Cuba’s cigar industry – Smoked out


ONE of the reforms approved at this month’s Congress of Cuba’s ruling Communist Party was a change in the treatment of the country’s 3,000 or so state-owned enterprises. Their management will enjoy more autonomy, but they will be subjected to thorough audits. That follows a trickle of corruption scandals. The latest involves Habanos, the state cigar monopoly.

For over a decade Manuel García, Habanos’s commercial vice-president, was the public face of the Cuban cigar industry, living a jet-set life that most Cubans can only dream of. But this year Mr García was not there to greet visitors at the Havana cigar festival. Since August 2010 he has been in jail, accused of masterminding graft on a grand scale.

The cigar industry was nationalised shortly after the 1959 revolution. But it was only in the late 1980s that Cuba took control of distribution, informing foreign retailers that it would supply only one distributor per region, in return for a 50% stake in the business.

That did not prevent the small-scale peddling of black-market cigars on the streets of Havana. But in the past decade the system has faced a bigger threat from dozens of online cigar retailers operating mainly from Switzerland and the Caribbean. Many operated legitimately, but some offered improbably low prices.

Cuban investigators believe they were able to do so because Mr García and ten of his staff, who also face trial, sold genuine cigars at a fraction of their normal price to black-market distributors in the Caribbean in return for bribes. Up to 45m cigars may have been sold this way. Since handmade habanos fetch up to £40 ($65) each in shops in the St James’s district of London, the loss was considerable.

The fraud also hurt Imperial Tobacco, a British company which inherited a 50% stake in Habanos when it bought Altadis, a Franco-Spanish firm, in 2008. Imperial has made no comment on the affair. But like the government, it will hope that the new management team at Habanos preserves the lucrative monopoly in Cuba’s most famous product.

Cuba to host international cigar festival

Havana, Feb 20 (IANS) Cigar lovers will now get a chance to see how the famous Cuban cigars are being made as the organisers of the international cigar festival, which begins here Monday, plan tours for the visitors to the factories and tobacco growing areas in the country.

Over 1,000 visitors from 80 countries are expected to attend the 13th Havana Cigar Festival, Xinhua reported.

Activities such as visits to tobacco plantations and cigar factories, tasting of cigars with different beverages and trade fairs and seminars will be organised, said Ana Lopez, director marketing of Habanos Inc., a cigar company.

A lecture on the origin and evolution of the aluminum tubes associated with some of the famous Cuban cigar brands will be held, she said.

The event this time is devoted to honouring ‘the iconic brands of hand-twisted snuff of the island (like) ‘Montecristo’, ‘Partagas’ and ‘H. Upmann”, she added.

Visitors can sample the new vitolas developed by seasoned industry experts that are to be released by the company on the occasion.

A gala dinner is also being organised at the end of the festival to honour the Montecristo brand, during which the ‘Cigar Man of the Year’ will be chosen. Auction of humidors, boxes of cigars to keep them fresh, will also be held.

According to the World Trade Organization, more than 14 billion cigars are sold in the world annually, with the US consuming half of it.

Cigar Aficionado names top cigars of 2010

The Daily Star:

BEIRUT: The Cigar Aficionado countdown of the Top 25 Cigars of 2010 concluded this week naming the Cohiba Behike BHK 52, a Havana-made smoke, as the best cigar of the year.

The competition began with 700 cigars from around the world.  Throughout the year, the magazine rates cigars, awarding points on a scale of 0-90.  Based on previous rankings, Cigar Aficionado narrowed the competition down to a top 60 smokes and then conducted multiple rounds of blind taste tests to pick the top cigars of the year. The thoroughly vetted top 25 were released over the course of the past week.

Cuban cigars dominate the top 25, among them the number one pick, the Cohiba Behike BHK 52. Cohiba has long been a respected name among Cuban cigars but the BHK 52 is a classic cigar that blends rich, delicious smoke in a stylish red-brown wrapper.  It is the best to come out of Havana in a long time, and won among a field of Cubans that the magazine claims to be the strongest group since the mid 1990s.

The number two pick, the Viaje Oro Reserva VOR No. 5, is a relative new-comer on the cigar scene.  Produced in Honduras, this cigar’s flavors live up to the company’s name: “viaje,” or journey in Spanish. As it is smoked, the flavors transition from leather, to sweet spices and a hint of cocoa powder at the finish.

The powerful Fuente Fuente OpusX XXX Belicoso from the Dominican Republic takes the third spot.  Among the most successful cigars in history, Cigar Aficionado described it as, “a dynamite smoke, a complex powerhouse with full-bodied flavors of leather and earth.”

In fourth place comes the Padron Family Reserve No. 45.  The Padron Family has performed well in past years of the magazine’s top 25 and releases a reserve cigar every year to commemorate the company’s history.  This is a natural version of the 2009 reserve cigar, with a lighter wrapper and hearty flavor of cocoa, coffee, and spice.

Rounding out the top five is the Camacho Corojo Churchill.  Made from Corojo seeds, a particularly difficult plant to grow, this cigar has a big, full-bodied flavor.  A leathery and earthy smoke with “notes of earth and dark fruit” according to the magazine’s testers, is the best bargain on the list of the top 25 at only $7.

The top-ranking cigars often come with a hefty price-tag, with some of the picks reaching almost 30 euros a pop.

