Inside Cuba's Newest Factory

When we arrived in Havana last week, Gordon and I were expecting to hear that the Partagas Cigar Factory had closed for its much-needed renovation. When we were in Cuba in February, everyone was talking about how Partagas would soon be shut down, the jackhammers brought out and workers would start the arduous task of undoing the damage done by years of hot, Cuban summers, drenching tropical hurricanes and years of salty sea air on the Real Fabrica Partagas, which has stood since 1845.

Not so. Partagas is still open, although its closing is (still) expected soon. But instead of seeing a shuttered Partagas, Gordon and I visited a different factory that has been moved to temporary digs-H. Upmann.

H. Upmann, which is also known by the post-revolutionary name José Martí, is now closed, and the factory's staff and production has been moved to the Romeo y Julieta factory. The Romeo y Julieta factory has been completely transformed into the new-albeit temporary-home of the H. Upmann brand. So all H. Upmann cigars are now being rolled at Romeo, along with some Montecristos, some Romeo y Julietas and a number of Cohibas. While the factory is also in charge of the diminutive Diplomaticos brand, none were being rolled at the time of our visit. Some notable new smokes are being made here, including the H. Upmann Half Corona and the soon-to-be-released H. Upmann Royal Robusto.

For the past five years, Romeo has been closed to tourists, and has been used primarily as a rolling school. Now it is decorated with banners and posters touting the H. Upmann cigar brand, and H. Upmann factory manager Miguel Barzaga Maceo is running the factory.

Barzaga Maceo came here at the end of January, and by February 10 he said the facility was ready to roll cigars. It was in full production upon our visit, and was even open to tourists.

I shot a few videos inside the factory, including this clip that shows you the size of the colorful and vibrant rolling gallery. Take a look.

The factory is open to tourists (10 CUCs for a visit if you happen to be in Havana) and while it lacks the polish of Partagas it's definitely worth a visit. It even has a cigar shop right around the corner, which I hear will soon be turned into a full blown Casa del Habano, so it can be a visit complete with cigar shopping.

"Just awesome if you ever take a tour group with you let us know I am in and will buy the first round." —May 18, 2011 10:55 AM
"Stephen, I agree with Ajay. If the Partagas Factory closes as expected, it will be closed for quite some time. I would expect a year or so. But there's always a chance it hasn't closed by November! And I'm also told the cigar shop will be open despite the renovation." —May 17, 2011 09:56 AM
"No way, depends when they move...they may be still there in Nov...the way Cuba works nothing in on schedule...look at the uk flor de Cano short robusto, we should have got this last year 2010. Still on sign! Ajay London " —May 17, 2011 09:43 AM
"David: Will the Partagas factory be reopened by the Partagas festival in November?" —May 17, 2011 00:54 AM
"For Pat above: Fábrica Briones Montoto: Belascoain 852, La Habana Centro" —May 16, 2011 01:58 AM
"Been there a month ago, really loved it. Beatifull buildind and great atmosphere." —May 14, 2011 16:15 PM
"Any chance of getting the street address of this factory?" —May 14, 2011 12:25 PM
"I can only imagine the smell of tobacco in that place." —May 12, 2011 20:53 PM