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My First Behike

May 4, 2011 | By Gordon Mott

Ever since Dave Savona and I arrived in Havana on Sunday, I've been dreaming about smoking Cigar Aficionado's Cigar of the Year, the Cohiba Behike BHK 52. But it turned out it wasn't going to be easy.
The first Casas del Habano we visited were closed on Sunday. It was May Day, a national holiday here in Cuba to celebrate solidarity with the workers of the world. There were early morning crowds in the streets, but by noon, the marches were over and the streets became nearly deserted. We finally found a Casa open in the Melia Cohiba, which is a modern high-rise tourist establishment overlooking the Malecón, the seaside promenade, and the ocean. It was also the only place we could find to change a sufficient amount of money—all transactions here for Americans with U.S. bank issued credit cards have to be in cash; the card won't work—because all the banks and foreign exchange houses also were closed. So, after a couple of failures, we were excited about finding cigars, and I was secretly hoping to stumble across a Behike.
There were no Behikes. They were sold out.
I spent most of the afternoon walking around Habana Vieja, Old Havana, working on the cigars I had purchased at the Melia, a Partagas Lusitania and a couple of others. The Lusitania was a classic, with a beautiful Colorado wrapper and a full-bodied spicy smoke that performed perfectly. The next day, I kept working through some cigars given to us, but still no Behikes. When Dave and I met up again at the end of the day, he said that every shop he had visited was out of Behikes, too. There were none anywhere. I didn't let on my disappointment. After a second Lusitania failed to perform on Monday night while we were listening to a jazz concert, I lit up a cigar that Dave gave me, a special cigar made for the El Aljibe restaurant where we had dined on Sunday night. It was okay, but like many "special" cigars here, it lacked the complexity and depth of traditional brands.
By Tuesday, I was wondering what I was going to smoke. We ended up going through some necessasry bureaucracy to get press credentials and then I stayed with Dave to visit the Romeo y Julieta factory, which is now occupied by the H. Upmann work force while it's relatively new factory is undergoing repairs. It was great to be back in a cigar factory, but it was almost painful to walk past big stacks of H. Upmann No. 2s, and interestingly enough, some Cohiba Siglo series, including one of my favorites, the Cohiba Siglo VI. The factory manager gave us an H. Upmann Half Corona which is a great little smoke. I lit up immediately and thought, here it is noon, and I'm just smoking my first cigar of the day.
And, still, no Behike.
Before lunch, Dave still had to visit a Casa del Habano in the Havana Libre hotel, which is one of the newest and biggest CDHs in Havana, a must-visit if you are in the city. I walked in, and there on a shelf was a box with four Behike BHK 52s. I quickly bought two—18 CUCs or about $21 each. I almost lit up on the spot but I decided to wait until we had lunch at a paladar.
Lunch was great (I'll be writing about the details of all the restaurants we're checking out this week at a later date.) But when it was over, I reached in my pocket, clipped and carefully lit a Behike and sat back to savor the first puff. The cigar was everything I remembered. It has a wonderful, mouth-filling roundness with leather and spice notes and a pleasant, sweet, earthy finish. It is one of the best-balanced cigars I have ever smoked. There is a light sweetness that never disappears. The cigar may have passed the ulimate test—I smoked it down until my knuckles were in danger of getting burned. Although this cigar is amazingly enjoyable in its youth, I also believe it is going to evolve into a truly classic smoke as it reaches its peak in 10 to 15 years.
It was a great cigar. I felt like I had finally arrived in Havana.

