Cigar Aficionado

Early Morning Meeting in Havana

I just fired up an Edmundo from an aluminum tube that I received from Manuel Garcia, commercial vice president for Habanos S.A., the global marketing and distribution company for Cuban cigars. We had an early meeting this morning at 8:15 am. I mentioned that I had a meeting to a Cuban friend this morning and she looked in a state of shock. "That doesn’t sound like Cuba," she said. Oh well. Garcia was busy this week with all the presidents of Habanos’ key distributors around the world. So, it was the only time he could fit me in to talk a little bit about sales around the world. He said that both sales volume and value were up, although the later was more. They don’t like to give out exact figures, but I suspect exports are about 125 million to 135 million cigars in a year and total revenues are between $250 million and $300 million.

Garcia, who has been working with Habanos and its predecessor Cubatabaco since 1989, said that their volume for the first eight months was up a couple of points and value up close to 10 percent. He looked pleased.

“Despite all the anti-smoking laws around the world, we are slowly gaining market share,” he said. Most of the growth is coming from such areas as Latin America, the Middle East and the Far East. Europe is stable overall, and such markets as Spain and Italy are bouncing back after a slight decline due to the introduction of draconian anti-smoking laws over the last two or three years.

I don’t know if it’s my palate this morning but the Edmundo seems a little lighter than usual. But I have been smoking more petit Edmundos of recent, and the shorter version of the Edmundo has much more punch to it than the original. I must say that I like the tube of Edmundo and Petit Edmundo, which were recently introduced. Tubes are really useful. You can throw one in your pocket or brief case and you’re sorted for day for a quick smoke when you have the chance.

Yesterday, I spent some time in the office of Juan Giron, the Spanish head of marketing for Habanos, and he said that they were going to increase the number of cigars available in tubes as well as redesign the old packaging of popular ones. For example, they have already redone the “tubos” for Montecristo as well as Romeo y Julieta. Plus you have Cohiba Siglo II and VI in tubes among others. I saw some cool looking tubes for H. Upmann in Juan’s office. One was for the Churchill-size Monarchs, which is a cigar I have
liked for a long time. I recently had a 20-year old one from a tube during a trip to Hong Kong and it was sublime -- full of richness and flavor. Juan said they are developing a tube for Partagas Serie D No. 4, which I think will be a smash success.

Speaking of the famous Robusto from Partagas, Garcia told me that Serie D is now the No. 1 selling cigar in France, eclipsing the ubiquitous Montecristo No. 4. “We see all Robusto and thick gauge cigars growing in our traditional markets,” he told me this morning.

It’s funny but once you have gotten used to smoking a Robusto, a corona or petit corona seems sort of meager or miserly to smoke –even in the morning like today!

"Hey Edward. Miss you buddy. We were here together in Havana a year ago. Not the same without you. Yes, apparently the Churchill's from R & J have been tubed in a new package -- just like the Short Churuchill from R&J." —September 26, 2007 06:57 AM
"Hi James, Very interesting news of the H.Upmann Monarchs Tubed cigars, do you know if they will also have the new tubes for the Romeo Y Julieta Churchill's ?? I wish I was there with you as well, I am off to Armenia on Friday for the Armenian International Cigar Festival !! Hope to to you soon, Regards Edward" —September 26, 2007 05:11 AM