Cigar Aficionado

Going to The Habanos Festival

I am arriving in La Habana this afternoon in time for the opening event of the 12th Festival Habano. Not only will I get my first glimpse of the new line-extension of Cohiba—the three Cohiba Behike cigars—but also the piano jazz legend Chucho Valdés will be providing the entertainment at the Gran Teatro de la Habana. Chucho is an awesome jazzman.

I heard the Behikes are going to be very expensive. I don’t think you are going to get much change back with one hundred bucks per smoke, but we will see. They are supposed to be 30 percent more expensive than the normal Cohiba line.

The new Cohibas will be made in limited quantities, which normally means a minimum of 5,000 boxes in Cuba. They are rolled exclusively at the Cohiba mother factory, El Laguito. What’s supposedly special about this line is that the blend of tobacco includes a large percentage of tobacco from the medio tiempo of the plants grown on farms near the towns of San Juan y Martínez and San Luis. These are upper primings, thus they should be stronger and more flavorful cigars. I would guess that the new Behikes are going to be along the lines in flavor as the Cohiba Reserva, which I think is a perfect smoke.

The three sizes are named with numbers, each referring to its ring gague. The BHK 52 is 4 11/16 inches long by 52 ring; BHK 54 is 5 2/3 inches by 54; and BHK 56 is 6 1/2 by 56. The cigars come in lacquered boxes of ten.

The five-day festival is always a great time. It’s full of events, seminars, cocktails, visits to plantations and factories and well as the usual schmoozing, which is probably the most important reason to go. It’s become the Woodstock or Cochella Music Festival for Cuban cigars. If you are into Habanos, you have got to go. And it’s in Havana no less.

I am particularly interested in what the Cubans have to say about their new cigar that is being headlined as “a special tribute to womankind.” It’s something that is called a “Wide Churchill,” and it’s being produced under the Romeo y Julieta band.  The cigar is a thick 55-ring gauge by 5 1/8 inches. How it is a tribute to woman, your guess is as good as mine. I didn’t think women like things that thick?

Then there is a new cigar geared for woman called the Julieta, which is a slender smoke measuring 33 ring by 4 3/4. I guess this is the cigar Habanos hopes will turn on woman smokers. This isn’t the first time that a smoke has been given a female raison d’etre. I remember some cigar makers in the Dominican Republic doing the same in the 1990s and it was pretty much of a failure. I find woman like to smoke what men smoke, and they don’t want to be singled out. But maybe I don’t get the concept of the new Julieta?

I will be doing a quick seminar on “aged cigars,” which, as you know, is a passion of mine—sometimes more than other times. We are going to smoke an aged cigar with a fresh one during the small discussion.

There also will be a premiere of a new film called  “Cosi”, which was produced by Oscar winner Stephen Evans and directed by Christophe Menaul. It stars Opera singer Sarah Brightman and actors Richard E. Grant and Mia Maestro.

The event ends with the gala dinner, which is always a entertaining formal affair full of great smokes. It includes the auction of rare humidors to raise money for the Cuban Public Health System. Last year more than $1.3 million was raised from the sale of a dozen or so humidors, which usually appear more like pieces of furniture than anything else.

Anyway, vamos a ver que paso en La Habana esta semana. We will see what happens in La Havana this week.

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"My experience with women is that they like a really big ring gauge. " —February 24, 2010 12:45 PM