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H&F’s week in Havana

H&F’s week in Havana

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After a two year absence the annual Festival del Habano returned, and everyone at Hunters & Frankau was thrilled to be going back to Havana.

The chance to catch up with old friends over a Havana cigar, in Cuba, is one we had all missed greatly and anticipated with growing excitement.

We were fortunate enough to be joined by a group of journalists including, Nicholas Foulkes, ,Tom Chamberlin, Christopher Coates and Kirby Alison for the week. Several UK cigar merchants were also able to make the trip.

Here is a brief record of our time in Havana during the 23rd Festival del Habanos.

 

Day One

An early start for the press conference at the convention centre followed by the preliminary round of the World Habanos Challenge.

After lunch it was back to the hotel to prepare for the Welcome Evening at Club Havana.  The new Montecristo Open Slam was showcased on the night.

 

Day Two

Another early start, to visit Lázaro Peña, a tobacco growing municipality in the Partido region of Cuba. Here we received a guided tour, conducted by Cuban industry experts. We also saw first hand the shade grown tobacco plantations for which this region is rightly world famous.

 

Back at the hotel we hosted a small get together for member of the UK Havana cigar market. On the terrace of The Packard hotel we enjoyed a rare tasting of the Ramón Allones Hunters & Frankau 225 (2015), paired with the Havana Club 225 rum. Alfredo Guerra of Havana Club joined us to talk about the rum, and brought with him a very special rum bottle of  his own.

 

Day Three

First order of the day was a visit to the legendary El Laguito factory, home of Cohiba. Here we were privileged to be joined by Yolanda Medina, who was trained in the art of cigar rolling at El Laguito in 1967, meaning she was one of the very first women to roll Cohibas. Although she moved factories over the years she remained involved with the brand for the rest of her long and illustrious career.

After a tour of the factory it was on to lunch at El Aljibe, where we smoked the new Wide Edmundo, a cigar that is yet to be launched in the UK.  Once again we were delighted to be joined by industry experts, Cuban and from the UK,  as well as Raúl Bravo of Eminente rum. It was a wonderful and warm afternoon that will live long in the memory.

That evening we had our first opportunity to see the Bolívar New Gold Medal, at the Intermediate Evening. The reintroduction of an old favourite, with a modern twist, took place at Protocol House. A most welcome return for those of us old enough to remember the original.

 

Day Four

A morning visit to La Corona cigar factory to enjoy a comprehensive tour and catch up with some old friends. This was  followed by a press lunch when a box of twenty-four year old Bolívar Lonsdale was smoked. This is a cigar intended to form part of the next release from the Hunters & Frankau Aged & Rare series.

 

Day Five

The last day of the festival was as packed as the rest. It started with a tour of the Partagás factory, followed by a blind tasting with the factory’s tasting panel. After the tasting we were treated to a conversation with Arnaldo Vichot. Vichot is the retired Master Blender of the Partagás brand who started his cigar career in 1948 and blended cigars for, among others, the Duke of Windsor and Yasser Arafat. His encyclopaedic knowledge of tobacco and blends makes him fascinating company. A true master of his craft,

The final of the Habanos World Challenge was held in the conference centre and was won by Antonios Pasparakis and Efthymios Karacristianoidis representing Greece. Many congratulations to them both.

This year the Gala dinner was held in honour of the new Partagás línea Maestra, three new sizes with a new look for the brand.

The traditional charity auction, made up of six lots, raised an incredible €11,220,000. The Cohiba humidor alone fetched €4,200,000.

 

It was great to be back in Havana to see old friends and hear all the latest news. We are already looking forward to the 24th Festival del Habanos, scheduled for February 2024….

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