan. Latin Grammy winner Descemer Bueno will perform his greatest hits at the tasting event, and renowned Belgian chef Anne Marie Lauwers will provide a delicious fusion of Asian, European, and Cuban cuisine for the guests.
Another key event during the Habanos Festival is the presentation of the new Romeo y Julieta Gran Reserva Wide Churchill vitola. This highly anticipated cigar uses filler, binder and wrapper leaves which have all been aged for five years, handpicked from the Vuelta Abajo region. The notes are mild, well-balanced, and subtly nuanced for delicious aromas and flavors. Only 5,000 numbered boxes are being produced.
With the festival already underway, this is a very exciting time for cigar enthusiasts in Havana and around the world! Are you able to attend the Habanos Festival this year? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!
Anyone who is familiar with Cuban cigars is also familiar with the Vegueros brand name—and will be thrilled to learn that the Vegueros brand is coming out with three brand new vitolas. Along with some refreshing changes to the brand’s image, these new vitolas are paving the way for a new era of Vegueros excellence.
The history of Vegueros dates clear back to 1961 when the Francisco Donatién Factory in the Pinar del Rio Province started manufacturing cigars. The factory was erected in 1868, but previously specialized solely in cigarettes. The high-quality cigars produced in the factory used tobacco farmed in the famous Vuelta Abajo region. Named for the farmers that worked the tobacco and sugar cane plantations in the area, the Vegueros line became quite famous as well. Vegueros were rolled especially for national banquets and other important events. Tourists began purchasing the cigars, and eventually, in 1997, Habanos SA began exporting them.
Previously, there were just four vitolas in the Vegueros line: Especial No. 1, Especial No. 2, Mareva and Seoane. Now, Vegueros is rebooting the brand, and has introduced three new vitolas: Tapados, Entretiempos, and Mañanitas. These cigars are being made in Western Cuba instead of Havana, and originally debuted at the 2013 Habanos Festival. They were going to be released some time ago, but delays have resulted in a prolonged wait. As far as I know, they are now available in a lot of shops worldwide.
Mañanitas is a petit belicoso measuring 4 inches with a 46-ring gauge, Entretiempos is a robusto measuring 4 3/8 inches with a 52-ring gauge, and Tapados, the longest of the new vitolas, measures 4 3/4 inches with a 46-ring gauge. The original lines included cigars no thicker than a 42-ring gauge, so these new cigars are quite a change. These cigars, like the original ones, are being rolled at the very same Francisco Donatién factory. This same factory rolls Trinidad cigars, originally produced in Havana.
Along with the new vitolas, the Vegueros brand is renewing its image with new packaging. The new Vegueros logo is based on the old one, but the yellow color has been switched out with a more subdued tan. The dark green has been replaced by a brighter green, and the logo has been re-styled with a subtle gradient and a new look and feel. The boxes feature a white, black and green color scheme and subtle stripes for an elegant, modern design. Each of these metal cans will come with 16 cigars inside. All three vitolas will feature medium to strong flavors. All of these developments are very exciting, and we have a lot to look forward to with the new rebooted Vegueros brand! The reviews of these new cigars will be published in the coming months.
Le Hoyo de San Juan is the new heavy ring gauge vitola for a historic line that is reinventing itself and expanding the Serie Le Hoyo. It incorporates in its blend Seco and Ligero leaves coming from San Juan y Martínez, the historic denomination of origin where the brand was born in 1865, bringing to this new vitola the unique consistency and intensity that San Juan y Martínez soil confers to the leaves thar are grown there.
Le Hoyo Series was traditionally known for its slender and medium ring gauges (like the Hoyo du Député). The new Le Hoyo de San Juan vitola, sporting a 54 ring gauge, is characterized by its light flavor. It is an attractive option for those who like a lighter Habano that is delicate and aromatic, as well as exceedingly elegant and complex.
Le Hoyo de San Juan will initially be available in the brand’s classic Cabinet Selection or Slide Lid Box (SLB) of 25 and 10 units.
The boxes also include innovations in the brand’s image. A new adhesive papeleta -rectangular seal- on the short side of the box and also the white ribbon that adorns the boxes of 25 units that will help to identify this new Hoyo de Monterrey vitola.
Le Hoyo de San Juan: Cigar Stats
Brand: Hoyo de Monterrey Commercial name: Le Hoyo de San Juan Factory name: Geniales Dimensions: 54 ring gauge (21.43 mm) x 150 mm (5.9 inches) Presentation: Cabinet Selection (SLB) of 25 units / Cabinet Selection (SLB) of 10 units
On the 24th of February and for the four days that follow, Cuban cigar lovers from around the world have gathered together in one place to celebrate Cuban cigars. Last year’s Habanos Festival drew crowds from eight different countries. Seventy-two exhibitors showed off their products to 2,000 visitors. This year, more than three times as many countries will be represented, and 273 journalists will be covering the event. If you are not lucky enough to be present at the event, keep your eyes peeled for blog posts and video journals online, as many visitors are bound to share their experiences.
What are some of the event highlights this year?
At the opening dinner, two new cigars were celebrated, the Hoyo de Monterrey Le Hoyo de San Juan, and the Partagas Serie D No. 6. The Le Hoyo cigar measures 5 7/8 inches with a 54-ring gauge, making it one of the thickest produced in the Hoyo de Monterrey line. The Serie D measures 3.5 inches long with a 50-ring gauge.
Guests had a chance to pay a visit to the famous tobacco plantations in Vuelta Abajo and Pinar del Rio. Tours were also conducted through famous cigar factories for premium hand-rolled stogies.
Seminars, tastings, classes, and contests will be held throughout the week, including the world’s first offline official contest to achieve the longest ash. Conference topics will include “Habanos in the Cinema” as well as “The Germans in the Habano. Origin of the H. Upmann Brand.”
Wednesday featured a special tribute dinner to the Trinidad brand. World-renowned chef Ron Blaauw from the Netherlands served up delicious gourmet cuisine, and famous wine and food writer Cuno Van’t Hoff took care of the wine.
The Habanos Alliance features some of the most celebrated beers on the planet, including Belgian brands like Duvel and Leffe. The Cuban brand Bucanero is also present.
The event will conclude on Friday, February 28th with a final Gala Dinner as a tribute to H. Upmann. There will be an auction that night to benefit the Cuban Public Health System.
The Habanos Festival is one of the most prominent events in the cigar world, and continues to grow in popularity every year. With so many promising activities planned for Cuban cigar lovers, this year is sure to be the most incredible yet.