James Suckling

James Suckling
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Epilogue to the Havana Blog

Posted: Mar 5, 2008 11:07am ET
My friend, Tom Unvert, laughed and said “don’t worry about it buddy. Just get here in one piece for the party.”

But it did suck. I had 19 very nice cigars in my courier bag, including a five-pack selection of torpedos for Tom’s birthday present. The rest were mostly the new limited edition Partagas Serie D No. 5 and the Partagas Serie P in Tubos. It was the first time in 17 years that I had been stopped by customs and had cigars confiscated. Most times the customs guys don’t ask or simply let me go with a few smokes in my bags.

Day 6: A Room Full of Friends

Posted: Mar 3, 2008 11:05am ET
The massive room at the Pabexpo in the chic Havana neighborhood of Siboney was already thick with smoke within the first 30 minutes of the gala dinner on Friday during the 10th annual Festival del Habano. The thousand or so participants were either smoking the Trinidad Reyes handed out at the door by a line of gorgeous Cuban women, or their own stash. I fired up the Reyes and it was delicate and satisfying, as usual.

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. Many people simply come to Havana for the festival to do that, they never attend the official events.

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.

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. Look at the video below with Eric Aboulia, whose family owns Raffi Cigars in Geneva, Switzerland. We were together in the H. Upmann factory in Havana yesterday and he saw a friend of his rolling, walked over, and received a fresh smoke. How cool is that?

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. I will blog about him later.

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.

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. Everyone knows that.

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.

I hope you have enjoyed the blogging and got as much out of it as I did. As I mentioned in my first blog, the go-to cigar for many in the world is now the Partagas Serie D No. 4. The red-banded robusto is now the cigar many smoke on a daily basis. It even outnumbers the Montecristo Petit Corona in such large markets as France as the No. 1 smoke. Don’t be surprised if you see it being sold in tubes in a very short while!

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. This is the closest thing to a popular restaurant, considering lots of locals hang here. It’s super cheap where a Cuban sandwich can cost a couple bucks and an ice-cold beer about half that. I have been coming here for 10 years.

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