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First Cigar in Havana

Cuba begins to get quiet in May. The onslaught of snowbirds from Europe and Canada who flock here during the winter months in the northern hemisphere begins to slow down, and the weather begins to turn from pleasantly warm to downright hot. Thick, gray clouds climb higher in the sky during the afternoon, often releasing a cooling rain. The tourists might not be here in droves, but, as always, this is a great time to come to Havana to smoke cigars.

I'm here all week with Gordon Mott on assignment from Cigar Aficionado magazine. And we can't do it without cigars.

Our first cigar stop on the trip brought us on a Sunday night to the Casa del Habano at the Melia Cohiba Hotel. This is a Cuban cigar lover's paradise, with a large smoking lounge (complete with a band when we arrived) a well-stocked bar and a triangular walk-in humidor brimming with fine cigars.

What to pick? There were no Cohiba Behikes in stock (all of Cuba seems to be out of them at the moment) and the 2011 crop of Edicion Limitadas were not yet in stock. I love Monte 2s, but I wanted something different, and I thought the first cigar for the evening should be a big one.

Enter the Lusitania.

Partagas Lusitania

There she was, wearing a chocolate-brown wrapper the texture of silk, perfect three-seam cap, a rich, dusky aroma before being lit. This major league Partagas double corona is, when good, among the best big cigars made in Havana. The price in the Casa? About 10 Cuban convertible pesos (CUCs), or $10.

Gordon took two from the box. He looked at me. "What are you going to smoke?" he said with a smile. I reached into the box and selected a good looking one for myself.

Cuban double coronas such as Partagas Lusitanias, Punch Double Coronas, Ramon Allones Gigantes and Hoyo de Monterrey Double Coronas are smoking beautifully right now. The new production big smokes are superb. (See our ratings for some proof of how good they are right now.) The Partagas Lusitania seemed like just the right thing to puff.

I lit up the cigar soon after sitting down at our table at El Aljibe, the famous Cuban restaurant that has quickly become the traditional first night dinner spot for Gordon and myself. I'll let Gordon talk about the meal. The cigar was all a Partagas Lusitania should be-massive amounts of caramel and coffee flavor, very, very rich, just the rough touch of earthiness, and a finish a mile long. While it was a touch high in humidity, requiring some extra attention from my lighter, the flavor was superb.

I smoke plenty of cigars, but somehow they just taste a little better when I'm here in Havana. That Partagas Lusitania was just the first of many I plan on smoking on this trip.

Ajay Patl Teddington, London, May 3, 2011 4:47pm ET
David, that is the best first cigar to have in Havana. Partagas lusitania...these for some reason do smoke Havana. Try the Partagas serie D no4 from 2009 or 2010 box....and Hoyo epic no2....let me know if you manage to smoke the Dants 54's
Marc Ranson Edmonton, AB, Canada, May 3, 2011 7:19pm ET
Ah Partagas Lusitania, the king of the Double Coronas! I bought some 06 at this years cigar festival.
Taylor Franklin May 3, 2011 9:01pm ET
Hello David y Gordon,

In previous postings I too have noted that the puros taste seem to taste better down there.

Have you had similar impressions in Nicaragua or DR; curious.

David Savona May 9, 2011 1:52pm ET
Taylor, yes, I always find that cigars taste better "in country," whether that country is Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic or Cuba.
David Savona May 9, 2011 1:53pm ET
Hello Ajay, didn't try a D4 on this trip but I believe Gordon did....
Anthony May 11, 2011 12:17am ET
Hey Dave, I notice in this post, and a couple others, mention that Behikes are very hard to find in cuba now... I find this curious since I have been able to find some available online. I cant say I have ordered cubans from them, however , I will say I know a friend who has, and the cohibas he ordered were authentic. My question is... regardless of the legality of getting cubans shipped into the US, how do you feel about trusting these sites that their Behikes are truely behikes?? also, just curious what the average cost is in Cuba vs. Elsewhere for a Behike.

All the hype is really making my mouth water to try one for myself.....
David Savona May 11, 2011 12:34pm ET
I know retailers outside of Cuba who have Behikes in stock. As far as trusting the source, make sure you see the legit packaging. Behikes have bands that are very, very hard to counterfeit, and I've yet to see a fake Behike band. (I have seen cigars presented as Behikes with regular Cohiba bands on them, which are obvious fakes.)

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