The annual UK HabanoSommelier final was held at Hunters & Frankau’s London head offices on Thursday 25th October. Seven finalists from some of the leading cigar friendly restaurants, hotels and clubs, with outdoor cigar areas, arrived to face a tough day of competition.
The prize at stake was an all expenses paid trip to Cuba to represent the UK at the International HabanoSommelier final during the annual Cigar Festival in Havana. Although it was a very strong field and each competitor had individual merits, at the end of a tough day’s assessment the judges, Hunters & Frankau’s Sean Croley (Sales & Marketing Director) and Simon Chase (former Marketing Director of H&F), came to a unanimous decision to award Peter Dobrontei (Hotel du Vin Harrogate) with the coveted title.
His strong written exam coupled with impressive depth knowledge of Cuban cigars and exemplary cigar service carried the day. 31 year old Hungarian, Peter Dobrontei has been with the Hotel du Vin for a number of years and is now Bar Manager at the Harrogate hotel. Having come a very close second last year, he said he was “delighted” with his win and was now “Looking forward to putting in the work required to win the World crown”.
The morning began with the contestants sitting a stringent written exam covering a range of cigar related topics including, Cuban tobacco farming techniques, cigar production, vitolas (sizes), tastes, flavours and service. They were then set a role play designed to assess their knowledge of Habanos cigars, their ability to recommend the correct cigars for specific occasions and their skill in cutting, lighting and serving the cigars that they had recommended. The scenario the competitors faced was:
Two work colleagues have been celebrating the successful conclusion of a business deal over lunch and have now moved outside to the restaurant’s COSA (Comfortable Outdoor Smoking Area) to enjoy a cigar.
They have between 30-40 minutes to enjoy their cigars.
The gentleman prefers full flavoured Habanos whilst his female colleague prefers medium flavoured cigars.
They would also like to purchase an additional cigar for a friend who has never tried a Cuban cigar before. The friend is due to try it while fishing the next day.
The contestants were presented with a humidor containing eight different cigars and asked introduce each cigar then make the correct recommendation for each specification. The cigars they had to choose from were:
Bolivar Royal Corona
Cohiba Siglo VI
Hoyo de Monterrey Petit Robusto
H. Upmann No. 2
Romeo y Julieta Short Churchill
Vegas Robaina Familiar
Finally, having cut, lit and presented a cigar to the guests, they were required to recommend a drink to compliment each of the cigars from a selected drinks menu. Peter said of his victory. “It really helped that I had taken part in the competition before and, having been to Cuba earlier in the year, I really wanted to do well.’ Before adding, ‘I can’t believe I’m going back to Cuba!’
Everyone at the Cigar Smokers Club wishes him the best of luck in his attempt to bring the trophy back to the UK.
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