As the new year begins, the last of the Habanos regional-edition cigars have shipped to their appointed countries. Some nations received their shipments months ago while others still eagerly await.
The regional-edition program began in 2005, when a handful of European countries and distributors contracted with Habanos S.A., the global distributor for Cuban cigars, to create unique sizes of smaller Cuban brands. The campaign was so successful that more countries wanted in. This year, 17 regional-edition cigars were created for 12 regions, as opposed to last year's eight releases in eight regions.
"Regional editions are great fun for us distributors, and the collectors love them," said Simon Chase, marketing director for Hunter's & Frankau, the United Kingdom's Habanos distributor. "The whole concept is taking on the look of a separate and vibrant industry."
Many of the regional-edition cigars have unique stories attached to them, and the United Kingdom's is one of them. Chase looked to antiquity for inspiration and came up with the La Gloria Cubana Glorioso and the Punch Serie d'Oro No. 1, both of which are discontinued vintage sizes. Chase went through great pains to re-create the box art and band, researching the lithographic originals and working with the famed Dutch printer Vrijdag for faithful reproduction.
The Punch cigar is a pyramid size last produced in the 1960s, ribbon bound and packaged in a wooden box. It measures 6 1/8 inches by 52 ring and will retail for £19 ($28.41) per cigar. The La Gloria Cubana measures 6 1/8 by 50 and will retail for £18 ($26.91) each.
Switzerland has already received its regional-edition cigars through Intertabac, the country's Habanos distributor: the Bolivar Legendario, which measures 6 by 50 (and scored 91 points in the November 18 issue of Cigar Insider), and the Juan Lopez Maximo, measuring 6 3/16 by 48.
"I have received five boxes of each," said Arek Aboulian of Raffi Cigares in Geneva. "The regional-edition program is a good way for my customers to try new brands. I have tried the Legendario and it is a true Bolivar, with the taste of earth and pepper. A real connoisseur smoke with the personality of the brand."
On the other side of the globe, the Pacific Cigar Company Ltd. received its cigars for the Asia Pacific region in November. The Por Larrañaga Belicoso Extra (which measures 5 1/2 by 52, pictured) and the Bolivar Short Bolivar (4 3/8 by 50) have never appeared in these sizes before. The cigars retail for HK$195 ($25.16) and HK$156 ($20.13), respectively.
The Bolivar Armonía is an additional regional-edition smoke created for the Hong Kong duty-free market. It is a large 7 1/4 inch by 57 ring gauge double-tapered cigar identical in size to the Cuaba Salomone.
Other interesting sizes include Italy's El Rey del Mundo Especiales, a 5 1/2 by 52 ring belicoso-style cigar that European Editor James Suckling recently smoked non-blind, giving it 91 points in his blog. Suckling also smoked the Ramon Allones Phoenicios, the regional edition produced for Lebanon in celebration of Phoenicia T.A.A.'s 30-year anniversary. The distributor also ships cigars to most of the Middle East. Suckling awarded this cigar a non-blind score of 95 points. Short and squat, Portugal's Vegas Robaina Petit Robusto and France's Bolivar Petit Libertador both measure 4 inches by 50 ring.