Havana Corner: Cohiba's 40th Anniversary Smoke Revealed

The newest Cohiba was unveiled today in Havana, setting a new record in the cigar world for the price of a young smoke. The slick, limited-edition humidor of 40 cigars is selling for 15,000 euros (about $18,000). It was produced for the 40th anniversary of the brand, which is being celebrated at this year's cigar festival on the island.

"It will be the most exclusive and the most expensive cigar in the world," said Juan Giron, the deputy manager of marketing for Habanos S.A., the global marketing and distribution company for Cuban cigars. French humidor maker Elie Bleu produced the modern humidor of ebony, bone and skate skin. The cigar size -- called Behike -- was produced at Cohiba's mother factory, El Laguito. Roller Norma Fernandez Sastre made all of the 4,000 cigars for the project. She was the original roller for the special double robustos made for the 30th anniversary of Cohiba.

The Behike measures 7 1/2 inches long by 52 ring gauge. (Check our cigar forum to see who won our contest to guess the new size.) "It is a fusion of the two of the most popular sizes of Cohiba, the Lanceros and the Siglo VI," added Giron during a news conference this morning at El Laguito. The cigar was made only for this humidor and will not be available commercially in another form.

According to Osmar León the factory manager of El Laguito, Behike is a blend of the middle range of Cohiba. It is a mix of tobacco with an average of five years of age. The wrappers come from the farms of some of the best growers in the Pinar del Río, Cuba's finest tobacco growing region. Growers Alejandro Robaina, Pancho Cuba and Antonio Maria Paz supplied their best wrappers from two years ago.

Roller Fernandez Sastre told me the day before the press event that "the blend is a little stronger than the normal Cohiba blend." A sample of the cigar fell into my hands from other sources on the island, and I can say that the cigar is a blockbuster. It's full bodied with loads of tobacco, cedar and mineral character, which is a benchmark for the best of Cohiba, but it suffers from being freshly made. So the flavors were slightly disjointed. This is a cigar that needs to be aged for many, many years. It will inevitably become a modern legend like the special humidor made for Cohiba's 30th anniversary. (I had scored the latter 100 points.)

The 40th anniversary humidors are numbered from 1 to 100, and every cigar includes a secondary band with "Behike" printed on it as well as a number from 1 to 4,000. Humidor buyers may also have their names etched in a plaque on the lid.

The first humidor will be sold tonight during a gala dinner that concludes this year's festival. Apparently, there will be a raffle for the opportunity to buy the debut humidor. In addition, the usual half dozen or so other humidors inscribed with the signature of Cuban leader Fidel Castro will be sold during the dinner. They usually sell for anywhere from $30,000 to $250,000 apiece. So the Behike box at $18,000 is going to be the bargain of the night. The proceeds will go to the Cuban health system.

Habanos agents were already taking orders for the new humidor. Max Gutmann, the Mexican agent for Cuban cigars, said he had five confirmed orders. "But I have no idea how many humidors I will receive," he fumed.

Added Giron, "The demand will obviously be more than the supply."

This means only one thing: the Behike humidor will most likely double or triple in price over the next couple of years. The 30th anniversary humidors are already worth many times their original price. They now sell for about $30,000 a box at auction.