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Day 2: Hola H. Upmann

I just got back from visiting the H. Upmann factory in Nuevo Vedado with some friends from Geneva, Switzerland. The main hermano was Arek Aboulian, whose family owns Raffi Cigars. The twenty-something spent three months working in Upmann a short while ago, and he knows just about everyone in the factory. I will blog about him later.

Anyway, the new H. Upmann Magnum 50 certainly smoked well in the factory. It was such a cool idea to be smoking the cigar where it was originally made. Look at the video.

As I have already written, the Magnum 50 is one of two cigars that is being pushed this year at the festival. The other is the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Especial. Both were featured last night during the Welcome Cocktail Party at the Club Havana. A multi-media show and dance production – sort of Broadway meets Havana and cigars – preceded the party at the Karl Marx Theater. Habanos S.A., the global distribution and marketing company, gave out the two cigars to the participants. I thought it made better sense to smoke them the next day.

And the Magnum 50 smokes wonderfully. It is a big smoke in size but delivers very refined and balanced flavors that verge on floral and cedar. It is very typical for Upmann, not powerful but smooth and fresh. 92 points. I will smoke the new Epicure Especial later today.

I visited all the departments at the Upmann factory this morning and I was impressed with what I saw – the one exception was the wrapper. It looked a little marked and unclean. This must be because they didn’t have a very good harvest last year due to extremely dry weather. But one of the quality control people at the factory said that they were selecting good wrapper, nonetheless. The texture and thickness was very fine and it felt very elastic.

What I saw being rolled looked very good, as you can see in the video. The workers at the H. Upmann factory are very well organized and dedicated. Arek said that there was a very good working ethos at the factory and he knows after three months there. There are about 350 rollers there with about one-fourth being students.

I had a coffee with Miguel Brown, the manager of H. Upmann, and he said that they were very busy rolling regional cigars as well as the normal line, which looked like a lot of Cohiba Siglo VIs today. I think that Partagas rolls more regional cigars than Upmann but I may be wrong.

If you are not familiar with regional cigars, they are the ones that various agents have produced exclusively for their markets for one or two years. For instance, Mexico had the Edmundo Dantes Conde 109 last year and the United Kingdom had the Por Larrañga Magnifico. Here is a list of what is going to be available this year, according to Habanos (the length is in millimeters):

Spain: Ramon Allones Grandes (49 ring x 180mm)
Asia Pacific: Por Larranaga Belicosos Extra (52 ring x140mm) and Bolivar Short Bolivar (50 ring x 110mm)
France: Ramon Allones Especial de Allones (52 ring x 140mm) and Bolivar Petite Libertador (50 ring x 102mm)
Lebanon: Ramon Allones Phoenicios (54 ring x 164mm)
United Arab Emirates: Punch Robustos (50 ring x 124mm)
Hong Kong: Bolivar Amonia (57 ring x184mm)
Portugal: Vegas Robaina Petit Robustos (50 ring x 102mm)
Switzerland: Bolivar Legendarios (50 ring x 155mm) and Juan Lopez Maximo (48 ring by 157mm)
Caribbean: Juan Lopez Short Torpedos (50 ring x 12mm)
Adriatic: La Gloria Cubana Marshall (50 ring x 124mm)

The QC guy who was showing us around gave me an H. Upmann Monarcas from the color sorting room and I couldn’t believe how floral and honey-like it smelled. It’s very Upmann. I really think that a number of the key cigar factories in Havana have their unique character. For example, Partagas seems to make cigars much stronger and richer in character with a meaty, earthy, almost espresso aroma and flavor. This is good news. It’s the way it should be.

I mentioned this to Upmann’s manager before I left and he smiled and nodded his head in agreement. “Of course,” he said. “That what we are supposed to be doing. We work hard to keep the quality.”
Alexander Britell February 26, 2008 6:38pm ET
James, Any news on the Habanosommelier contest?

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