Havana Cuba is so rich in fine cigar stores that it's hard to cover all the good ones in one blog, or one visit. I wrote about several shops earlier in the week; to complete the picture of shopping for Cuban cigars in Havana I hit several other stores, which I'll cover here in this sequel of blogs. I even shot a little video.
You probably know the Hotel Nacional as the most famous of Cuban hotels (speaking of sequels, it served a role in the best sequel ever made, The Godfather Part II). It also has quite a decent La Casa del Habano. The store has two levels, and the serious stuff goes on downstairs.
Cohiba Behikes were in good stock here, even better than in Quinta Avenida. There were more than 50 boxes of Behike BHK 56 (310 CUC for a box of 10), well over 100 boxes of BHK 54s (Cigar Aficionado's No. 5 cigar of the year, 94 points, 300 CUC a box) and at least 30 boxes of BHK 52s (220 CUC), which has been my personal favorite.
The store also had plenty of the new Montecristo Petit No. 2, in various boxes. I shot some video inside the humidor, which you can see below.
The store has several areas to smoke, but I've ever had a cigar there, and I can't remember ever seeing anyone else smoking there either. It's not that the smoking areas are horrible, but they're far from glorious. Being located in the basement limits the view. The bigger reason is that the Hotel Nacional has a stunning back patio with comfortable chairs and couches that is a lovely place to enjoy a fine cigar. At night there is often music. A little Santiago de Cuba 11-year-old rum and a great Cuban cigar—very hard to beat.
In 2010, Cuba opened a grand new Casa del Habano at the Habana Libre Hotel. It's a huge shop with a friendly staff that always seems to have something you can't find at other stores. On this visit, they had Partagás Culebras available as "singles," a braid of three, twisted smokes for a little more than 5 CUC. There were stocks of H. Upmann Noellas, cigars packed in gorgeous glass amatista jars, for 122 CUC a jar.
The shop also had specialty humidors, made exclusively for sale at the Habana Libre. One called the Humidor Che Guevara was on sale for 1,182 CUC. One of 70 pieces, it was filled with Montecristos and Cohibas bearing secondary bands with the image of Che Guevara. The humidor was quite nice, and indicative of the shop's ability to attract a quite serious clientele.
I've seen plenty of Edición Limitada 2013s on this trip, but the Habana Libre had the best stocks by far. I counted 45 boxes on the shelf in the humidor. There were also nearly 60 boxes of Bolivar Libertadores, the new Casa del Habano exclusives. Those are recent-production cigars, of course, but Gordon and I found a few older smokes, such as a box of Partagás Lusitanias from 2011 (283 CUC) and a box of H. Upmann Sir Winstons, which we haven't seen often here in Cuba.
Sometimes it's the less-travelled shops that yield the forgotten treasures. We popped into the Casa del Habano at the Hotel Palco, and it's a truly modest shop, with a small walk-in humidor. As we flipped boxes and checked date codes, we saw plenty of 2012 and 2011 cigars, unlike most of the other Cuban cigar shops save for Club Habana. There were 2011 Cohiba Siglo VI for 196 CUC for a box of 10.
I saw a few boxes crammed into an odd spot that made them impossible to move, so I pushed a few other boxes aside and pulled them out. I know the look of the Bolivar Belicoso Fino in cabinet presentation (I love that drawing of the cigar on the top of the box) and I flipped them over to check the dates. They were from 2010, 180 CUC a box. That's a nice find here in Cuba.