James Suckling talks about the current state of Cuban cigars
Posted: 21 March 2008 11:05 AM   [ Ignore ]
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It was hot and sticky in the rolling room of the Partagas factory in downtown Havana. About 300 rollers were busy handcrafting a range of cigars. I saw mostly large ring-gauge cigars being rolled. Most of the cigars were regional editions for the Middle East and Cohiba Maduros. The one regional edition that looked pretty amazing was a Bolivar Sublimes, which I believe is going to Lebanon.

In 2007, close to a dozen regional-edition smokes were produced, and this year the number is expected to double. I have enjoyed a number of them, including the new Edmundo Dantes Conde 109 for Mexico, essentially a Churchill with a tapered end. But some of the regional cigars have been rather dull, even bland. Some might say that they taste very similar. So I hope the Cubans put more effort into the blends to differentiate the various cigars in the program.

It’s strange to think how the cigar scene in Havana has changed. I remember the first time I visited the Partagas factory in September 1991 with Marvin R. Shanken, the editor and publisher of Cigar Aficionado, and most of the cigars being rolled were coronas and petit coronas. Contrast that with my most recent visit to Havana when, the day before I visited Partagas, I had an early morning meeting with Manuel Garcia, commercial vice president for Habanos S.A., the global marketing and distribution company for Cuban cigars. Garcia told me that the Partagas Serie D is now the No. 1-selling cigar in France, eclipsing the ubiquitous Montecristo No. 4. “We see all robusto and thick-gauge cigars growing in our traditional markets,” he told me that morning. As I wrote in the December 2007 issue of Cigar Aficionado, the robusto has become one of the top-selling Cuban vitolas in the world.

Read the entire story from CigarAficionado.com

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