Cigar Aficionado

Festival del Habanos Opening Gala

The soft, magical lighting bathed the circular entrance to Club Habana, a former yacht club in the Miramar section of Havana. The guests entered through a phalanx of costumed dancers with headdresses, receiving elegant black packages of the two cigars spotlighted on the evening: the Hoyo de Monterrey Le Hoyo de San Juan and the Partagás Serie D No. 6. There were bars serving Cuban rum and Spanish Cava, and canapés were passed through the crowd. It was the gala opening dinner for the 16th annual Festival del Habanos, Cuba's yearly extravaganza celebrating one of the country's principal products: cigars.

The event then got started with a video presentation projected onto the façade of the Club Habana, a beautiful building built in the 1920s. The video included graphic representations of tobacco barns, and the new cigars being presented that night.

The crowd then filtered into the building, where there were buffets for dinner—chicken, lobster, squid and beef with more rum and more wine. There were more than 1,000 people milling around the club's beach, and hanging on the huge balconies. There were small bands performing in some rooms, and a rock and roll band off in a cabana at one end of the club. The aroma of fine cigars wafted over the entire crowd, many of the women decked out in beautiful gowns.

The highlight of the evening finally kicked off about 10:30; A performance by the world renowned Cuban salsa band, Los Van Van. It was the first time the group had performed at the Habanos Festival.

The Festival continues today with visits to Pinar del Río, and the Vuelta Abajo.

"Gordon: My recent trip to Cuba began with me sitting next to you on the short plane ride. How lucky I was to receive an "advance briefing" on what I could expect at the Festival. Needless to say, I was not disappointed with the programs I attended, or the products I was privileged to sample. Both you and your publication helped prepare me for a week in this fabulous wonderland; where the people and their culture helped revive my spirit. Thanks, again. " —March 12, 2014 10:03 AM