Cigar Aficionado

Cigar Days in Cuba

So many cigars. So little time.

At the end of my first full day here in Havana, I sat down to write a blog about what I had smoked, and I couldn't remember how many, or which cigars, I had enjoyed that day. It may have been the medicinal effect of Cuban rum, or the accumulation of caffeine in numerous Cuban coffees. Whatever.

Therefore, I have decided to give you a few highlights. I still can't remember the exact line-up or the exact count.

David Savona and I keep a locker here, so there are some treasures from previous years, both things we have acquired and items that have been gifted to us. So, one of our first stops in Havana is at the humidor to just get us through the first few days.

I pulled out a Cohiba Corona Especiales, a gift, with a box date of 1992. That was my lunch cigar on Tuesday. It was a spectacular smoke, filled with telltale notes of cinnamon and leather, with a smooth earthiness that belied the strength of a 22 year old cigar. It wasn't my first cigar of the day, but it was the first memorable smoke of the trip.

That night, we were part of a ceremony to award the 2013 Cigar of the Year to the Montecristo No. 2. The cigars arrived, and I cracked open a box. It was not the box date of our winner for the year, but we suspect that boxes, while marked "Jan 14", contained cigars that had been aged for awhile. It was delicious; full bodied and spicy, yet smooth and mouth-filling. A fantastic cigar that proved its worth as the best cigar of 2013.

Later that night—in fact it was probably the fifth, or was it the sixth cigar of the day—I lit up a Cohiba Behike BHK 52, a box from the year we awarded it our Cigar of the Year. I've always been a big fan of that cigar, and this one only reinforced my impression. It is still a baby, a full-bodied tour de force with leather and spices, and a long finish on the palate. But I smoked it down to a knuckle-singeing nub.

The next day was a bit more sedate, partly because I was recovering from an overdose of the Cuban rum treatment. But it doesn't take long to get a cigar in your hand here. Nonetheless, the first great cigar of the day didn't come until lunch with our good friend Ajay Patel. He always has treasures stowed away when he travels, and he handed Dave and me a cigar without a band. I was overwhelmed by the elegance and power, even though I knew, based on who had given me the cigar, that it has to be a vintage smoke. It was. A Partagás Lusitania from 1991. I'll leave it to Dave to describe it an upcoming Connoisseur's Corner, but suffice it to say, I kept that cigar going all afternoon.

Night fell, and it was to another Gala dinner that is among the centerpieces of the Habanos festival each year. This one took place at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, and anticipation was high regarding the Trinidad cigars that would be released, and rumors of the new Cohiba being handed out, too. They were all true. But I'm a bit of nut about the cigars handed out at those dinners. They are almost always too young, and hard to decipher about how good or not they will become, so I bring my own.

My first cigar of the night was a Trinidad from 1998, the year the brand was launched. It is a lancero size, which is one of my favorites. It had a mélange of nutmeg, earth and leather, and simply smoked fantastically. Another knuckle-burner that I kept lighting up between the courses of the fine meal-in fact, one of the best I have ever had at a festival-and then finally, it was too short and had been relit too many times to retain it's original glory.

But I had also brought a Cohiba Siglo VI. It was a recent vintage, but it looked ready to smoke. I took off the band. I mean who would smoke a Siglo VI at a Trinidad dinner surrounded by the top executives of Habanos. Again, this was a powerhouse of a cigar, filled with a solid spiciness, and that rich deep earthiness that announces its Cohiba origins. A perfect to top off a wonderful evening of food, song and dance and smoking.

Get the idea?

"I couldn't agree more! I went to Havana and Pinar De Rio last May. I used CA extensively to find my "must visit" spots to get cocktails, buy smokes, and see the sights. A journey that was topped off by posing with my father-in-law at the VERY same bar featured on the cover of CA Feb 2011. Heaven cannot be much further away than that! Many thanks, keep up the outstanding reporting and photos :)!" —March 1, 2014 13:07 PM
"I absolutely love reading your and Dave's blogs while you're at the Festival. in just 9 days i will be flying to Varadero for my first trip to Cuba, and will be heading to Havana for one of the days. Through your blogs, i am able to really get a great idea of where to go and prices to expect. Keep up the good work, and please leave me some cigars ;). " —February 27, 2014 17:04 PM