Much of the excitement surrounding the annual Habanos Festival surrounds new cigars. The Festival is a stage for Habanos S.A. to present their new creations to the hundreds from around the world who gather for this event. Some of the cigars are available for preview, but it will be many months before they appear on store shelves.
Every year, Cuba releases Edición Limitada cigars. They’ve done as many as five in a year, but now the number is fixed at three. The 2012 Limitadas will be all big brand smokes: a Partagas Serie C No. 3 (5 1/2” by 48), H. Upmann Robusto (4 7/8” by 50) and Montecristo 520 (6 1/8” by 55).
The Monte was one of many cigars handed out last night at the 520 dinner. (If you didn’t read about the wonderful performance by Jim Belushi, read Gordon Mott’s blog.) At first glance it appeared similar to the 2010 Montecristo EL, the Grand Edmundo, but this new cigar is a few ring gauges fatter (a very odd 55—a fact that Gordon and I each checked against different members of Habanos) as well as a bit longer. I really enjoy the Grand Edmundos, so I was happy to light this one up.
I think the Monte 520 EL (named for the 520th anniversary of Columbus coming to the Americas) will be a fine smoke in the future. It was a gutsy smoke, with tons of nose spice, but it tasted fresh. With time, a cigar like this should be wonderful. Expect it in the fall along with the two other ELs.
If you recall my blog about the trade fair, I spied a lovely box in the style of a book filled with giant Cuabas, their upper ends wrapped in foil. To my delight, my bag for the evening included one of those. I slipped off the foil of the nine-inch-plus smoke, which is an immense figurado known as a diadema. It bears the name Bariay. I clipped the pointed end and lit up.
I loved the cigar. Full of wood, leather, earth and mineral notes, with a ton of coffee bean flavor, especially after it warmed up, it went on and on with full flavors. It’s a book edition smoke for 2012, and it won’t be cheap, but if these samples are the same as the regular production smokes they are cigars worth aging and savoring. We don’t give a score to cigars that we smoke in this type of non-blind tasting, but I can tell you it was considerably impressive.
I know it’s frustrating for some people that these new cigars won’t appear for quite some time. To get some perspective on the timing, I spent much of the day touring Havana cigar shops to get an idea of what was in stock.
I was very pleased at the new products at La Casa del Habano at Club Habana, the shop run by the ever so knowledgeable Enrique Mons. He greeted Gordon and I happily (giving us a house-rolled “Monsdale”) and I went into the humidor. He had Cohiba 1966 ($240 for a box of 10), Partagas Serie D No. 5 ($139) and Serie E No. 2 ($190), and Hoyo de Monterrey Short Hoyo Piramides 2011 EL ($72). Each of these cigars was announced one year ago, at the last festival. These cigars began arriving in the fall, but in limited doses, so their appearance here has been noted by collectors.
At the Casa del Habano at the Habana Libre Hotel, the stocks were even better, with plenty of new smokes. They had the best stocks of Behikes I’ve ever seen. I counted 71 boxes of Cohiba Behike BHK 52s and a pretty good number of 54s, but 56s only in singles. The shop, which is still relatively new, has recently been expanded, with the addition of a very big and comfortably appointed smoking lounge. Definitely a must-stop place in Havana. Gordon and I bumped into Ajay Patel from La Casa del Habano in the U.K. while we were there, and we went to lunch together where Ajay shared some amazing old cigars. More on that later.
The Montecristo No. 2 Gran Reserva, the star of last years’s Habanos Festival closing dinner, has been very hard to find. Very limited, very expensive and sought after by collectors, I have yet to see one on sale in Havana. I know of only two people who found some while here on Festival business (for 450 CUC a box, which sounds expensive but is a relative bargain) and one found them in an off-the-beaten path store not on the main radar screens.
The new cigars of Havana—coming one day to a cigar store worldwide.