James Suckling archive

February 2008

Day 5: Behind The Scenes

Posted: Feb 29, 2008 3:43pm ET

I had planned to hit up some of the key cigar shops this morning, like Partagas and Club Havana. This is where a lot of action happens during the festival. People just hang out, talk and smoke. It’s a good way to get information.

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Day 4: The Taste of an Habano

Posted: Feb 28, 2008 4:28pm ET

It was all about taste yesterday in Havana. I attended two tastings. One was a smoker in the El Laguito factory, the home of Cohiba cigars, and another was a tasting in the evening at the Nacional Hotel that I led promoting the idea of drinking Champagne while smoking cigars.

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Day 3: From Table to Ash

Posted: Feb 27, 2008 2:04pm ET

Sometimes I find it almost hard to believe that the cigars we buy in shops come from the rollers’ tables of cigar factories in Havana. When we buy the cigar, it’s almost as if we are standing right next to the roller and he or she is handing us the cigar.

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Day 2: Hola H. Upmann

Posted: Feb 26, 2008 3:00pm ET

I just got back from visiting the H. Upmann factory in Nuevo Vedado with some friends from Geneva, Switzerland. The main hermano was Arek Aboulian, whose family owns Raffi Cigars. The twenty-something spent three months working in Upmann a short while ago, and he knows just about everyone in the factory.

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Day 1: Morning View from La Habana

Posted: Feb 25, 2008 4:04pm ET

I woke up this morning in Havana in my hotel, the Melia Cohiba, and after a quick café con leche in the bar, I walked out onto the Malecon boulevard that skirts the sea in front of the city, and breathed the fresh sea air with a mixture of diesel and other smells of a bustling city.

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Peace and Love for Cuba

Posted: Feb 19, 2008 10:53am ET

The news last night about Fidel Castro retiring from political duties in Cuba does not come as a surprise. The word on the streets of Havana has been nothing else but that for months. In fact, his brother Raúl has been in real power since Fidel passed the baton to him in July 2006.

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Day 10: Goodbye Cuba

Posted: Feb 15, 2008 12:40pm ET

It was a cool trip to Cuba. I am back at home in Italy at the moment and posting my last video blog from the island. And I am sorry I left. There is so much to see and learn there, especially for a cigar smoker.

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Day 9: Everyone's Lunch In Havana

Posted: Feb 13, 2008 1:59pm ET

Like I didn’t have enough heavy food already after lunch with tobacco maestro Alejandro Robania. But the day after my visit to his plantation, I went to lunch with some friends at a big outdoor restaurant called El Palenque in the Siboney neighborhood of Havana.

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Day 8: Barns of Dreams

Posted: Feb 13, 2008 11:39am ET

Just to give you an idea of what the tobacco looks like going in the barns, check out this latest video. It’s awesome. Hiroshi Robaina, the grandson of tobacco guru Alejandro Robaina, took me for a walk through their three tobacco curing barns and I was speechless.

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Day 7: Comparing Apples to Oranges?

Posted: Feb 12, 2008 2:14pm ET

It wasn’t the first time that I smoked a “foreign cigar” with Alejandro Robaina, the great tobacco grower from Cuba’s Pinar del Río region. Alejandro is a curious man for 89-year-old and he’s always interested to try cigars from other areas in the world.

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Day 6: Robaina's New Wrapper

Posted: Feb 11, 2008 10:17am ET

The tobacco in Robaina's fields looked so good last week. It was bright green, large sized, clean, and ripe. Hiroshi Robaina, 32, the grandson of the legendary tobacco grower Alejandro Romania, said that it was the best tobacco the family had seen in their fields in the last 15 years.

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Day 5: Smoking Fumas

Posted: Feb 8, 2008 1:28pm ET

Most tobacco farmers in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio, the best tobacco region on the island, have their own fumas. They are the cigars that they make from their own tobacco. You can call it their “home reserve” or “riserva de familia.

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Day 4: Home Sweet Home in Pinar del Rio

Posted: Feb 7, 2008 11:45am ET

It’s like going home when I visit Alejandro Robaina and his family, the famous tobacco growers in Pinar del Río. Alejandro, 89, is a warm and intelligent man with a heart of gold. I often said that there were three living icons in Cuba – Fidel Castro, Alejandro Robaina and Compay Segundo.

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Day 3: Watering Holes and New Cigars

Posted: Feb 6, 2008 9:06am ET

Is El Floridita the best bar on earth? New York has the Café Carlyle Hotel. Paris has the American Bar in the Ritz. And Los Angeles has Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel. Sure those are cool. And the ambience, drinks and service are superb.

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Day 2: Cigar Shop Talk

Posted: Feb 5, 2008 12:02pm ET

Hit up my first cigar shop yesterday. La Casa del Habano at Conde Villanueva is located in Old Havana near the Plaza San Francisco in a small hotel in a renovated colonial building once owned by a Spanish nobleman about 200 years ago.

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