Cuba: The Experience of a Lifetime! By Steve Nathan
I’m sure many of you have seen the amazing pictures my traveling companion Brian Massey has posted on the JR Cigar Instagram feed and Facebook page of our astonishing journey to XVIII Festival Habano* in Havana, Cuba. Although intriguing, these photos cannot capture the warm air and tropical breeze floating through the palm trees, or the smell of sweet, aged tobacco leaf wafting from the famous La Casa del Habano smoke shop the moment you open the door. This wonderful shop located on the bottom floor of the stunning Melia Habana Hotel was a regular stop for Brian and me, and we were fortunate enough to become friends with their cordial and knowledgeable staff.
Sipping on a glass of Havana Club Rum while experiencing the sweet and smoky nuances of a Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No.2 in this ambient setting surely would have been worth the trip alone. However, these moments of ultimate relaxation were just one facet of our whirlwind journey. In four memorable days we experienced the sheer beauty of the glorious art of the cigar.
Our main reason for this expedition was to be part of a handful of lucky American cigar ambassadors chosen to attend this highly touted yearly event. Festival Habano is this proud nation’s version of our International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers (IPCPR) convention, only with more emphasis placed on the many centuries of historic culture that has influenced the beauty of this ancient leaf.
Festival Habano is far more than walking the spacious halls filled with all of the great Cubano brands. The price of admission also gets you a trip to the legendary Pinar del Rio Plantations, the promised land of prime Cuban tobacco leaf. On the long journey back from Pinar, we enjoyed a surprise lunch stop at the Mural de la Prehistoria, an ancient paradise carved between lush mountains and said to be the birthplace of Cuban civilization. Then there was a trip to the famous El Laguito Cigar Factory, a stately mansion where one of the country’s most recognized and highly rated cigars is produced — the Cohiba!
If all of this sounds amazing to you, then please stay tuned to hear about our trips to old Havana to visit the landmark Partagas and H. Upmann factories. We also had the amazing fortune to smoke a stogie and slurp a few ice cold ones at the El Floridita, Ernest Hemmingway’s favorite saloon, now visited by millions from around the world. We have so much more to tell you about the culture, the beaches, the warm and gracious people we encountered and, most of all, those spectacular cigars!
We will be honored to share every moment of our journey with all of you as soon as our plane lands on American soil. So for now, smoke a great cigar, enjoy the weekend, and prepare to share our amazing journey in the many days to come!
*Habanos S.A. is the Cuban company that has exclusive rights to market and sell Habanos cigars and worldwide.