I went to a wine dinner on Saturday night at Club Havana for the introduction of wines from Tuscany’s Castello Banfi to the Cuban market. The multi-course meal was full of Havana’s sommeliers as well as diplomats, actors and other celebrities from the island. I said a few words in my bad Spanish about Tuscany, Banfi and Brunello di Montalcino as well as how the various wines went with each course. Believe it or not, there is a small but serious food and wine culture in Cuba, and I am sure it will only grow as relations normalize with the United States.
At the end of the meal, Cohiba Siglo VI’s were handed out and served with 11-year-old Santiago Rum. The latter is made in the original Bacardi distillery in Santiago, and it used to be sold as Matusalem in Cuba until a few years ago. But that’s another column. What was interesting was how everyone was smoking, even most of the women.
The Siglo VI remains one of the best, if not the best, Cuban cigar produced. It delivers so much spicy, tobacco, cappuccino flavors with a elegance and smoothness that can’t be beat. I scored it 95 points, unblind.
I was speaking to a friend about the scene, Ernán López Nussa, the famous jazz pianist, and he said that almost all Cubans smoke a cigar if they are offered one. “Cigars are part of the party in Cuba,” he told me. “Hardly anyone would not smoke one in Cuba, if they were offered one during a dinner or party. It would be considered rude.”
In fact, amigos at Habanos SA, the global marketing and distribution company for Cuban cigars, told me that the domestic market still accounts for about 250 million cigars a year. Most of those cigars are apparently short filler, hand-rolled smokes, but they are, nonetheless, smoked. At one time, Cubans were offered a couple of cigars a month with their regular ration of food staples, but apparently this is no longer the case. Now they have to buy them for a few pesos each, which would be 10 or 20 cents.
I don’t know if I have been just more aware on the streets, but I seem to see more Cubans smoking cigars.
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