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The Oscars of Cuban Cigars

This year's Festival del Habano spotlights lively cigar affairs and showcases three new Cohiba maduros
From the Print Edition:
Cuba, May/June 2007

(continued from page 1)

Another cigar everyone was talking about during the festival was the Edmundo Dantes Conde 109, which is being made especially for the Mexican market this year. It is part of the ediciones regionales program of Habanos, in which special cigars are made for specific markets for one year only. The Conde 109 is essentially a robusto extra with a tapered end. The cigar (50 ring gauge by 7 1/4 inches) was last made in 1995 for the 150th anniversary of Partagas. That cigar came in a special humidor to celebrate the birthday of the brand, which included 50 of the cigars. About 7,500 cigars were made in total, and one roller made all the cigars. The molds used for the new 109 are the same original five used for the special Partagas humidor cigars.

"I have always loved the 109," said Max Gutmann, the Mexican agent for Cuban cigars. "It is a rich cigar with wonderful balance. More importantly, you have to take your time to smoke a 109. It's not a quick smoke like a robusto or one of the smaller cigars that are so popular in the market at the moment."

I smoked the cigar during the gala dinner and was blown away by the quality. It reminds me of the original 109, and it showed lots of tea, light cedar and tobacco character. It was full and rich, yet harmonious and balanced. It turned peppery and spicy as I smoked it. I gave it a provisional 95—98 points. The cigar is expected to be on the market in Mexico in a few months in special boxes of 25. Only 600 boxes will be available.

Attendees at the festival get a lesson in cigar rolling.
A couple of other special cigars are nearing completion, one for the United Kingdom and one for Lebanon. The former is the remake of the famous Por Larrañaga Magnum, which will be called the Magnifico, and the latter, currently unnamed, is a cigar similar in size to the Cohiba Siglo VI but under a different band yet to be determined. I smoked the prototype of the latter and it reminded me of the Flor de Cano Diademas, which was one of the great cigars of the early 1990s. It's a super-clean, balanced smoke with lovely creamy, cedar and tobacco character: 92—94 points. Stay tuned.

I didn't have the chance to smoke the new reserve Montecristo No. 4, which is expected to come out this fall. Following the reserve Partagas Serie D No. 4s sold a couple of years ago, the Montecristos will come in beautiful, dark-lacquered boxes of 20 cigars. As Manuel Garcia, commercial director of Habanos, said during the gala dinner, "We are paying tribute to all the smokers in the world who enjoy Cuba's best-selling cigar."

It's that sort of accolade that keeps people coming back to Havana for the annual cigar festival. Whether you're smoking a cigar at breakfast at the Meliá Cohiba with your friends or with hundreds of people at the gala dinner, the festival gives its attendees the chance to enjoy a good cigar together.

Photos by Ramón Iglesias Centeno

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