Luckily, Cigar Aficionado has released its list of 2010’s Best Bargain Cigars Friday.

The list includes over 50 cigars that are priced at $6 or less and have received a score of at least 83 from the magazine staff. Many high-profile cigar-makers made the bargain list, such as Arturo Fuente, C.A.O., La Gloria Cuban, Oliva, Padron, and Rocky Patel.

Habanos festival 2010 – Cohiba Behike

From February 22nd to 26th 2010, Cuba will become the main stage for the largest international meeting for the lovers of the best tobacco in the world: the Habanos. As every year, the event renders tribute to Habanos’ brands, this year particularly to Cohiba and to Romeo y Julieta, including an event specially aimed at women and Habanos. Attendees will have the chance to taste the new vitolas Habanos, S.A. will launch to the markets throughout 2010, and to experience first hand the secrets of a deep-rooted centuries old tradition.

Habanos S.A. invites you to enjoy a whole week of pleasure among friends with a common link: the passion for the Habano.

The festival programme includes the traditional activities during this unforgettable week, such as:

  • Visit to cigar factories
  • Trade fair
  • Seminars
  • Tastings and pairing ups
  • Habanosommelier contest
  • How to roll a Habano
  • Visit to tobacco plantations

On February 22nd, the event begins with the Welcome evening, which includes the Habanos S.A. novelties 2010 presentation, and the nominations for the “Premio Habano” awards. They will be followed by a private concert of Maestro Chucho Valdés (who has received again the Garmmy Latino award this year) and his guests. The closing of the Festival will be held on February 26th with the Gala Dinner that includes the traditional auction.

Habanos festival program 25 February 2010

XII Festival Habano 22 – 26 2010 Havana, Cuba

XII Festival del Habano

Del 22 al 26 de Febrero 2010, Cuba vuelve a ser escenario del mayor encuentro internacional para los amantes del mejor tabaco del Mundo: el Habano. Como cada año, el evento estará homenajeando las marcas de Habanos, especialmente a Cohiba y Romeo y Julieta, así como un evento especialmente dedicado al Habano y la mujer. Los asistentes tendrán el placer de saborear en exclusiva las nuevas vitolas que Habanos S.A. lanzará al mercado en el 2010, y experimentar los secretos de una tradición acumulada durante siglos. Habanos S.A. le invita a disfrutar de una semana de placer y deleite entre amigos, que mantienen un vínculo en común: La pasión por los Habanos

El programa del Festival del Habano mantiene sus tradicionales actividades durante esta inolvidable semana como:

-Visitas a emblemáticas Fábricas de Tabaco Torcido
-Feria Comercial
-Degustaciones y maridajes
-Concurso Habanosommelier
-Clase Magistral de Torcido
-Visitas a plantaciones de tabaco

El día 22 inicia el evento con la Noche de Bienvenida y las Nominaciones al Premio Habano del Año mientras la clausura del mismo será en la noche del 26 con la Cena de Gala y la Tradicional Subasta.

Feria comercial

La Feria Comercial del Festival del Habano se desarrollará de manera simultánea con el Seminario como parte inseparable del Festival, siendo el momento ideal para los  intercambios  técnicos y comerciales entre hombres de negocios, productores y proveedores. Pueden exponer y vender en espacios rentados por una empresa, países u organizaciones: los empresarios, artesanos, artistas, comerciantes o productores  que se relacionan con:

–  Productos asociados a la agricultura tabacalera
–  Maquinarias
–  Artesanías
–  Pinturas
–  Bibliografías
–  Artículos para el fumador
–  Artículos de lujo
–  Productos Gourmet

-Precio por Stand de la Feria Comercial / Prices for stand
– Stand modular: 110.00 CUC x  m2 (Espacio mínimo 9 m2)
– Espacio libre: 90 CUC x m2 (Espacio mínimo 9 m2)

Las entidades nacionales que no comercializan en divisas pagan en moneda nacional (CUP); las que comercializan en divisas pagan al 50%.

Durante la Feria, los expositores podrán vender sus productos al público y realizar actividades promocionales previa coordinación con el Comité Organizador. El diseño del stand de las firmas expositoras debe reflejar su relación directa o indirecta con los productos del tabaco.

More info:

Habanos Day Celebrated in Moscow

Cuban cigars most famous brands were exhibited at the Habanos Day in Moscow to introduce them to Russian cigar aficionados who might not be able to travel to Cuba in February to attend the Festival de Habanos S.A.

Tamara Teixo-Balinas, general director in Russia of the INFIFON Corporation, labeled the event as a success and explained the reasons behind the celebration at the capital city of the largest country on Earth.

This festival became a cultural event to those attending it, including Manuel Garcia who is in charge of the Commercial Department and Javier Terres of the Development Department, and they had the chance of tasting two new vitolas.

The new releases were, from legendary H. Upmann, Magnun 50 and Hoyo de Monterrey’s Epicure Especial, well-accepted by the aficionados.

There was also a conference given by Habano Man, Eumelio Espino, which dealt with the works of Cuba researchers to guarantee the exclusive characteristics of the raw materials for this industry.

The lecture, History of Cuban Cigars, delivered by Lourdes de la Noval, Habanos S.A. Communication director, attracted the attention of the audience and this Friday she will deliver it at two prestigious academic institutions in Moscow.