"Wow, Mike Barker is completely out of control with his on dimensional crusade against anyone who even proposes a different world other than his King George, Virginia world. What is worst is that Mr.Barker is making gross generalizations about countries and governments he only knows through mainstream media or right winged literature. Its scary to know a person like King Mike Barker could be so naive and dogmatic towards any other country that differs in political ideology, philosophy or democracy. I hope you don't also hate Canadians, French and Germans for vacationing in Cuba. Damn those communists!!!!" —January 5, 2012 15:24 PM
"Gordon... see the chronology... http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=8321" —May 26, 2011 14:18 PM
"... continued... While not abandoning his close relationships in the Middle East, Castro has recently concentrated his support on several groups: the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), where Castro, and his new ally Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, see significant possibilities for success; ETA, the Basque terrorist/separatist organization from Spain, which has found refuge and support in Cuba, and the Irish Republican Army (IRA), which established its Latin American headquarters in Havana. American policymakers should pay careful attention to the intricate web of relationships which emerges so clearly from this chronology. It carefully details Castro's involvement with and support for terrorist regimes and organizations during the past four decades. Cuba's geographical location, Castro's continuous connections with these groups and states and the harboring of terrorists in Havana creates a dynamic that requires vigilance and alertness. It should be emphasized that in addition to violence and terrorism, Castro and his regime, have been for more than four decades, the most vocal and active proponents of anti-Americanism. The often-repeated view in many countries that the United States is an evil power, guilty for much of the problems and sufferings of the developing world, is owed in great part to the propaganda efforts of Fidel Castro. Jaime Suchlicki, Director Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies September 2001 " —May 26, 2011 14:14 PM
"Gordon... Castro and Terrorism: A Chronology By: Eugene Pons Institute for Cuban & Cuban-American Studies | Friday, June 10, 2005 FOREWORD Since 1948 when, as a young student, Fidel Castro participated in the violence that rocked Colombian society and distributed anti-U.S. propaganda, he has been guided by two objectives: a commitment to violence and a virulent anti-Americanism. His struggle since and his forty-two years rule in Cuba have been characterized primarily by these goals. In the 1960's Castro and his brother, Raul, believed that the political and economic conditions that produced their revolution existed in Latin America and that anti-American revolutions would occur throughout the continent. Cuban agents and diplomats established contact with revolutionary, terrorist and guerrilla groups in the area and began distributing propaganda, weapons and aid. Many Latin Americans were brought to Cuba for training and then returned to their countries. At the Tricontinental Conference held in Havana in 1966 and attended by revolutionary leaders from throughout the world, Castro insisted that bullets not ballots was the way to achieve power and provided the institutional means to promote his anti-American, violent line. He insisted that "conditions exist for an armed revolutionary struggle" and criticized those who opposed armed struggle, including some Communist leaders in Latin America, as "traitorous, rightists, and deviationists." Castro's attempts in the 1960's to bring revolutionary, anti-American regimes to power failed. His support for guerrillas and terrorist groups in Guatemala, Venezuela, and Bolivia only produced violence and suffering to those countries and their people, which repudiated violence as a means to achieve power. Violence resulted in military regimes coming to power in several Latin American countries For the next two decades, the Cuban leadership, supported by the Soviet Union, modified its tactics. In addition to agents from the America Department, the subversive arm of Cuba's Communist Party, Castro used his Armed Forces to help friendly groups achieve power in Latin America and Africa. In Nicaragua Cuban military personnel, weapons and intelligence supported and helped bring to power the Sandinistas. In El Salvador, a bloody civil war in part fomented and aided by Cuba, ended in a stalemate and a negotiated peace. In Africa, Castro achieved his most significant victories. The Soviet-Cuban backed Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) faction was installed in power in Angola and other Cuban supported regimes came to power throughout the continent. The Cuban military also trained and supplied the South-West African Peoples Organization (SWAPO) and the African National Congress (ANC), forces fighting the South