Wednesday night at the Habanos Festival was all about new cigars. I puffed a trio of new smokes that are heading to cigar shops soon during a festive dinner held in the Havana suburb of Miramar. And while top billing for the night went to the H. Upmann brand, the cigar that stole the show was a new Cohiba.
The dinner was dubbed the H. Upmann night, and it was held in a large, poolside hall on a gorgeous winter night. As the hundreds of cigar lovers walked up to the building, they were greeted Hollywood style, with flashbulbs popping, bright banners showcasing the H. Upmann name and beautiful models handing out cigars. It was a packed house, with more than 500 cigar lovers from around the world in attendance. Some are cigar retailers, others cigar distributors, but many are simply die-hard cigar aficionados who wanted to come to Havana to enjoy the culture of Cuban cigars.
I was given the H. Upmann Half Corona and I lit it up right away. It´s a tiny smoke, only 3 1/2 inches long and 44 ring gauge. It´s about the size of a Montecristo No. 5, and while the name Half Corona has been used before on Cuban cigars, I´m told this is the only cigar in the entire Habanos portfolio with these dimensions. As dinner was served I puffed away. It has good coffee bean flavors with just a touch of earth on the finish. It´s not very intense, but for a short smoke I found it pleasant. It will come in boxes of 25 or in tins of 5. Habanos intends it as a smoke for when you´re tight on time.
As the live band played killer Cuban music and hammed it up on stage, the irony hit me. The day that New York city Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a law banning smoking in parks and beaches here I was in Havana puffing away with 500 people inside. While eating. I was enjoying full smoking freedom as one of the last places available to cigar smokers was being taken away in the city that never sleeps. Odd indeed.
Cigar number two was another H. Upmann, a new Casa del Habano Exclusive for 2011 called a H. Upmann Royal Robusto. The cigar is the size of an Edmundo, and only 50,000 will be made in 2011 for sale only in Casa del Habanos. It showed promise at first, with a big burst of flavor, but it faded, getting a bit tangy. I think it was young. I´d like to smoke it with some age.
While we smoked and ate, the show continued. A band playing traditional Cuban music, decked out in guayaberas and straw hats, would do a few songs on their acoustic guitars. Their wrinkled faces and considerable skill with their instruments hinted at how long they had been playing.
Next, a far younger band, thinner, in rock-star clothes, came out and played uptempo rock versions of Cuban songs, showcasing the old and the new that Habanos is trying to go after with these new cigars. Regardless of the message, the music was great, especially when the bands would mix up, trading guitar players and jamming on stage. It was a surprisingly good show.
As the show went on, I was handed the final cigar of the night, and it was one I didn't expect to get on this trip but was truly looking forward to smoking-the Cohiba 1966 Edicion Limitada 2011. It´s a big, dark smoke with a pigtail cap and a very oily wrapper.
I smiled when I saw the pigtail, thinking immediately of a Behike. I fired it up and was greeted by heavy and bold flavor. The Cubans are doing very well with Cohiba cigars of late. It was very rich, nice and strong and hearty as hell, and was definitely the best cigar I had smoked all day.