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Day 2: Cigar Shop Talk

Hit up my first cigar shop yesterday. La Casa del Habano at Conde Villanueva is located in Old Havana near the Plaza San Francisco in a small hotel in a renovated colonial building once owned by a Spanish nobleman about 200 years ago. This place just blows you away with it history and character. Check out the video.

The selection in the shop is great at the moment. I couldn’t believe all the Limitadas. There were dozens of boxes, including Montecristo C from Edición 2006. The most abundant were last year’s Limitadas: Romeo y Julieta Esucdos, the Hoyo de Monterrey Regalos, and the Trinidad Ingenious. Plenty of the Cohiba Maduro 5s are around as well. I love the rich and coffee character of those babies. And then I saw a stack of Bolivar Gold Medals, which are a lovely refined smoke that taste like the refined and flavorful smokes of ten or 15 years ago. And they only cost about $7 a stick. They come in boxes of ten.

It seems that prices are finally better in Cuba for buying cigars. Until recently, very little incentive existed for buying cigars on the island because prices were about the same as in Spain and in Switzerland. What was the use of buying cigars on the island when many people could avoid the hassle (especially the difficulty with Cuban customs) and just get them when they got home? But now prices appear to be about 10 to 15 percent less than elsewhere, maybe even less. I am sure Gold Medals are double the Cuban price elsewhere in the world.

I love the fact that you can hang in a Havana cigar shop such as Conde and smoke, drink a rum or coffee, and just shoot the shit with the hermanos who work there. A good way to spend an hour or two – even if it is work!

I heard there are three new Limitadas for 2008 that will debut during the Habanos Festival, including the Partagas Serie D No. 5, Cuaba Piramid, and the Montecristo Sublimes. Also the H. Upmann Magnum 50, which was a Limitada a few years back, will become a mainstream cigar, as will something from Hoyo that was formally a Limitada. There’s some talk of Cohiba Sublimes becoming a standard for the brand but nothing is sure yet.

I'm really on a roll since I arrived in Havana. Now I gotta go. I have a meeting with a friend at El Floridita to check out the quality of the Daiquari mixing and cigar smoking conditions.
Chase Larson Tennessee February 5, 2008 2:32pm ET
How did you get such a sweet job? But really, how are you able to go back and forth to Havana so often? Is it some type of press pass? I bet alot of people would kill for your job!
Steve Cohen Oakville, Ontario February 5, 2008 7:47pm ET
OK, here is the challenge, who will be the first to post a review and photos of the Cuaba Piramid, and the Montecristo Sublimes, you or Nino?
carmine mariani The Buckeye State February 5, 2008 11:11pm ET
Man looks like a tuff day at the office James....How do you do it????Can't wait to get my chubby paws on those PSD #5's
Alex A Toronto February 5, 2008 11:38pm ET
James...longer videos PLEASE....

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