I’m sitting in a conference room at 10 o’clock on a Monday morning, a new Hoyo de Monterrey in my mouth, the smoke curling toward the high ceiling. I’m wearing an earpiece, listening to the translation of the words being spoken on stage, and I’m typing away on my laptop.
Now, this is my kind of press conference.
The Habanos Festival—this is year 22—is the week when Cuba unveils its newest cigars, reveals sales trends, new developments and various milestones in the industry. That’s one big part of the Festival. The second part—perhaps the more important part—is the gathering. I’m one of more than 2,200 people here this week, representing 70 countries from around the world. Everyone is here to talk about cigars.
I landed here on Sunday, joined by Cigar Aficionado managing editor Greg Mottola. We lit our first cigars at 3 pm, in the Casa del Habano at the Meliá Cohiba Hotel, where we are staying. Within the first hour, we had chatted with people from England, Lebanon, Italy, Seattle, Texas and—of course—Cuba.
The first cigar was a pleasant find, a Punch La Isla Regional Edition, made for sale here in Cuba. The Melia Cohiba was filled with them, probably 50 or so, with box dates ranging from July 2018 (the ones we smoked) to December 2018. It was a bit overhumidified, but quite tasty, a good buy at 115 CUC for a box of 10. (That works out to about $130 when you factor in the 13 percent penalty for exchanging U.S. dollars for Cuban Convertible Pesos, also known as CUC.)
The second cigar, smoked during dinner, was a stunning find, a Cohiba Novedosos. It was 20 CUC, perfectly made, and absolutely brimming with notes of crushed coffee bean, leather and wood. It was a single, and we’ve yet to see a box here, but our searches have only begun.
This week Greg and I are going to report on all the new things Cuba has prepared to release later this year, we’ll tell you what is in stock (and what isn’t) in the shops, and how much you can expect to pay, what’s new in the restaurant and hotel scene and much more. We’re going to fill our notebooks and shoot plenty of photos, so you can see all that Cuba has to offer.
This new cigar I’m smoking? It’s a Hoyo de Monterrey Primaveros. This sample (remember, the cigar I’m smoking is an early version, the actual cigar won’t be on sale for at least a year, so what I’m smoking now might be quite different from what makes it to market.) It’s one of many new smokes coming out—you’ll read more about that in Greg’s report today.
We’ll be here all week. Curious about Cuban cigars? Put your question in the comments section. We’ll do our best to answer.