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Day 10: Goodbye Cuba

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!

In my second blog, a trip to the La Casa del Habano cigar shop at Conde Villanueva hotel in Old Havana near the Plaza San Francisco showed how prices on the island have finally come down slightly after years of being too high. It now makes financial sense to buy cigars on the island. For example, the wonderful Bolivar Gold Medals are selling for just over $54 for a box of 10 cigars and the same box may cost three times as much in other markets. Moreover, the Upmann Magnum and Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure lines were expanded with two new additions -- Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Especial and H. Upmann Magnum 50, respectively.

It never hurts, as my third blog noted, to stop into the El Floridita bar for a quick daiquiri and smoke. I only wish Ernest Hemingway still haunted the joint. How cool would it be hang with the late great writer? Shame he didn’t smoke cigars.

What a welcome from the tobacco grower/guru Alejandro Robaina. The fourth through eighth blogs recounted some amazing moments with who some call the Elvis Presley of tobacco. He and his grandson, Hiroshi grew some amazing tobacco this year, after a tough harvest last year -- 2006/2007 -- due to abnormally hot weather. A good part of the excellent crop this year can be attributed to a new tobacco type called Capero No. 1. The leaves are more abundant, larger and more resistant to disease. More over, they do not produce flowers, which may end a trade in illegal seeds from the area.

His family is enjoying a new cigar only available to friends at the estate called padrino, or godfather. I loved the smoke and it reminded me of the Behike. It’s cheaper to go to Cuba and smoke one of these at the plantation than paying $18,000 a humidor for about four dozen of the Behikes. (I am only half joking).) And Behike is sold out anyway. Alejandro even smoked a Padrón Serie 1926 No. 9 with me as an experiment. He drank some tea to clean his palate after the smoke. I am not sure he enjoyed the experience that much but he would certainly like to hang on day with Jose Orlando Padrón, owner of Nicaragua’s Padrón factory. Padrón would have loved to see all of Alejandro’s tobacco in the curing barns. They were full of great leaves and they were all curing naturally and wonderfully. A great harvest appears more than on it’s way.

A little lechon, grilled Suckling pig, was one of my last lunches of my trip and luckily I didn’t use a borrowed lighter for too long. It was long enough to ruin an aged Cohiba Lancero. But as I said in this video, “no importa.” Not important. I will be back in two weeks for the festival. Stay tuned. Cuba is a place always changing, despite what from the outside appears the same old thing.
Edward Kobesky February 15, 2008 2:11pm ET
The blog entries were great. The videos were even better. Amazing stuff. Even with today's small video cameras, I don't think people realize how cumbersome it is to try and shoot video right in the middle of a crowded restaurant or on the streets of Havana, as you did. I'll echo a sentiment posted on the forums: If CA wants to sell an expanded DVD of your trip, I'll place my order right now.
Harold Killam Casciago, Italy February 16, 2008 8:48am ET
Welcome back to Italy James! Great videos. Looks like you had a great time.
Jacob Lindborg Denmark March 1, 2008 8:41pm ET
In one of the blogs you said that the harvest this years is the best in many years... When will cigars from this harvest be available in europe?

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