confirm hand-rolled leadership
Juan Varela Pérez
THE 14th Havana Cigar Festival which
recently took place in the Cuban capital was a
gratifying event for the 1,500-plus participants.
Aficionados of the finest tobacco in the world
expressed their gratitude to the organizers for the
unique opportunity to visit cigar factories where
the famous Cohíba and Romeo y Julieta brands are
Another special option was the tour
of the San Juan y Martínez tobacco fields in Cuba’s
westernmost province of Pinar del Río, which possess
exceptional characteristics for the cultivation of
There, they were informed of the
agricultural conservation project to improve soil
quality and increase harvest yield.
From February 27 through March 2,
producers of the leaf, hand rollers and twisters,
professionals, Cuban artists, businesspeople, sales
agents, distributors and promoters from 70 countries
met in Cuba to enjoy the innovations of the best
tobacco growing land in the world.
Participants had the privilege of
tasting the exclusive Cohíba Pirámides Extra label,
an addition to the brand’s classical line, as well
as design innovations to highlight its distinguished
image and the introduction of security devices to
identify the brand.
The Festival also saw the launch of
another new label from the Romeo y Julieta brand,
Petit Churchills, whose smaller size provides an
aromatic and balanced flavor.
The International Habano Sommelier
Contest bore witness to the second non-visual
tasting of cigars to identify three labels by touch
and taste only.
As has become tradition, the
Festival ended with the auction of especially
crafted humidors, whose proceeds, which this year
amounted to $960,000, are directed to the Cuban
public health system.
This contest included known brands
such as H Upmann, Hoyo de Monterrey, Montecristi,
Romeo y Julieta, Partagás and Cohíba, as well as
porcelain and colorful ceramic pieces.
An Italian businessmen who did not
wish to be identified, paid more than $400,000 for a
set of Cohíba humidors.
The much-awaited marriage of the
finest cuisine and most outstanding Havana cigars
and the launch of Churchills Reserva 2008 from the
Romeo y Julieta brand, founded in 1875, were also
part of this festival.
Executives of the Habanos S.A. Group
stated that Cuban cigar sales were in excess of $400
million in 2011, despite the international financial
crisis affecting countries where Havana cigars have
a significant presence, as well as the long-lasting
These factors are compounded by
smoking bans in closed venues and many public areas
and campaigns highlighting the damage caused by this
Nevertheless, a number of European
markets have developed positively, in conjunction
with emerging ones in the Asian-Pacific, the Middle
East, Russia and Brazil, which are compensating for
losses in Spain and Greece, to cite just two
Habanos S.A., which has an
international market of 27 cigar brands, all of them
totally hand rolled, is implementing technical
measures and controls to halt falsifications of its
famed cigars and to open Casas del Habano in other
Another interesting fact noted by
Buenaventura Jiménez and Jorge Luís Fernández Maique,
co-presidents of Habanos S.A., is that market prices
remained stable at 80%, thus confirming Cuba as the
international leader in the Premium market (hand-rolled
Participants in the 14th
International Festival also expressed solidarity
with the five Cuban heroes imprisoned in the United
States, and family members present at the main
sessions in the International Convention Center were
asked to convey their support for the battle for
their immediate release.