18th Festival del Habano Releases and More

Get Ready for the 18th Festival del HabanoThe other week we reported that this year’s Festival del Habano XVIII would commence in Havana on February 29th and run through March 4th. Now that the festival is concluded, it is time to take a look back over the highlights.

More than 2,000 participants flocked to the capital of Cuba to enjoy this year’s event, traveling from more than 60 different countries. This year’s event coincides with the 50th anniversary of Cohiba, so Cohiba was the center of attention. The festival was very much in their honor.


We saw three special releases from Cohiba at the festival:

  • The Cohiba Medio Siglo (52 x 102 mm). This is a new addition to the regular product line.
  • The Cohiba Majestuoso 1966 (58 x 150 mm). This is a special edition.
  • Cohiba 50 Aniversario (60 x 178 mm). This of course is also a special edition, designed to mark the occasion. The Cohiba 50 Aniversario cigars go with the luxury humidor (more on that below).

Cohiba 50 Aniversario Humidor

Additionally, Cohiba created a sumptuous humidor to celebrate their anniversary; only 50 units were manufactured, each one built for a specific person and customized with the owner’s name. Each is lined with 24-carat gold-plated Cuban ligero tobacco leaves. A great deal of craftsmanship and attention to detail went into the construction of these humidors. The gold-plated leaves were hand-picked, and the humidors are made out of luxury woods like pink cedar and sycamore. Jean-Philippe Martin is responsible for the design, and the firm Elie Bleu carried out the manufacturing.

Dominique Gyselinck

The awards 'Habanos Man of the Year - Hombre Del Habano' were also announced... and we are happy to report that Dominique Gyselinck, our friend and founder of LCDH Knokke / Gent / Hasselt & La Casa del Tabaco Bruges won the award in the Business category. Congrats!

Other exciting new releases unveiled at the 18th Festival del Habano include:

  • The Hoyo de Monterrey Reserva Cosecha 2012
  • The H. Upmann Magnum 54
  • Cuaba 20 Anniversario

And the yearly limited editions:

  • Romeo y Julieta Capuletos
  • Montecristo Dantés
  • Trinidad Topes

Other key highlights and events during the festival included visits to the Vuelta Abajo tobacco fields and tours of the El Laguito factory. Participants also had a chance to visit the Cohiba headquarters. Throughout the week, Habano experts conducted talks and classes. Festival-goers were able to enjoy a variety of tastings and pairings with premium cigars, Chianti wines, whiskeys, rums, and more. As usual, the longest ash contest was held (photo by Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters):

Francis Sierra smokes as she competes for the longest ash during the XVIII Habanos Festival in Havana

All things told, this year’s event was a huge success. Javier Terréz de Ercilla, vice president of Development at Habanos. S.A. stated, “There is no event like this in any other country … 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.”

Hopefully, with relations slowly warming between the US and Cuba, the annual Festival del Habano will only continue to grow in the years to come. Did you have a chance to attend Festival del Habano XVIII? We’d love to hear all about it. Share your experiences with us in the comments below!

Get Ready for the 18th Festival del Habano

Get Ready for the 18th Festival del HabanoWe’re just a few days away now from the commencement of Festival Habano XVIII! The event will launch on February 29th and run through March 4th and will take place in Havana. Highlights for the festival include:

  • The 50th anniversary of Cohiba. Expect a number of exciting new releases, including special limited editions as well as new additions to the regular product lines. Festival-goers will also have a chance to tour the El Laguito factory and plantations in Vuelta Abajo.
  • The Gala Evening will pay special tribute to Cohiba and will feature performances by Estrella Morente, Jorge Drexler, Chucho Valdés, and rising stars Alain Pérez, Cucu Diamantes, and Geidi Chapman. The proceeds from the Humidor Auction will go to the Cuban Public Health system. As always, the “Habanos Man of the Year” trophies will be awarded in every category.
  • The 20th anniversary of Cuaba. In celebration, the brand will be releasing an exclusive special edition for La Casa del Habano.
  • Participants will also get an early glimpse at 2016 limited editions from Romeo y Julieta, Montecristo, and Trinidad. Also expect new cigars from Habanos Añejados, Hoyo de Monterrey, Partagás, and H. Upmann.

Throughout the week, participants will not only be able to sample some of 2016’s most highly-anticipated new stogies, but will also be able to enjoy delicious pairings with Havana Club rum and gourmet Cuban cuisine. This year’s contests will include the 15th annual Habanos Sommelier International Competition as well as the competition for the longest ash.

The 18th Festival del Habano is set to be a week-long celebration of Cuban cigars and culture, packed full of fun and excitement. If you have a chance to attend, lucky you! Please share your experiences with us in the comments!

Favorite Cuban Cigars – Survey Results

We finally finished processing the answers from our last week's survey. Below you will find the community's favorite Cuban cigars - first the brands, then the specific cigars.

The low score of Romeo y Juieta cigars may come as a surprise - not a single cigar in the top 15 (the Romeo y Julieta Short Churchill - the highest ranked cigar from the brand - is #18) and only the 8th spot in the brands rankings.

The #1 cigar's lead is also quite surprising - we expected more competition for the first spot. 2nd and 3rd spots are where the competition was, and underdogs Ramon Allones Specially Selected and Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2 almost made it to the top 3.

We hope you find these results interesting, feel free to share them with your friends and/or leave a comment below!

Favorite Cuban Cigars Inforgraphic

Culture and History of Cuba’s Cigars : The Main Brands

Culture and History of Cuban Cigars

On July 1 2015, President Barack Obama stated:

"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.

Click here to read the full article...

Can We Now Legally Import Cuban Cigars into the US?

Can we now legally import Cuban cigars to the United States?

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!

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection:

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.

Cuban Cigars in the United States? Don’t hold your breath.

The Nic-Cuban hybrid…a dream or reality?

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:

  1. The US Naval base in Guantanamo Bay be returned to Cuba;
  2. The US stop broadcasting anti-Castro radio/TV into the island;
  3. 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.

Click here to read the full article...

17th Annual Habanos Festival Kicks off in Havana

17th Annual Habanos Festival Kicks off in Havana

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.

Romeo y Julieta Gran Reserva Wide Churchill

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!

Vegueros Brand Renews Itself with Three New Vitolas

Vegueros Cuban Cigars

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.

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