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Back From Cuba

’m back in office for my first full week having spent the first week of March in Cuba conducting the annual Hunters & Frankau training week. Although it had been four years since my last trip it took little more than a couple of puffs on a Montecristo No2 and a sip of mojito on the Hotel Nacional terrace for me to feel like I had never been away.

During the week we managed to fit in a trip to the Hoyo de Monterrey plantation and curing barns in Pinar del Rio, the classification and stripping houses in Vivero, tours of the H Upmann and El Laguito factories and even viewed the fantastic ICT factory (where every single machine made Cuban cigar is produced). We then finished with a Q&A session at Habanos SA head quarters with Ana Lopez. After that it was time to move to the quieter Varadero region to take a well earned break, sample some of the cigars we had picked up along the way and discuss everything we had seen.

We had a great group of people this year and they undoubtedly made my job a lot easier. Every single person was enthusiastic and passionate to learn and it was a real joy to spend time discussing many of the finer points of the cigar industry with them. There can be few, if any, better places to enjoy a cigar than on the terrace of the Hotel Nacional and, as we were lucky to enjoy better weather than the festival atendees of the previous week, we took full advantage of this facility.

My personal highlights were the visit to El Laguito factory, where we met with Berta and Eduardo (both recent visitors to the UK for the Cigar Roller Tours) and witnessed the new Behike line being produced and boxed up. It was also a real pleasure to revisit the plantations in Pinar del Rio and the vast curing barns they contain.

My professional highlight was, without a doubt, the passion of the group’s response to the training week. Everyone, without exception, threw themselves into the experience and enjoyed sampling and discussing the different products on offer. This made the trip tremendous fun and made for some genuinely enjoyable and insightful evenings.

Now, two weeks back at the office, the thought occurs to me that I am only fifty weeks away from my next visit to this fantastic country.

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