Cigar Aficionado

Staying Warm With Behike

I smoked a couple of Cohiba Behikes yesterday in London (actually, I smoked one  this morning around 12:30 a.m.), and I was in cigar nirvana.  If you don’t remember, Behikes are the new blockbuster, super-premium smoke from Cuba produced exclusively under its flagship brand. They are just coming out on the market now.

I went to what amounted to the world premiere of these three mind-blowing smokes. Hunters & Frankau, the importer and distributor for Cuban cigars in the United Kingdom, organized the event yesterday evening in the garden of the Goring Hotel. I hadn’t stepped foot in there since the beginning of my honeymoon to my now divorced second wife. But that is another story.

The big story was puffing away on the exclusive Cohibas. Hunters gave out a gift of each of the larger smokes and two of the smaller ones. Attendees had to shell out £150 ($220) to attend, which seemed a relative bargain considering all the Krug Champagne that was flowing and various other drinks, as well as the four cigars. Jemma Freeman, the head of Hunters, said that Krug was the perfect drink to pair with the Behike, and I wasn’t about to complain.

The three Behikes are the following sizes and names:  BHK 52 (4 11/16 inches long by 52 ring gauge), BHK 54 (5 2/3 inches by 54 ring gauge) and BHK 56 (6 1/2 inches by 56 ring). They come in lacquered boxes of ten. Suggested U.K. retail per cigar is £28.70 ($42), £37.60 ($55) and £42.10 ($62) respectively.

What makes the trio special is its blend of tobacco, which includes a large percentage of tobacco from the medio tiempo of the plants from farms near the towns of San Juan y Martínez and San Luis in Pinar del Río. These are upper primings, or the top leaves, of the plants, so they are riper and richer than other filler tobaccos. You probably remember in a recent column of mine that I spoke to a roller who was making a BHK 56 at El Laguito factory during last February’s cigar festival, and he said a whole leaf of the medio tiempo goes into the cigar. That’s roughly double the amount of strong tobacco compared to most Cuban blends.

Needless to say, the Behikes (pronounced Bee-hee-Kays)  are not beginners’ smokes. I remember a friend in Habanos S.A., the global distribution and marketing company of Cuban cigars, told me “this is a smoke for the professional.” I am still not sure what he meant. Professional what? Anyway, you have to like rich and powerful smokes. I hung out with plenty of lads from London and Dublin who actually were professionals—cigar merchants—and consumers alike and everyone dug on the Behikes.

I smoked the BHK 54 at the reception. I was impressed how the cigar was in such balance already even though it delivered plenty of character. I think it is the least powerful of the three cigars. It offers gorgeous and refreshing aromas and flavors of cappuccino and tobacco that turns to earth and light spice. It’s subtle, and keeps your mouth moist and clean, which for me is the classic Cohiba style.

I spoke to a number of U.K. cigar merchants and they said that they had already sold out their allocation. And the cigars were not even physically in their shops until today. A large part went to my fellow Americans. No surprises there. Well done!

I went to dinner at Boisdales after the event with some friends. The restaurant is one of the major cigar hangs in London now, and dozens of people were up on the deck smoking in the winter-like conditions. I finished dinner by the time the deck was closed (no smoking after 10 p.m. because of the neighbors). So we drove around London in a taxi in search of smoking premises. Sort of crazy. But we found sanctuary.

We ended up on the roof of the Ritz Casino on Piccadilly smoking the BHK 52. It kept me away from the card tables, and it also delivered mammoth flavors. I didn’t remember it being so powerful, In fact, I can still taste it as I write this on the plane, heading back to my house in Italy, and I smoked it about 12 hours ago. It was a full-throttle smoke that coats every taste bud in your mouth with coffee bean and tobacco character and a citrus fruit undertone. Dense and intense is the best way to describe it.

If the style of Behike sounds good to you, try to get your hands on some. It’s not going to be easy because the Cubans apparently only made about 30,000 sticks of each BHK.  You won’t be sorry, even if you have to smoke one like I did, on a rooftop in near-freezing conditions in the early morning hours.