Havana Cigar Shops
The biggest city in Cuba has a superb collection of cigar stores that sell handmade, premium cigars
From the Print Edition:
Havana—The Insider's Guide, November/December 2011
(continued from page 1)
The design of the walk-in humidor at Quinta Avenida is one part art, one part genius. Built to maximize storage space while minimizing its imprint on the store, the walking space around the humidor is only shoulder-width wide, and it snakes along the wall in a pattern of Ls, so walking through it requires twists and turns.
While the cigars in this shop receive serious attention from a stream of customers, I’ve always found something old here, especially when searching through secondary brands and smaller sizes. Some digging found a 1997 box of Juan López Patricias, unusual cigars that measure 4 5/8 inches by 40 ring, a cigar size known as a Franciscanos. They were selling for a mere 76 cuc.
The shop moves a lot of smokes. “Last week we sold more than 30,000 cigars,” said Rios. It’s rare to walk in and see deep stocks on the shelves, and quite common to see boxes in the back being opened up, ready to be moved into the humidor.
Quinta Avenida is ideal for collectors. While all La Casas on the island have lockers, this one has 96 of them, the most in Havana. In earlier years it cost hundreds to rent one, but today the lockers are free, although renting is up to management. Rios says they fumigate the lockers twice a year, to eliminate the potential for tobacco beetles, and the rules of the house prohibit you from storing cigars purchased elsewhere in your locker.
This is a shop where you must linger, or you risk missing out on one of the shop’s classic touches. Once you’ve selected a cigar, order a Cuban coffee. The steaming little cup of Cubita is delivered on a saucer with a pair of actual tobacco leaves beneath the cup. There are several places to sit and relax while you puff, including the smoking parlor up front, with its tiled floor and high-backed chairs; a bar area off to the side, with wicker furniture, and even a cigar-friendly (of course) restaurant.
There are three private rooms (named Bolivar, Cohiba and San Cristóbal, for the cigar brands) if you wish to host a party. A visit to Havana without stopping here would be a mistake.
La Casa del Habano, Hotel Meliá Habana
Av. 3, entre 76 y 80, Playa, Habana
The bar stands out in Cuba for its surprising selection of Scotch, which includes Johnny Walker Swing, Red, Black, Green, Gold and Blue, Chivas 12 and 18, and Dimple 15, as well as a bottle of Hennessy Paradis Cognac. The bartender mixes cocktails as well, making this bar the most complete of those in Cuba’s cigar stores.
The walk-in humidor has a nice touch—some of the shelves are cut with an angle, so a half-circle of wood extends out, adding to the charm. There’s a small table in the center of the room—displaying a few special items—with a chair.
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