Hefty Havanas: Cuban Cigars Are Getting Thicker...And More Popular
Twenty years ago, the thickest cigar coming out of Cuban cigar factories had a ring gauge of 52. Today, Cuba has 30 cigars that come in at 56 ring gauge or wider, including the Cohiba 50 Aniversario cigar, at 60. And the response to the global trend toward thicker cigars led by consumers and cigarmakers for the U.S. market is planned to grow.
Habanos S.A. co-president Luis Sánchez-Harguindey Pardo de Vera says that the Cuban cigar monopoly is going to keep pursuing its strategy of producing fat cigars because that’s what consumers around the world are asking for. Walid Saleh, managing director of Phoenicia Trading A.A., which distributes cigars throughout the Middle East, says his customers love them. “This is definitely a trend in our area,” Saleh says.
The infatuation with girth isn’t universal, however. Asian market sources report that because of cultural and historical considerations, most consumers there still haven’t jumped on the thick-cigar bandwagon. Norio Hattori-Paris, who works for Pacific Cigar Company Ltd., the main distributor of Cuban cigars in Asia, says that consumers who buy the fatter gauge cigars do so “mostly just to have them in their collections.” He adds that the majority, including himself, still prefer traditional sizes, and if they want a bigger cigar they opt for a double corona (with its relatively slim 49 ring gauge) or a Churchill (47).
But Habanos keeps rolling out new sizes that push past the 50-ring-gauge boundary. In September, the Hoyo de Monterrey Le Hoyo de Rio Seco (5 1/2 inches by 56 ring gauge) was launched in Lebanon as a regular-production extension of the Hoyo de Monterrey brand. Another high-profile 2018 addition is the Romeo y Julieta Gran Churchill, which, at 7 1/2 by 56, is one of the longest of the thick cigars in the Cuban portfolio. It’s a limited-edition cigar, as are many of the other thick smokes, such as the Partagás Salomon, a 7 1/4-by-57 smoke made for La Casa del Habano retail shops, and the Cohiba Robustos Supremos Edición Limitada 2014 (5 by 58).
In 2017, the only fat Cuban cigar announced was the Bolivar Mundiales (6 1/3 by 56), which will come in a 115th anniversary humidor. But 2016 was a banner year for thick Cubans, with four cigars sporting ring gauges of 56 and fatter: the Bolivar Tesoro (7 1/4 by 57), a Regional Edition Salomon made for Germany; the Cohiba Majestuosos 1966 (5 7/8 by 58) a limited-edition Cohiba made for the brand’s 50th anniversary, which came in an ornate humidor; the Cuaba 20 Aniversario (6 3/4 by 56), which will also come in a special humidor; and the Trinidad Topes (5 by 56), an Edición Limitada.
But the star of the 2016 releases was the Cohiba 50 Aniversario, a 60-ring-gauge smoke that—up to now—is the widest cigar ever produced in modern-day Cuba. Also known by its factory name, Grandioso, it’s 7 inches long and is extremely rare, having only been sold as part of the Cohiba 50th anniversary humidor, of which only 50 were made, each containing 50 cigars, for a total global run of 2,500 cigars. The No. 1 humidor was auctioned at the 2016 Festival del Habano and fetched approximately $350,000 at the time. The other 49 humidors were auctioned to the main Habanos distributors around the world, with a base price of $227,000. Others have sold for even more.
Most of Cuba’s global brands now have a 56-ring-gauge cigar or bigger. H. Upmann has the Magnum 56 (6 by 56) and the Supremas No. 2 (7 by 58), Partagás the Partagás 170 (6 3/4 by 56). And no one expects this fat cigar trend to stop anytime soon.