And so, after all of the travel, stress and work, the last day of the Cohiba 55th Anniversary Celebration has come and gone.

Compared to the Festival del Habano, this was a very different event in a few obvious ways. At around 650 attendees, it was noticeably smaller in both scale and impact than the Festival, which can easily pull more than 3,000 people.

I woke up on Friday around 7 a.m. and got right to work, eating breakfast in-between pecks on my keyboard. While the main activity on this day did not start until 7 p.m. or so—this is still Cuba after all, where starting times tend to be mere suggestions—I had a meeting set up with one of the distributors for Cuban cigars in the Middle East.

That meeting was held in the cigar lounge at the Iberostar Grand Packard, the same hotel where the press event was held at the beginning of the festival. It was great meeting the entire team of people, who were gracious and accommodating in every way.

Then it was back to the house, where I had a fight with the internet trying to upload photographs and got ready for the last major event of the Celebration: the Gala Night.

Despite the fact that this was a smaller event, this Gala Night reception was still held at the PavExpo, the same location that is used for the Festival del Habano. A somewhat scaled-down version of the main festival took place: dinner, entertainment, awards and cigars were still on the menu; however, instead of the five, six or seven humidors that have been auctioned off during the night’s festivities during past events, this event featured only two.

Unsurprisingly, the first humidor has garnered the most attention because it is the Cohiba 55 Anniversario, a humidor that was first shown off in May 2021 after that year’s Festival was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and much of the company’s programming shifted online for Habanos World Day. Described as a cave-shaped humidor, it was designed by Nous Group and created by Humidores Habana, which has been creating humidors for Habanos S.A. for more than 20 years.

I had made arrangements to arrive at the PavExpo early—i.e. before attendees were let into the main ballroom—so that I could photograph the two humidors being auctioned off with the fewest number of people around them. This worked out wonderfully, but I was still rushing around trying to try different angles when the first people started entering the room.  After that, the humidors were mobbed, so I went back outside to take some quick photographs and then went to find my seat, which happened to be near the back left corner.

While smaller than past Gala Nights I have attended, the layout of the room was exactly the same: the main stage was to the right when I walked in—with one humidor positioned on each side—while the tables took up the remaining space on the right that the stage did not cover, as well as the entire middle and left side of the room. Each table seated six people and as people entered the ballroom, they walked through a short section lit from the floor to the ceiling with mirrors and lights.

When attendees passed through the main door, are given their first cigar: a Cohiba Medio Siglo petit robusto. People could then either grab their goodie bag—more on that below–or go straight to their table and pick it up later.

After about 20 minutes or so, the program began with some speeches from various Habanos S.A. executives. Those were followed by a number of musical and dance acts under the heading “55 Years of Success”, each representing a different decade that Cohiba has been in existence: for example, the 80’s decade was represented by people singing “I’ve Had The Time of My Life” from the 1987 movie “Dirty Dancing.”

While that was going on, the meal began. Each of the four courses—other than the starter course—included a specific Cohiba cigar: the first course included a Cohiba Ambar, the second course included a Cohiba 55 Aniversario and the dessert course included an Cohiba Ideales.

As the night progressed, more musical acts went on and off the stage—including performances from Haila, Camila Rodhe and Mayko D’Alma.

There was also the announcement of the winners for the Habanos Awards of the Year for both 2020 and 2021, since the 2021 Festival del Habano was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The annual awards are given to three people in different categories having to do with Habanos cigars: Production, Communication and Distribution. One of the most interesting winners was Walid Saleh, ceo of Phoenicia Trading—who won in the Communication category—as it was his third total Habanos Award since 2007.

A full list of the winners includes:

  • 2020 Habanos Awards — Eulalio Bejarano (Business), Walid Saleh (Communications) & Vicente Fausto Torres (Production.)
  • 2021 Habanos Awards — Riad Boukaram (Business) Angel Garcia Muñoz, (Communications) & Nelson Rodriguez Lopez (Production)

As the Habanos Awards ended, a group of entertainers began “walking” around a massive, 20-foot high figure made out of what looked like filaments wrapped in lights. There were five different people, each of which controlled a different part of the figure’s body: right and left arms/hands, right and left legs/feet and the head. In order to make the figure move around the room—no easy task, with all of the tables and people tripping over themselves to take photographs and videos of it—all of the operators had to work in union. I have to admit, the display was extremely impressive something I will remember for quite a while.

After photographing that, I decided to go and get my event bag to see what was inside. The contents were extremely impressive and along with the cigars handed out during the actual event and dinner included:

Then, it was finally time for the main event of the night: the humidor auction. Held every year during the main Festival del Habano, the auction raises money for the Cuban public health system by auctioning off different custom-made humidors that include cigars—some of which have never been commercially released and never will be—from the different Cuban marcas.

The first was the Rare Le Rituel & Cohiba humidor which is described as a tasting cabinet combining a bottle of Champagne Rare Millésime 1988 and 44 of the Cohiba Ambar. In addition, there were 24 bottles of Rare Millésime 1998 and 24 bottles of Rare Millésime 2008. That humidor sold fairly quickly for a total of €100,000 ($99,571.20).

At that point, it was time for the main attraction of the event: the auction of the Cohiba 55 Aniversario Humidor, a massive creation holding a collection 550 Cohiba cigars in various trays and drawers. The bidding went on for quite a while, eventually ending with a final price of €2.8 million ($2.39 million), quite possibly the most expensive cigar humidor ever sold at auction.

After that, there was a short break in the event programming before the final act appeared on stage: James Morrison, an English singer, songwriter and guitarist.

Then, it was time to find a ride back to the house and finish packing everything up for my trip back home the next day.

Brooks Whittington

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.