African regime. Castro also became involved with African-Americans in the U.S. and with the Macheteros, a Puerto Rican terrorist group. Cuba focused particular attention on the black struggle in the U.S., providing aid and training to the Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army, as well as a safehaven on the island for black leaders. Castro continuously promoted the independence of Puerto Rico and supported the Macheteros who committed terrorist acts and bank robberies in the United States. Several still live in Cuba. Cuban military and intelligence personnel aided Middle Eastern groups and regimes in their struggle against Israel, and Cuban troops fought on the side of Arab States, particularly Syria, during the Yom Kippur war. Castro sent military instructors and advisors into Palestinian bases; cooperated with Libya in the founding of World Mathaba, a terrorist movement; and established close military cooperation and exchanges with Iraq, Libya, Southern Yemen, the Polisario Front for the Liberation of Western Sahara, the PLO and others in the Middle East. Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, Castro continues to undermine U.S. policies in the Middle East in several ways: a) by portraying U.S. actions and diplomacy in the region as those of an aggressor, seeking to impose hegemony by force, particularly in Iraq and the perpetration of unjustified economic sanctions on Iraq and Iran; b) by portraying the U.S. as the main obstacle to a peaceful settlement of the Israel/Arab conflict; and c) by discrediting U.S. policies and seeking support for Cuba at the U.N. These anti-American views and policies are conveyed as a systematic message through a network of Cuban embassies and agents, as well as at the U.N. and other non-governmental political, religious and cultural organizations. ..." —May 26, 2011 14:16 PM
"Economic Freedom of Cigar Producing Countries and some of their neighbors, and some others from the Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom as of 2011 http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking Rank Nation Score Theoretical Max 100.0 1 Hong Kong 89.7 2 Singapore 87.2 3 Australia 82.5 4 New Zealand 82.3 5 Switzerland 81.9 6 Canada 80.8 7 Ireland 78.7 8 Denmark 78.6 9 United States 77.8 10 Bahrain 77.7 39 El Salvador 68.8 42 Barbados 68.5 48 Mexico 67.8 49 Costa Rica 67.3 58 Jamaica 65.7 59 Panama 64.9 71 Belize 63.8 79 Guatemala 61.9 90 Dominican Republic 60.0 98 Nicaragua 58.8 99 Honduras 58.6 133 Haiti 52.1 158 Ecuador 47.1 175 Venezuela 37.6 177 Cuba 27.7 179 North Korea 1.0 Political Rights and Civil Liberties in some Cigar Producing Countries and some of their neighbors, and some others from Freedom Watch's report, 2010 data http://freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=15 1 = the best 7 = the worst PR = political rights CL = civil liberties PR CL avg status Bahamas 1 1 1 Free Costa Rica 1 1 1 Free Saint Kitts and Nevis 1 1 1 Free Saint Lucia 1 1 1 Free United States 1 1 1 Free Belize 1 2 1.5 Free Panama 1 2 1.5 Free Dominican Republic 2 2 2 Free El Salvador 2 3 2.5 Free Jamaica 2 3 2.5 Free Mexico 2 3 2.5 Free Ecuador 3 3 3 Partly Free Guatemala 4 4 4 Partly Free Honduras 4 4 4 Partly Free Nicaragua 4 4 4 Partly Free Haiti 4 5 4.5 Partly Free Venezuela 5 4 4.5 Partly Free Russia 6 5 5.5 Not Free Yemen 6 5 5.5 Not Free Afghanistan 6 6 6 Not Free Iran 6 6 6 Not Free Chad 7 6 6.5 Not Free China 7 6 6.5 Not Free Cuba 7 6 6.5 Not Free Burma 7 7 7 Not Free Libya 7 7 7 Not Free North Korea 7 7 7 Not Free " —May 26, 2011 12:44 PM
"I think flavor of Behike will be weared away with extra aging. I smoked one, and I though it taste like over aged cuban cigar. But surely, Behike is super balanced precious cigar." —May 23, 2011 04:27 AM
"Thanks for the review/blog Gordon. Having visited and enjoyed the people and cigars of Cuba, I have to say they were both exceptional. Mike, you are an idiot!" —May 21, 2011 15:52 PM
"Hey Mike, You are a silly man." —May 21, 2011 06:23 AM
"Hey guys, I'm from Uruguay, since 2006 I'm running an european pharmaceutical company in charge of Central America and Caribean, for business reasons I have to visit Havana quite frequently and I would like to say a couple of things, one of them to Mike Barker, yes Mike in Latin American countries we celebrate May 1st as the workers day, and that celebration has nothing to do with communism, that's the International Workers Day in commemoration of the 1886 Massacre in Chicago. Second, compare Fidel Castro and his absurd obstinations with a terrorist like Bin Laden it's a huge exaggeration, third I guess that your army killed more innocent people in Middle East and other countries than Castro did, and I'm not a communist. Best regards MV" —May 20, 2011 19:09 PM
"Gordon, I just returned Sunday from 3 months in Havana. I was in and out of the Habana Libre Casa del Habano on a weekly basis. Unfortunately I did not get to try the Behikes, when they had them in stock and that I didn't cross paths with you or Dave when you we're there. Cuba was a beautiful country and I only hope I can return very soon. The propaganda is played on both sides and you can not get a true feel of the situation (politically, socially, etc.) until you spend some quality time there. Looking forward to your future reports. -Eric" —May 20, 2011 12:45 PM
