For the past four years, the month of February has meant not only Valentine’s Day, but also a return to the island of Cuba to cover the Festival del Habano. It is an event I look forward to covering every year, not only because of the cigars I get to smoke and report on, but also due to the different events, seminars and the people of the island I get to meet.
WHAT IS IT?
Now in its 21st year, the Festival del Habano is an annual event held in Havana, Cuba that attracts people from more than 70 countries all over the world. This year features an estimated 2,200 attendees as well as more than 200 journalists and is the place that Habanos S.A. debuts a number of its major releases every year. The five-day event also includes a different seminars, a trade show with 227 exhibitors—a 20 percent increase from last year—and a variety of dinners, each centered around different brands.
In addition, the festival will feature the finale of the International Habanos World Challenge Contest for the second year in a row. Having debuted last year, the contest tests the knowledge and experience of teams of contestants from all over the world. Each team has passed an initial contest in their home countries in order to compete in the final competition.
Finally, the final night’s gala evening will include the annual Humidor Auction, wherein people from all over the world bid on custom-made humidors, with all proceeds—over $1 million—going to Cuba’s national healthcare system. There are seven different humidors this year, including marcas like Cohiba, Montecristo and Trinidad.
WHAT’S DIFFERENT THIS YEAR?
The major change is the fact that the festival is taking place a week earlier than last year—starting on Feb. 18 instead of Feb. 27—meaning it is happening at the same time as Procigar, Dominican Republic’s cigar festival. This year also happens to be the 500th anniversary of the city Havana as well as the 50th anniversary of the Trinidad marca, the latter of which has a specific cigars being released for the occasion, namely the Trinidado 50 Aniversario.
Also, the Habanosommelier contest is missing from the roster of events
WHAT HAPPENED THE FIRST DAY (SUNDAY)?
Well, after waking up at 2 a.m. to catch a 5 a.m. flight to Miami and a 10 a.m. fight to Cuba, I quickly took a cab to the place I am staying to drop off luggage and get all of my equipment together. I then took that same cab to the Hotel Packard, which had recently opened it doors. The event I was attending had never been a part of the Habanos Festival before and consisted of select members of the press covering the festival getting together before the Festival officially opened.
WHAT WAS THE COOLEST THING ABOUT YESTERDAY?
While I was expecting a nice event with a cigar or two and perhaps some rum of some sort, what we were actually given to enjoy was quite a bit more impressive than just about anyone attending was expecting. The main event was a pairing of a specific cigar and rum, namely the aforementioned Trinidad 50 Aniversario and a sample of Havana Club’s Tribute 2019 rum.
WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT THE TRINIDAD CIGAR?
The Trinidad 50 Aniversario is not only the first time that a figurado vitola has been released in the Trinidad marca—in this case, a 155mm x 59 torpedo—it is also limited to 100 humidors of 50 cigars, or just 5,000 total cigars.
WAS IT ANY GOOD?
It was one of the most balanced Cuban releases I have smoked in a very long time, full of complex flavors like salted nuts, barnyard, hay and dark chocolate. I really wish I could have formally reviewed it, but they made it clear they wanted us to smoke it there, so I was only able put together a short live video review.
ANY OTHER EVENTS YESTERDAY?
No, after the Trinidad pairing event bit was time to go back to the place I was staying and get checked in, eat some dinner and get all of my equipment ready for the next five days of festival coverage, which will start at 8 a.m. as I attempt to procure the rest of my press credentials.