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Gordon Mott archive

March 2013

Festival del Habano Gala Closing

Posted: Mar 4, 2013 12:00pm ET

Anticipation. Excitement. Thrills. The gala dinner capping off the Festival del Habano never fails to deliver. Habanos S.A. throws a spotlight on one of their marquee brands; this year it was Partagás and the PabExpo hall was decorated in the distinctive red, gold and black that the brand is known for. The crowd of 1,200 people, mostly dressed in formal wear of one form or another ranging from black tie and gowns to the white and tan of a fancy tropical dinner, knows they are getting to see and taste things most Cubans and most foreign visitors only dream about. But, believe it or not, cigars are not the highlight of the evening. The musical and dance numbers begin almost immediately as the crowd filters into the room. The dancers’ costumes are over-the-top gorgeous, although the ultra-tropical theme in several numbers—colorful pineapples on the dancer’s heads—were maybe just a bit too gaudy. Colorful? No doubt about it. The show reached its zenith very quickly; Omara Portuondo, the 82-year-old diva of Cuban music whose career has spanned more than 50 years, sang a number of songs. Helped on to the stage by several attractive young men, she was soon crooning away in a voice that’s at least 30 years younger than her age. Other performances during the evening included pianist Emilio Morales and Mayito.

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Night of the Vegueros

Posted: Mar 1, 2013 12:00pm ET

It was a rainy night in Havana. But following a rainy day, the damp air was cool by local standards and the huge El Laguito protocol salon didn’t bring on a sweat. Walking down the line of beautiful hostesses handing out flowers and a pack of Vegueros cigars—with everyone in tropical dress, the men in guayaberas and many women in light linen dresses—the evening took an air of a tropical bacchanal. All for the launch of three new sizes of the Vegueros cigar. I had chosen as my first cigar of the night, a Cohiba 1966 Edición Limitada 2011, our No. 2 cigar of the year. While I had smoked the cigar several times before, the second I lit the cigar and took my first draw, the cigar’s elegance, depth of flavor and smoothness overwhelmed. I came back to the cigar more than once during the evening to relight it and enjoy its earthy, chocolate overtones, and each time was amazed by its power. Jorge Luis Fernández Maíque, a former co-president of Habanos S.A., and now it’s commercial vice president, turned to me at our table when he saw the band and commented that it was one of the best cigars the company had made in recent years—that from the creator of the Behike. But tonight was about the Vegueros. The three new sizes are a Mañanitas, a small petit belicoso, the Entretiempos, a robusto-style size and the Tapados, which is modeled on a Montecristo No. 4. The cigars handed out last night were extremely young, reportedly having been rolled within the last few weeks, but they were well-made and had a pleasant middle of the road taste/strength profile. The brand is aimed at the middle- to low-price range in the market, and Habanos executives expect the cigar to provide an attractive price/quality ratio for smokers. I liked the Entretiempos the best of the three; it has the thickest ring gauge and the most complexity. The true test was I removed its band to keep on smoking it down to the end.

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