Online registration for Cuba's annual Habanos Festival opens up tomorrow. This world-class celebration of the iconic Cuban cigar is set to commence this February and the four-day event will pay tribute to four of Cuba's better-known cigar brands: Hoyo de Monterrey, Partagás, Trinidad and H. Upmann. Centered around new cigar releases and tobacco-centric activities, the yearly gathering attracts cigar retailers, distributors and casual enthusiasts from around the world every year. Global distributor Habanos S.A. estimates that attendees from more than 80 countries will convene in Havana for the festive week of unbridled cigar appreciation.
The festival begins with a press conference on February 24 that covers corporate issues such as international Cuban cigar consumption and a list of new cigar releases for the upcoming 2014 calendar year. Shortly after, a business-to-business commercial trade fair will also be open for technical and commercial exchanges among businessmen, producers and suppliers of the Cuban cigar world.
As is customary for the festival, the evening will end with a cocktail party. This year, the inaugural party is dedicated to the Partagás and Hoyo de Monterrey brands, which means that cigars from these lines are slated to be passed out to attendees, although it is unclear if these cigars will be special-edition smokes, sneak previews of upcoming releases or regular-production cigars.
Cuba typically previews several, but not all, of its new releases during the Festival, and it usually takes many months for those cigars to appear at the commercial level. For example, at last year's gathering, the Cubans gave out samples of two new Montecristos that have only recently gone on sale. They also showed off a complete rebranding of the Vegueros cigar, which has yet to go on sale.
Activities throughout the rest of the festival include a visit to Pinar del Río's famed tobacco plantations in the western portion of Cuba; a hands-on class on rolling cigars; beer and cigar pairings; and visits to the H. Upmann and La Corona cigar factories.
Three of the four nights end with an evening event honoring a specific cigar brand. On Wednesday, February 25, after a day of activities and seminars, the Trinidad dinner will feature an undisclosed Trinidad cigar. The entire festival ends on February 28 with an H. Upmann gala dinner and a humidor auction whose proceeds benefit Cuba's public health system. Last year's auction raised $1.3 million for charity.
Cigar Aficionado will have a team of editors in Cuba covering the events. See cigaraficionado.com for updates on the festival as well as previews of new cigars. Visit habanos.com to register.
To read Cigar Aficionado's coverage of last year's Habanos Festival, click here.