The Renaissance of the Blockbuster Cuban Cigar

Feb 25, 2010
I finally got my lips around a Behike. And it almost blew my head off. A couple of bad-boy-chocolately BHK 56 cigars (6 1/2 inches by 56 ring gauge) came my way, and I tried one following a heavy lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in La Havana, the awesome chicken shop El Aljibe. Usually a powerful smoke is just the right thing after a mega-dose of juicy roasted chicken, black beans and rice. Maybe I should have had more black beans before? Or next time I will order a whole juice-dripping chicken for myself?

But I must admit that I felt a little stoned about one-quarter of the way into the BHK 56. I was lightheaded at first. I also must say that I like the big gauge of the smoke. It’s got to be one of the biggest Habanos going. It’s bigger than the Cohiba Siglo VI, which is one of my all-time favorites coming out of Havana. In fact, I lit a VI up against the new bad-boy BHK, and at the end of the two smokes, it was the BHK 56 that won.

“This is a smoke for the professional,” said someone from Habanos S.A., who took part in developing the amazing smoke. Apparently, a panel of professionals in the tobacco sector on the island worked for months developing the blend of the new line extension of Cuba’s most prestigious brand.

The three Behikes underline how Cohiba is the super brand for Cuba. No smoker can say that the yellow, black and white colored band is just a status symbol now. It truly is “the selection of the selection” as the late Avelino Lara, a former manager of the Cohiba factory, told me in the early 1990s.

Photos by James Suckling

Power Smoking: A Cohiba Siglo VI and an unbanded Cohiba Behike 56.

Let’s be clear that smoking the Cohiba Siglo VI and BHK 56 are two completely different experiences. My lunch partner said it was like comparing a porn star to a serious movie actress. I would not like to say which I prefer. Let’s say that the VI is like a Turbo Porsche and the BHK 56 more of a Ferrari 599. I like driving both. They are just very different experiences on the road.

At first I thought the SigloVI was the superior puff. It had a fresher, sweeter, more honey and tea character combined with the punch of Cohiba. The BHK 56 was a little heavy with low notes and a filtered coffee and tobacco undertone. My head was spinning smoking it. My buddy became a little buzzed, too.

This is quite unusual for a brand new smoke. Most of the new smokes Habanos S.A. releases are always a little too fresh when they debut. But I find them lighter than when they settle down after a few months. The BHK 56 was a blockbuster from the start. However, it finally came into its own about three-quarters into smoking and by then it was time to go. It finally turned to the refined spice and milk chocolate with delicious tobacco and dark tea character I look for in the Cohiba brand.

This is a word of caution to all of you. This is not a beginner’s cigar. I repeat. Debutantes and light smokers should not touch the BHK. Smoking it can be like smashing a raw egg with a sledgehammer if you aren’t used to turbocharged smokes. The cigars are expected to be in the marketplace in June.

Smoking the new Julieta from Romeo y Julieta was—ah—different. I went to a fantastic party last night at the Museo de Bellas Artes with fantastic live Cuban music and a modern dance show that would knock anyone’s eyes out. It was so much fun. It was a “Women in Habano’s Night” party to launch the new tiny Julieta cigar aimed at women. It’s a tiny smoke that comes in an aluminum, pinkish colored five pack. The cigar was good, but nothing special with some spicy and white pepper character.

A Spanish women at my table happily lit up a Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2 that was served after the first course and said, “I like to smoke what men smoke.” Need I say more?

A 2010 Limited Edition Montecristo Grand Edmundo (5 7/8 inches by 52 ring gauge) was served at the end of the meal, and all I can say is “Candela!” That’s Cuban for something that really is impressive or hot, in a sexual sort of way. It was a superb smoke from the moment I put a flame to it. The draw on the cigar was so effortless that it almost smoked itself. It was full flavored with a lightly burnt coffee and tobacco character. It was rich yet reserved and balanced. I am definitely going to get a box, or two, when it comes out in a few months.

But the big story for me at the 12th Festival Habano is the three numbered Behikes. These represent a real renaissance of the blockbuster Cuban cigar that I remember from the early 1990s.

You can follow James Suckling on Twitter:

"Art. No price yet but should be out in the market very soon." —February 26, 2010 17:47 PM
"James,is the Grand Edmundo a new Edicion Limitada, and do you know the prices and box size? Sounds like my kind of smoke." —February 25, 2010 14:53 PM
"James, glad that you are having a great time as always,to what cigar would you comapare the BHK in strengh,give my regards to Deborah Garcia at Partagas, y no comas mucho lechon azado, te cuidas." —February 25, 2010 13:56 PM

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