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Havana cigars - hand-rolled


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 hand-rolled.
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 this crop.
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 U.S. blockade.
These factors are compounded by smoking bans in closed venues and many public areas and campaigns highlighting the damage caused by this habit.
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 examples.
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 countries.
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 cigars).
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.

JUAN VARELA PÉREZ

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