Cuba’s New Cigar Lineup For 2017

Cuba’s New Cigar Lineup For 2017
New cigars from Habanos S.A will include (from left) a revamped Quai D'Orsay brand for the global market, the H. Upmann Sir Winston Gran Reserva Cosecha 2011 and the Montecristo Linea 1935.

The Cohiba Talismán, the Punch Regios de Punch and Partagás Serie No. 1 are the new lineup of special Edición Limitada cigars for 2017 from Habanos S.A, the Cuban tobacco monopoly announced today in Havana.

The three cigars represent unique sizes for each of the brands, and like each Limited Edition product, will be manufactured in small quantities. The Cohiba Talismán, measuring 6 1/8 inches by 54 ring gauge, is known in the factory as a Cañonazo Doble. The Punch Regios de Punch, 4 3/4 by 48, is also known as a Hermoso Especial. And, the Partagás Serie No. 1 will be a 5 1/2 by 52 cigar called a Noblezas in factory jargon.

The new Limited Editions were announced at the same time as a major addition to Montecristo, the largest selling brand of Cuban cigars, and a re-design and new marketing strategy for a former regional brand, Quai D'Orsay.

Montecristo will now include a new super-premium line extension known as the Linea 1935. The Linea 1935 will come in three sizes, a 6 1/2 by 55 cigar called a Leyenda (Maravillas No. 2 in factories), a Maltés with dimensions of 6 by 53 inches (Sobresalientes in factories) and the 5 1/8 inch by 49 Dumas (or Prominente Corto in the factory). There were no production figures released.

The new lineup of Edición Limitada cigars for 2017, from left: The Punch Regios de Punch, Partagás Serie No. 1 and the Cohiba Talismán.
The new lineup of Edición Limitada cigars for 2017, from left: The Punch Regios de Punch, Partagás Serie No. 1 and the Cohiba Talismán.

The Quai D'Orsay brand, which up to now has been sold primarily in the French market, will now get a global marketing push. Along with a fresh band design, the cigar will also be produced in two new sizes: The No. 50, at 4 3/8 by 50 (D No. 5 on the factory rolling floor), and the No. 54, a 5 3/8 by 54 ring smoke (Edmundo Grueso on the factory floor).

In addition, Habanos will showcase a Romeo y Julieta Petit Royales, a 3 3/4 by 47 cigar also called a Capricho, at the 19th annual Festival del Habanos. The event will take place all this week in Cuba.

And, the signature cigar of tonight's opening gala party will be the H. Upmann Sir Winston Gran Reserva Cosecha 2011, which means it contains tobacco from a 2011 crop. At 7 by 47, it's a classic Churchill size cigar, and the first Gran Reserva cigar in the H. Upmann line. The 7 by 47 format (Julieta No. 2 in the factory) was once the favorite size of famed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Only 5,000 numbered boxes will be released.

Two new cigars will be sold exclusively in Casas del Habano around the world, Habanos announced. The two cigars are: a Trinidad La Trova, a 6 1/2 by 52 (or a Cañonazo Especial), and an H. Upmann Connossieur B, a 5 7/8 by 54 ring cigar. The latter are known as Geniales.

At the Festival's opening press conference, Habanos S.A. marketing director Enrique Babot announced that the company's revenues increased by 5 percent in 2016, to $445 million, from 2015. The director of development, Javier Terrés, explained that the increase, which "came during a difficult year for luxury goods products worldwide," was partly the result of the publicity in 2016 surrounding the 50th anniversary of Cohiba, the most prestigious brand in Habanos' portfolio. Additionally, the boost was also the result of a solid sales recovery in Europe, especially Spain and France, which represent the company's largest markets in percentage terms.

Terrés said that the top six countries for Cuban cigar sales in 2015 were, in order, Spain, France, China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Germany, Cuba and Switzerland. He added that Cuba had risen into the top six list because of a nearly 20 percent increase in tourism to Cuba, with more than four million visitors in 2016. But, he added, it was still too early to judge the impact of new U.S. regulations, announced in October 2016, that allow U.S. citizens to buy up to 100 cigars or $800 worth of Cuban cigars from any country in the world without having to pay duty, including Cuba.

Babot added that in countries where Cuba is allowed to sell its cigars, it accounts for around 70 percent market share in units and 80 percent in terms of revenues. He said the global market for premium cigars is around 450 million units, but that includes the U.S. where around 300 million cigars are sold each year. Based on independent calculations, that means Cuba is selling close to 100 million premium cigars a year. Babot added that cigars represent the fourth or fifth largest export product for Cuba, depending on the year.

Habano's also has 144 Casas del Habano retail shops around the world, but now has 875 Habanos Specialists, an increase of 5 percent, and 1,950 Habanos Points, a jump of 2 percent, Babot said. The latter two retail outlet types are not exclusive Habanos retailers. According to Habanos S.A., a Habanos Specialist must have a degree from the Habanos Academy's senior course, while the Habanos Point staff must have a degree from the Habanos Academy's junior course. Casas del Habano are directly franchised and have a contractual relationship with Habanos S.A. Habanos Specialist and Points are not contractually bound to Habanos because the program is applied by the local distributors.

The 19th annual cigar festival kicks off tonight with a gala reception and then continues through the closing banquet on Friday night, with daily seminars, a Tuesday trip to the tobacco-producing region in Pinar del Río, another gala dinner on Wednesday night, where the new Quai D'Orsay will debut, and more seminars and programs on Thursday and Friday. According to Habanos, the Festival is attracting 2,000 participants from 55 countries around the world, 185 journalists from 22 countries and a trade show, featuring cigar related accessories and spirits with 67 exhibitors from 11 countries.