My fourth day in Cuba would be a fairly light day in terms of number of events, but quite long in terms of the amount of time taken to cover those events. Once again I was up with the dawn working on the last day’s post with a cup of coffee and a cigar, and I was out of the door and on the street looking for a taxi by 8:30 a.m.
My first destination when I arrived at the convention center was the cigar rolling seminar, which as it sounds, is a presentation put on by Cuban master rollers in which they try and teach a very large group of people how to roll a cigar. Each attendee is given all of the ingredients they need to roll said cigar: a cutting board, a cheveta, glue and tobacco for the filler, binder and wrapper.
The master roller—in this case, a man named Arnaldo Ovalles—sat on a stage with a camera mounted on a tripod looking down at his hands, and every action he took was shown on screens situated all over the room.
Attendees were taught how to roll a corona gorda vitola, which Ovalles mentioned is the third most popular Cuban vitola, behind only the mareva and robusto sizes. While Ovalles stayed on stage, actual cigar rollers from El Laguito factory walked around the room, helping specific people with issues and information where they could.
The next event I attended was a pairing seminar, where two different Cuban cigars—a Trinidad Vigia and a Partagás Serie D No.4— were paired with four different brandies: Carlos I Imperial from Bodegas Osborne, Lepanto Solera Gran Reserva from Gonzalez Byass, Cardenal Mendoza Carta Real from Bodega Sanchez Romate Bros. and Fundador Exclusivo from Bodegas Fundador.
The entire program was headed by Fernando Fernández, national coordinator of the Cuban Habanosommelier Program, and he walked attendees through the different ways to taste both the brandy and cigars, both together and separate.
Personally, after trying them all, the there were two clear winners for me: the combination of the Partagas Serie D No 4 and Fundador Exclusivo and the pairing between the Trinidad Vigia and Lepanto Solera Gran Reserva. I have to say, although I’m obviously not a novice when it comes to pairing cigars with various libations, I was a still a bit surprised to taste how the flavors that were present in the profile of the cigar changed with each different brandy.
The final program I attended was a lecture on the history of the Quai D’Orsay marca, appropriately titled “History and Validity of Quai D’Orsay Brand” that was chaired by four different people: journalist Yves Belaubre; Antoine Bathie of SEITA, the French distributor of Cuban cigars; Jose Maria Lopez Inchaurbe, strategic marketing director of Habanos S.A., and Carlos Ferran, international marketing supervisor of Habanos S.A.
The program not only went though the entire history of the Quai D’Orsay brand, but also introduced two new vitolas that are being relaunched at this year’s festival: the No. 50 and No. 54. The history was fascinating to hear, especially considering that I knew so little of the Quai D’Orsay marca to begin with.
Right after that history lesson ended, I had just enough time to go back to my place and get changed before heading over to the El Laguito Reception Hall, where the updated Quai D’Orsay brand was being formally introduced. Attendees were able to sample all three vitolas of the relaunched brand, as well as a special Imperialies vitola that was made specifically for the dinner.
In addition to food and drinks, there were five entertainers throughout the night: Luna Manzanares, Geidy Chapman, Tanmy and Brenda Navarrete with the band Interactivo and finally Mayko D’Alma.
They were all very different acts, with a variety of dancing, singing and musical instruments, with D’Alma taking the final spot of the night.