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James Suckling

James Suckling
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The Good News in the Bad News

Posted: Jul 6, 2010 12:07pm ET

I am not sure why over the last three weeks the international press has been full of stories about the decline of the Cuban cigar.  The stories have not been about a drop in quality, but the downturn in the sales and production of the famous smokes.

The Allure of A Fine Old Cuban Cigar

Posted: Jun 23, 2010 12:16pm ET
Cigar auctions are a cool thing. You sip Champagne, smoke a Cuban cigar and bid on rare and not-so-rare smokes. At least that’s what happened on Monday night at the C. Gars Ltd. Boisdale of Belgravia in London.

Owner Mitchell Orchant put together an impressive selection of more than 170 different lots of cigars from current production to century-old smokes, with plenty of Cuban Davidoffs, Cuban Dunhills, pre-embargo sticks and rare humidors in between. Almost all the cigars were Cuban. The sale totaled close to $318,000 including the 12.5 percent buyer’s and seller’s premium.

Staying Warm With Behike

Posted: May 13, 2010 2:04pm ET
I smoked a couple of Cohiba Behikes yesterday in London (actually, I smoked one  this morning around 12:30 a.m.), and I was in cigar nirvana.  If you don’t remember, Behikes are the new blockbuster, super-premium smoke from Cuba produced exclusively under its flagship brand. They are just coming out on the market now.

Adios Mi Abuelo

Posted: Apr 21, 2010 4:05pm ET
I have been thinking a lot about Alejandro Robaina, the late great tobacco grower of Cuba. It’s hard to think about the 91-year-old no longer being there. He died of cancer last Saturday at home in his bed, and I can’t bear the thought of him not being on his farm,  sitting on his terrace in his rocking chair and holding court with a cigar in his hand.

A Heartfelt Rumba

Posted: Mar 11, 2010 10:07am ET

A Cuban musician friend of mine named Ernan Lopez-Nuzza, one of the island’s best jazz pianists, and his wife, Wendy, reminded me the other day during lunch of a rumba called “La Muerte Me Llama Que Es Esto?”  The song, loosely translated, means Death Calls Me But What Is That?

Cuba Meets Ecuador

Posted: Mar 8, 2010 3:51pm ET

Americans might finally get the chance to try Robaina grown tobacco in the not too distance future. Hiroshi Robaina, the grandson of Cuba’s best-known tobacco grower, Alejandro Robaina, is setting up plantations in Ecuador.

"The climate is the same level as Cuba," said the 33-year-old last week, during a visit to his family's plantation in Pinar del Río, Cuba. They were tending their shade grown tobacco of about 15 acres. The crop was about three to four weeks behind schedule due to wet weather. “The sun is a little less strong in Ecuador, but the soil, it is like in Pinar del Río. It is very sandy.’

Smoking A Normal Cigar In La Habana

Posted: Mar 5, 2010 10:17am ET
I can spend a lot of time writing and speaking about mega-cigars, limited edition smokes and vintage sticks. But I like smoking mainline cigars just as much. In fact, most of the time I prefer them. Besides, cigar factories (see yesterday’s blog for a video on Cuba’s biggest) spend most of their time making normal smokes.

Cuba's Largest Cigar Factory

Posted: Mar 4, 2010 12:49pm ET
I dig going to the cigar factories in Havana. I don’t go as often as I would like because they don’t open them to the public all that much. The one exception is Partagas, which has regular visits each week for tourists.

It was coolio to visit the La Corona factory last week during the 12 Festival Habano. The workers were obviously on their best behavior. This is now the biggest factory in Cuba, according to one worker from La Corona. More than 900 people work there. Just over 250 are rollers, and they can produce between 40,000 and 50,000 cigars a day. Annual production at La Corona is about 10 million sticks.

Habanos y Tequila: A Good Marriage

Posted: Mar 3, 2010 2:15pm ET
I must admit that I don’t think very often about Tequila when I am looking for something to drink with my cigar. I usually grab a glass of rum or Port or Champagne, or even red wine or beer. But Tequila?

That’s why I found a blind tasting of two cigars—Montecristo No. 2 and Partagas Serie D No. 4—with two Añejo and two Extra Añejo Tequilas fascinating.  The tasting was done during a seminar last week at the XII Festival Habano. About 200 people packed into the meeting room. Each seat had four glasses of Tequila in brandy snifters and two unbanded cigars.

A Few Observations on Cuban Cigars

Posted: Mar 2, 2010 6:46pm ET
Do you smoke Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, José L. Piedra, Partagas, or Cohiba? Or all of the above?

You probably smoke one or two of the brands on a regular basis if you are into Cuban cigars, considering those brands account for about three-fourths of the total number of Cuban cigars sold in 2009. Brand figures released during a seminar at the 12th Habanos Festival shows that the above five brands account for the lion’s share of Cuban cigar shipments: Montecristo, 21 percent; Romeo y Julieta, 17 percent; José L. Piedra, 14 percent; Cohiba, 11 percent, and Partagas, 11 percent.

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