During the week of the 23rd to the 27th of February, the Cuban capital is hosting the eleventh Habanos Festival, the most important event in the world for Habano cigar lovers and professionals. Each year, the Festival has acted as a showcase for the international presentations and launches of the firm’s latest and most emblematic products - the one and only Habanos Puros. This year, there are two exceptional stars of the Festival: the intro of new range of most legendary brand Montecristo the Open and the first Gran Reserva from Habanos dedicated of course to the perennial Puro brand - Cohiba.
Anyway, this celebration was against a backdrop of Habanos reporting yesterday that its global sales dropped 3 percent last year to $390 million due to the economic crisis and the rise of anti-smoking. This is from 2008 $402 million but its still up from 2005 and 2006. Sales are expected to be down this year as well quoting officials from El Laguito that they expected to produce much less cigars than the 3 million foretasted this year due to the bad global economy. And most of the cigar merchants, whether from London, Paris or Hong Kong, were bemoaning the difficulty in selling fine cigars during the event.
Habanos S.A., the global marketing and distribution company for Cuban cigars and organizers of the festival, also mentioned the introduction of the new Trinidad Robusto T (50 x 124mm) Del Valle vitola presented in 3 packs. From the notes of Cigar Aficionado's James Suckling "What an awesome smoke. I love the rich and spicy character with a fresh, clean and floral undertone. It has all the Trinidad style that I like and more. I think it’s a 93-point smoke, non blind."
Cohiba Gran Reserva (52 ring gauge by 5 7/8 inches) was unveiled as well - the Canonazo (the factory name for the new Cohiba) and the same vitola as the regular production Siglo VI. It is made from five-year-old tobacco (the filler is all from the 2003 harvest) and comes in limited production of 5000 packaged in special box containing 15 cigars. Per Suckling "the richness and power of the smoke is overwhelming. It had such great length with coffee, tobacco and dark chocolate character that filled the mouth. It had the classic freshness of the Cohiba brand as well." Sounds like another addition to the Wish list barring it being overwhelmingly cost prohibitive like all previous special Cohiba releases.
Introduction of the four Montecristo Open sizes including:
small Junior, 38 ring gauge by 4 1/3 inches;
belicoso Regatta, 46 by 5 1/3 inches;
robusto Master, 50 by 4 7/8 inches;
supercharged robusto Eagle, 54 by 5 7/8 inches.
These four cigars carry the traditional brown and cream Montecristo band, but they also have a second green band with gold and white lettering. Open line is geared towards "the Montecristo Generation- mostly men in their 30s or 40s who want to enjoy the good things in life(think images of fantastic golf courses, luxe yachts and powerful sports cars mixed with polo tournaments, tennis matches, international regattas, and Grand Prix races)", which obviously includes a good cigar. Whatever the marketing hoopla behind it to me what matters is how they taste and smoke. If they are anything as my perennial favorite short Petit Edmundo they a say bring them on even if they are probably targeted towards bringing in that lucrative segment of casual (think special events mostly) cigar smoker. Again as reported by James Suckling "the cigars are typical Montecristo, more along the lines of Edmundo than anything else. I smoked a Master and Eagle last night, I found the Eagle the better of the two. It had the most richness and flavor to compensate for the stormy weather. There were plenty of chocolate and cream flavors with a hint of cedar. 92 points, unblind. I scored the Master 90 points, unblind." Sounds tasty to me so depending on the pricing the Regatta and Eagle could be soon in my rotation as well (fingers crossed).
Another intro was a commemorative case of the X Edition of the Habano Festival. Exclusively aimed for distribution through Las Casas del Habano and Habanos specialists stores with 20 000 cases available. It comprises of the most exclusive vitolas of Habanos brands launched in the past edition of the Habanos Festival.
During the Gala Night of the past Habano Festival, a special case was gifted to attendants in occasion of the commemoration of the X anniversary of the Habano Festivals. Due to the demand and the immediate success of this initiative, it was decided to launch a replica of said case. These Habanos are packaged in luxury black-lacquered, cabinet-shaped cases, with a selection of 10 cigars listed as follows:
* Montecristo Edmundo (Ring Gauge 52 x 135 mm long)
* Trinidad Robustos Extra (Ring Gauge 50 x 155 mm long)
* Cohiba Maduro 5 Genios (Ring Gauge 52 x 140 mm long)
* H.Upmann Magnum 50 (Ring Gauge 50 x 160 mm long))
* Romeo y Julieta Short Churchills (Ring Gauge 50 x 124 mm long)
* Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Especial (Ring Gauge 50 x 141 mm long)
* Partagás Serie P No 2 (Ring Gauge 52 x 156 mm long)
* Cohiba Siglo VI (Ring Gauge 52 x 150 mm long)
* San Cristóbal de la Habana Mercaderes (Ring Gauge 48 x 167 mm long)
* Cuaba Generosos (Ring Gauge 42 x 132 mm long)
The Travel Retail Selection Pack is made up by a selection of trendy sizes from three different most successful of the latest launching of Habanos brands within the past four years. The Robusto is a trendy size nowadays, so no wonder it has been chosen to be the core of this selection.
* Petit Edmundo from Montecristo: With a ring gauge 52 x 110 mm long, Petit
Edmundo is offering its medium to full flavor that has become an icon among
cigar enthusiasts around the world.
* Short Churchills from Romeo y Julieta: A classic Robusto (ring gauge 50 and
124 mm long) balanced and aromatic blend of the Vuelta Abajo leaves, making
it the classic medium bodied Habano.
* Petit Robusto from Hoyo de Monterrey: A delicate yet aromatic Habano that
is lighter to the taste but with great elegance and complexity.
Once again, Habanos s.a. gives consumers another chance to get the latest exclusivity for the Duty Free and Travel Retail channel. Aiming at the preservation as the key factor, the pack was specially made with the latest “Double Chamber” Humidifier Tube, in order to keep the Habanos inside for a long time in safe conditions. Habanos are evenly humidified from the bottom to the top. Furthermore, dry Habanos can be "recovered" in only 1 week. Another plus added is the eye-catching design, in which each tube carries out the brand logo on the side printed in a sleek surface for a better presentation. These will be available to the Duty Free market by the end of the year.
More on other 2009 Regional, Limited Editions and special releases later on.
Info via Habanos SA & CA's James Suckling.