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James Suckling

Cigar Morning Meeting in Havana

Posted: Jun 5, 2008 5:02pm ET
It’s hot today in Havana. They say it’s in the high 80s but it fees like the 90s. And it’s super humid too. What a change from Europe, which has been cold, wet and miserable over most of the last few weeks.

But that’s the magic of Havana, and Cuba at large. I was smoking in Plaza de San Francisco in Old Havana near the cruise ship docks and Customs House. I love to hang there and watch people go by. Check out my short video. Wish you were here!

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time for that though. I had to run off to Habanos S.A. I had an awesome interview this morning with Manuel Garcia, the commercial director of Habanos, the global marketing and distribution organization for Cuban cigars. It will make a cool column for the magazine, but I will recount a few things today and tomorrow. Plus, I have a special video tomorrow with Miguel.

I am not sure who coined the phrase first. (I thought I did?) But Manuel emphasized that there is not place better to smoke a Cuban cigar in the world than Cuba. “It is a natural humidor,” he said, as we smoked cigars in the offices of Habanos in the neighborhood of Miramar early this morning. He was smoking a Cohiba Lanceros and I lit up a Cuaba Piramide Edición Limitada 2008. The Cuaba won't be on the market until September.

“Cigars taste different in Cuba,” he said, as we smoked away and talked.
“ It is the best combination to smoke cigars in Cuba. It’s not only the smoking conditions, but It is also in the psyche of smoker to smoke here. It is a very special experience... Cuba is the place of origin. It is unique. And we have the best tobacco.”

I have to admit that nothing beats smoking a cigar here. It is an emotional experience. It’s like surfing the perfect wave in Hawaii, driving a Ferrari on the factory race track (I did it last week!), drinking Latour at Chateau Latour, playing golf at St. Andrews….you get the idea.

I will elaborate more tomorrow but the Cubans are definitely on a roll right now. And Habanos seems to be on top of everything. Just as an example, I saw an amazing special three-pack that they plan to sell next year in Duty Free, or airport shops. There are three cigars in aluminum and glass tubes and each have a cutter at the top of the tube and a humidification unit at the bottom – sort of individual travel tubes. And they come with three different cigars: Montecristo Petit Edmundo, Hoyo de Monterrey Petit Robusto and Romeo y Julieta Short Churchilll.

The Cubans seem to be ahead of the game in innovative packaging and marketing. They are also the market leaders in the world, not including the United States. They currently sell in over 160 countries in the world. Granted, exports of cigars have been fairly stable in the last few years at about 150 million smokes, but Garcia said that their sales turnover last year was up about 11 percent.

“That’s impressive considering the problems with the market such as the anti-smoking campaign,” he said.

Garcia said that the future for Cuban cigars is clearly smokers smoking less but smoking better. “We plan to continue to make and develop the best cigars possible for them,” he said.

More tomorrow.


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