Montecristo Open and Habanos Surrealism

Feb 24, 2009
It was sort of surreal last night sitting in the Karl Marx Theater in Havana and watching a presentation for the line extension of Montecristo –Open– during the XI Festival Habano. Images of pristine golf courses, sleek yachts and powerful motor racing machines were mixed with polo tournaments, tennis matches, international regattas, and Grand Prix races to the background music of Coldplay and a number of other popular rock bands.

Modern dance numbers with a Cuban troupe followed each introduction of the four Montecristo Open sizes including the small Junior, 38 ring gauge by 4 1/3 inches, the sleek belicoso Regatta, 46 by 5 1/3 inches, the robusto Master, 50 by 4 7/8 inches, and super-charged super robusto Eagle, 54 by 5 7/8 inches. The four cigars carry the traditional brown and cream Montecristo band, but they also don a second green band with gold and white lettering. Check out the photo.

Photo by James Suckling

Habanos S.A., the global marketing and distribution company for Cuban cigars and organizers of the festival, also mentioned the introduction of the new Trinidad Robusto T, which will be first smoked tomorrow at an event at the Havana Libre Hotel.

But last night’s event, which moved to the Club Havana afterwards so that guests could actually smoke the Opens, was all about the good life. The young, affluent beautiful people living the la buena vida are what Montecristo Open are all about. As I wrote before, it’s about the Montecristo Generation, mostly men in their 30s or 40s who want to enjoy the good things in life, which obviously includes a good cigar.

And why not? I am not sure how many guys in those age groups can still afford yachts, jets, polo ponies or most other things used to symbolize the good life anymore, but they can certainly still buy a great cigar!

“We want to attract a new generation of smoker who is just starting to enjoy the occasional cigar,” said Buenaventura Jiménez Sánchez-Cañet, co-president of Habanos SA. “We think we can develop that market where men enjoy cigars special events (mostly outside) whether it be a wedding or a sports event.”

I think it’s a cool idea. And the obvious connection with golf alone with this new Montecristo line makes great sense. The cigars are typical Montecristo, more along the lines of Edmundo than anything else. I smoked a Master and Eagle last night, and I don’t know if it was because of the strong wind at the beach club or the cigar itself, but I found the Eagle the better of the two. It had the most richness and flavor to compensate for the stormy weather. There were plenty of chocolate and cream flavors with a hint of cedar. 92 points, unblind. I scored the Master 90 points, unblind. I will smoke the other two vitolas today or tomorrow and report back.

Anyway, this celebration was against a backdrop of Habanos reporting yesterday that its global sales dropped 3 percent last year to $390 million due to the economic crisis and the rise of anti-smoking. And most of the cigar merchants, whether from London, Hamburg or Hong Kong, were bemoaning the difficulty in selling fine cigars during the event. So it was all extra surreal.

I ended the night hanging out with actor Peter Coyote, who was one of the celebrities attending the event and the guest of honor of the festival. He was officially in Cuba with his wife writing articles for the San Francisco Chronicle.

He is a thoughtful liberal with a huge love of the leaf. He told the audience at the Karl Marx Theatre: “It was a long way to come to smoke a great cigar, and that I hope soon that the silly embargo of my country will be over.”

We agreed that the Montecristo Opens were smoking well, and it was good to be in Cuba.
"In my personal opinion, the Montecristo Open is a great idea to bring new generation of smokers who love to smoke in open spaces (sports man and women, adventurers, etc..). But how can you come up with a cigar with a high combustion and at the same time with less body. Easy: you add more ¿Volado Leaf¿ (the milder and thinner leaf of the tobacco plant) to the blend, and it will result in both efects, more combustion and less body. The more Volado you add (i), the milder the flavor and (ii) the higher the combustion. So Montecristo Open is a very intelligent and cost efficient solution to bring more and more generations and beginners to this wonderful pleasure of smoking cigars. Maybe it could have been named Montecristo ¿Light¿ but of course nobody would ever buy it." —April 25, 2009 17:00 PM
"James,How ironic, an event glorifying the good life and things that only rich foreign capitalist can have at the Karl Marx theatre in the communist island paradise. Such hypocrisy. Che would be proud. I love it.Rafael" —February 25, 2009 14:17 PM

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