I am just back from the Partagas Cigar Festival in Havana Cuba, and what a brilliant trip. There were just two of us from Ireland this time, myself and Andy Ryan another cigars.ie herf regular.
The 2011 Limited Editions - Cohiba 1966, Ramon Allones Allones Extra and Hoyo Short Piramid were introduced to the Cuban Domestic Market during the week and this is what I spent most of the week smoking. I also enjoyed some custom rolled cigars from Hamlet, Reynaldo, Santos, La China and Enrique Mons. However, the high humidity meant that custom rolls suffered as the fresh cigars were too wet and so kept going out. The cigar of the week for me was a Partagas P2 served at the Gala Dinner.
Highlights from this trip included catching up with so many friends, and meeting so many new people. There is so much fun to be had around the edges of these festivals, whether it be an impromptu tapas lunch, or late drinks on the Nacional’s Terrace before kicking on to a late night Jazz Club.
We managed a nice “Irish” lunch on the opening day which incorporated a bottle of Green Spot and a couple of Fox Centenary Cigars, which believe it or not, are now 30 years old. The cigars smoked extremely well, and everyone enjoyed the Whiskey even if it did provoke some pretty extreme political points of view.
We also managed a lunch on the beach in the Club Havana, the food was good, and the company excellent as we had hooked up with some the Toronto crew with whom we have Hamlet’s friendship in common. Hamlet was paid the customary visit in the Romeo y Julieta shop. Customary insults were also paid. Mutually. Hamlet has a new son Tiago, who he only met for the first time on his return from his summer Canada rolling tour.
The quality of Havana’s restaurants and the food they serve continues to improve. For people who enjoy simple food, a trip to Havana must incorporate meals at El Aljibe and El Palenque – open air restaurants which serve the best chicken and pork (respectively) that you will find anywhere. However, La Moraleja and Le Chansonnier were both new for me, and both are excellent restaurants serving very good food.
I was very pleased to catch up with Arnaldo Ovalles Brinones, Director of the El Laguito factory. Aka, Berta’s boss, whom we also met along with her talented younger sister Nancy. I was stunned to hear on our arrival that Berta had been in a serious car accident before she even left from her summer rolling tour to the British Isles and can’t believe her UK and Irish friends weren’t made aware of it, but it appears that she has been looked after very well and is looking no worse for wear.
Its been a decade since I last attended La Tropicana. I was somewhat uninspired when I heard the Gala dinner was to be held there, but time has made me cynical – as the show is excellent. The Gala Dinner itself was great fun. There was a charity auction, but I didn’t buy anything, although I did come close to having the winning bid on a beautiful humidor and two paintings. I was lucky enough to be sitting near to Zoe Nocedo Primo, Director of Havana’s museum of tobacco. I was delighted to be able to discuss the Fox Cigar Museum in London with her, and she is enthusiastic to visit to compare notes.
Another highlight was the number of different quality Rums that we got through, the highlight being the Havana Club Selection Meastro, but Cuba has so much more than Havana Club to offer: I look forward to seeing other Cuban rums on the Irish market soon.
Roll on February!