Habanos cigars represent the best of Cuba: an introduction!

In my BnB in Havana I saw ‘The Complete Guide for Habanos’ Enthusiasts’, and as I am determined to both smoke and buy cigars during my time in the country, I decided to write a story about this icon of Cuba. My father was an avid cigar smoker, and allowed us a taste of a cigar once a year, on Christmas Eve. 

I asked my BnB manager what ‘Habanos’ means, and he explained that it is a group name of all Cuban cigar manufacturers, and the booklet cover shows the brand names to include Cohiba (the national brand), Romeo y Julieta, Trinidad, Saint Louis Rey, Sancho Panza, and 19 other brands I had never heard of. The guide defines the term  more succinctly as the ‘denomination of origin reserved for the highest quality cigars made in Cuba; conforming to the standards set by the Cuban cigar industry, and made from tobacco grown in specific regions of the island that are also protected as denominations of origin’. 
Internationally accessible cigar brands are Cohiba, Hoyo de Monterrey, Montecristo, Partagas, Quintero, and Romeo y Juliet. Specialty brands are Cuaba, San Cristobal De la Habana, and Trinidad. Cuban cigar brands one can buy in most countries are Bolivar, Fonseca, Guantanamera, H Upmann, Jose L Piedra, Punch, and Vegas Robaina. Cigar brands that are more limited in their international exposure are Belinda, Cabañas, Diplomaticos, El Rey Del Mundo, Gispert, Juan Lopez, La Flor de Cano, La Gloria Cubana, Los Statos de Luxe, Por Larrañaga, Quai D’Irsay, Rafael Gonzalez, Ramon Allones, Saint Luis Rey, Sancho Panza, Troya, and Vegueros.
Each of the Habanos cigar brands is then described in detail. I have limited the description below to the most internationally available brands:
These internationally known and national Cuban cigars are the flagship brand of Habanos. The brand was created in 1966 for President Fidel Castro, at the then secret but now world famous El Laguito factory. Initially it was only seen outside the country as diplomatic gifts and for heads of state. Since 1982 it is internationally available, even in Cape Town! Its brand name is derived from the bunches of tobacco leaves which Christopher Columbus first saw being smoked by the original inhabitants of the island 500 years ago. The leaves used to make these cigars are the ‘selection of the selection’, made from the five finest zones of the Vuelta Abajo region. Sounding like a wine, two of the filler leaves of this brand ‘undergo a third fermentation in barrels, which adds smoothness to the blend’. 
The brand has two distinct lines:
#. The medium to full flavored Línea Clásica made between 1966 and 1989; 
#. The medium flavored Línea 1492, marking the 500 year anniversary of Columbus’ arrival. In 2002 the Siglo VI size was introduced to this Line.
All the sizes of this brand are long filler, totally hand made. 
Hoyo De Monterrey 
This cigar brand originates from San Juan y Martinez in the Vuelta Abajo tobacco region. ‘Hoyo’ means ‘hole’, describing the low lying position of the tobacco plantation on the banks of the town’s  river. The cigars have a delicate and aromatic flavour, lighter in taste, but with great elegance and complexity. 
All the sizes of this brand are long filler, totally hand made.
This brand is regarded as the best known cigar brand in the world, and is seen by cigar lovers as the benchmark against which to compare other cigar brands. Its name is derived from Alexandre Dumas’ novel  ‘The Count of Montecristo’, a story loved by the cigar makers when it was read to them in the cigar factory when it opened in 1935. Its range includes the majestic Montecristo A to the small Joyita. 
The leaves for the brand come from the Vuelta Abajo region.  
All the cigars of this brand are Medium to Full flavored, long filler, and totally hand made. 
This brand is known to have a famous cigar factory in the centre of  Havana, made since 1845, and bears the name of Don Jaime Partagas, the founder of the brand. 
Its deep earthy flavour distinguishes this cigar brand, coming from the blend of tobacco leaves originating from the Vuelta Abajo region. 
All sizes of this full flavour cigar brand are long filler, totally hand made, with the exception of two, which are machine-made. 
This brand of cigars has a smooth medium taste, and is affordable too. It is not made in Havana, originating in Cienfuegos, known as the ‘Pearl of the South’, but the tobacco leaves are sourced from Vuelta Abajo. All but one of its cigars are short filler, totally hand made. 
Romeo y Julieta
Inspired by Shakespeare for its name, this brand dates back to 1875. This brand was the first to carry the branding band in a cigar, Don Pepin Fernandez creating this marketing identification for this cigar brand. Sir Winston Churchill was a devoted smoker of this brand, and after his visit to Cuba in 1946, the largest size of the brand was named after the English statesman. 
Its flavour is medium bodied, and its balanced and aromatic Blend is created from leaves coming from the Vuelta Abajo region. 
The brand is long filler, and totally handmade. 
Habanos, www.habanos.net.


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Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein


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