"Brandon, Wish that was a simple answer...we stayed at three hotels last week, trying out most of the obvious on in Habana Vieja and Vedado. It really depends on what you want...I'll have all the details in early fall for you...but here's quick take. Top of the line luxury: Marquis San Felipe and Saratoga. Old World Charm: Santa Isabel, Ambos Mundo, Conde de Villanueva and Hotel Nacional. Beachfront: Melia Habana. It really boils down to what you want...my preference is the top of the line ones cuz of quality Internet service...but the charmers in Habana Vieja are hard to resist. " —May 12, 2011 14:37 PM
"Gordon Where did you guys stay? Any recommendations?" —May 10, 2011 19:12 PM
"Come on guys. This is all about cigars. I was born in Cuba and lived there for my first 35 years, so I know how bad things can be for the average Cuban. CA goes to Cuba simply because of the superb quality of the Cuban cigars, and honestly I don't see anything wrong with that. Mike, would you stop using or buying anything made in China? It is the same exact thing, but for some reason there is a a different approach when it comes to Cuba. If America buy billions of dollars in goods made in China, why can't an American buy a BHK in Cuba? Some common sense here..." —May 9, 2011 17:07 PM
"Mike's view is widely subscribed to in the US, sadly. It's an odd dichotomy when many of the citizens of one of the most advanced countries in the world seem to be terrified of a tiny island nation with what, socialised medicine? Maybe it's my bourgois appreciation of outstanding music, rum and (naturally) the cigars, but I can't wait to go. " —May 6, 2011 15:35 PM
"Tell you Gordon, smoking a BHK in Havana s just bless, does not get better then that...the place where one of the best new release was creted and I know how difficult it s to find all BHKs in Havana...as they ship them all out. This amazing Madio Tempo, is such a difficult leaf to grow...the flavours this produces is just amazing:) Glad you got to find the 52's...and enjoyed in Havana. Have you managed to taste the regional for Cuba? La Gloria Cubana Deliciosos , this s also a very good regional...the first regional in the jar...if you can not I can arrange from my keep in Havana. " —May 6, 2011 15:03 PM
"Gordon, if your trying different restaurants try Dr Cafe, in mirama. Address: 28 No. 111 e/ 1ra y 3ra, Miramar. Ciudad de La Habana. Not much of a looking place but the food is fantastic:) try the ribs for starts, there are lot of disies for the main, which I can not talk about, but for Cuba it's something. " —May 6, 2011 14:50 PM
"Wow. Over reaction much? Calling anyone a lackey is insulting and unnecessary, IMO. If journalists only travelled to and wrote about those countries whose Governments and policies they happened to agree with, where would it leave us? This site blogs on cigars, not politics, as far as I've read, and more power to their smoking arm, I say." —May 6, 2011 10:50 AM
"I will be arriving in cuba on may 20th you said I beleive there was four and you grabbed two does that mean there are still two left? Barry Cornwall Ontario" —May 5, 2011 20:37 PM
"You're the master of your own demise Gordon. CA rated the Behike 52 the best cigar in the world and now you're doomed to forever be looking for one in sold-out stores. Next time tell everyone it's "so-so" and there will be plenty of them for you to load up on when you visit. " —May 5, 2011 15:23 PM
"Harry, And from what country where you exiled from, or had land taken from under the auspicious of "Nationalization"? " —May 5, 2011 12:50 PM
"Yes. Castro's communism and its activities in Cuba, the Caribbean, central and south America, and southern Africa have been every bit as monstrous as that of al-Qada. Gordon is being a lackey of mass murdering tyrants in Cuba just as he would have been if he was enjoying the pleasures of al-Qada controlled areas of Pakistan, Taliban controlled areas of Afghanistan, or Kim Jong Il controlled North Korea. " —May 5, 2011 10:43 AM
""You are celebrating cigars at the pleasure of a regime which is every bit as monstrous as that of the monster killed by Navy seals earlier this week." Oh really Mike. I take it that you've visited Cuba then? It's true what they say - there's propaganda on both side of the Florida straits" —May 5, 2011 09:41 AM
"Enjoy your trip. Hope you get to enjoy some Afro-Cuban jazz along with your Behikes. MB" —May 5, 2011 09:29 AM
"Well said Mike. " —May 4, 2011 20:49 PM
""To celebrate solidarity with the workers of the world."? Come'on Gordon, don't be so naive. You are celebrating cigars at the pleasure of a regime which is every bit as monstrous as that of the monster killed by Navy seals earlier this week. " —May 4, 2011 15:12 PM

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