Habanos cigars are something to taste if you are looking for experiences to live in Habana to discover the real Cuba and smoking them is a tradition that connects with the aboriginal and African roots of the people. For Cubans it is more than an act, it is a ritual that involves the five senses and always provides new pleasures and sensations.
As a part of the guided routes and organized trips to Cuba from CubaUnique, we put you in contact with local experts on the subject. Whether you are an experienced smoker, passionate about cigars or simply interested in delving into cuban culture, you will discover for yourself the history and art of smoking Habanos.
If you are already in Cuba, it is almost mandatory to taste one of the most recognized and acclaimed cigars worldwide, and that is why we suggest you take our interesting thematic city-tour Tobacco in Havana , or go to Viñales Valley. to take a walk, a horseride or a bike ride along its tobacco fields, so that local farmers can show you first-hand the artisan way of elaboration. A careful selection of activities that we include in our routes around Cuba, or which we can curate in our customized trips to Cuba.To get you thinking about which Habano to smoke when you visit Havana, we have interviewed Víctor Ricardo Aguilera Sánchez, a young Cuban passionate about tobacco, graduated in tobacco culture from the Office of the Historian of Havana who holds the Senior category of Habanos, awarded by the Habanos Academy, belonging to the Caribbean Cigars Corporation. Victor agreed to share some of his wisdom about Cuban cigars with CubaUnique. This is how he answers our questions about Habanos and experiences in Havana:
1 How did you start studying about the world of habano?
Since I was little, the world of Habano has been around me, so it was inevitable not to enter it. The first influences came from a strong family tradition. But my immersion began with the visual attraction exerted on me by all the accessories and objects linked to the ritual of smoking a Habano. I was struck by the colorful engravings on their boxes or the elegance of the humidors where they were kept. Also the rings, as well as the luxury of cutters and lighters.Then I devoted myself to the study of extremely valuable books (El mundo del Habano; Lo llamaremos Cohiba; El Habano. De la semilla al puro en 539 pasos; Enciclopedia ilustrada de Habanos posteriores a la Revolución). These, together with the Diploma in Tobacco Culture from the Office of the Historian of Havana, allowed me to get in touch with experts in the sector and learn from their invaluable criteria. As knowledge grew, so did the desire to start a business. That's when I had the idea of creating "experiences", safari related to tobacco. These are either rolling workshops or pairing Cuban dishes with Habanos. Then we created team Stage540, made up of a group of entrepreneurial friends passionate about Habanos and specialized in different areas of knowledge on this subject. The name represents the 539 stages that go from the planting of the tobacco seed to the production of the cigar and stage 540 would be rather the concept that surrounds the entire ritual that is smoking a Habano, which we also teach in these experiences.
2 Why is Cuba considered such a paradise for tobacco?
The Habano paradise is made up of several key factors: soil, climate, varieties of Cuban black tobacco and the know how of peasants and rollers. The composition of the soils of various areas in Pinar del Río –especially those from the vegas in the Vuelta Abajo region, which hold a Guarantee of Origin seal - is unique for the growth of this plant. The climate of Cuba is also an optimal regulator of the quality of tobacco, which is why the archipelago is considered a great humidor. The Cuban tobacco varieties are meticulously selected from among the best and together with the skills and experience that farmers, rollers, and even plow animals have accumulated through the years of work in this sector, our tobacco is of unmatched quality.
3 Is an habano the same as a premium cigar?
All Habanos are Cuban cigars (we just call them cigars in Cuba), but not all Cuban cigars are Habanos. It looks like a tongue twister! Only Premium Cuban cigars are considered Habanos. Now, for a tobacco to be a Habano it has to weigh more than 3g, be made entirely by hand, either with long or short tripas* (fillings) and, in addition, the leaves of its fillings must come from one of the areas with guarantee of origin seal of the Republic of Cuba.
* Tripa: mixture of leaves that make up the interior of the Habano
4 What are the most recognized Habanos brands?
Among the 27 commercial brands of Habanos there are some more recognized, or that can be found anywhere in the world, which are called Global Brands. These are Cohiba, Montecristo, Partagás, Romeo y Julieta, Hoyo de Monterrey and H. Upmann.
5 WHICH OF THESE BRANDS WOULD YOU RECOMMEND AND WHY?
I do not consider that there is an ideal Habano. For me, the special thing about Habanos is given by the moment they are smoked, and this is linked to the selection of the places and the feelings experienced during the act. Sometimes alone, others with the pleasant company of family or friends, but always focusing the 5 senses to enjoy it to the fullest.I am a great lover of my city, the Old Havana, and that is why I always prefer to taste a good cigar in contact with the magic of its most emblematic and charming places. So I want to share with you a selection of 5 excellent Cuban tobacco brands with a selection of 5 Havana places where to enjoy unique experiences. These combinations are incredible, since the selected cigars have different flavours, which manage to blend perfectly with the scenarios and with the food or drinks with which you decide to accompany them. It is a very personal proposal, as these are moments that have been etched in my memory as exceptional:
1-QUINTERO. To enjoy a day at the beach, in Playas del Este, from very early in the morning, smoke it while watching the sunrise, and why not later dare to dive near to a wrecked ship. I recommend this brand because its medium strength, tasty coconut flavor and sweet aroma are ideal next to the sea breeze.
2-VEGUEROS. For an afternoon in the countryside, sitting on a stool, surrounded by nature, Creole food, listening to the rhythm of a peasant guateque. This brand of Habanos has a distinctive earthy taste. As it was created to honor the vegueros who grow the best tobacco leaves in Cuba, there is no better combination than savoring a cigar from this brand in a rural setting. An excellent place to taste it is the Finca Tungasuk, just 37 km from the city, an ideal place to live a unique experience in the west of the island.
3- COHIBA is the perfect one to admire a sunset in the garden of Hotel Nacional, while you taste a delicious coffee. A classic Habano, with an unmistakable flavor and fragrance. The complexity of its flavors makes it always perfect, anywhere, but for the style and elegance of this brand, nowhere better than this imposing hotel. In addition, accompanying the medium-strong flavour of Cohiba with the special taste and aroma of a good Cuban coffee is a delicious experience!
4- ROMEO Y JULIETA. Walk along Paseo del Prado to the Malecón, on a clear night under the stars, while you smoke a Romeo and Juliet. The mixture of the filling and the coating of these cigars is balanced and aromatic, which makes it a classic Habano with a medium flavor. Not too strong, not too soft; balanced and pleasant ... like love. A perfect experience to live with your couple, especially if you are celebrating your honeymoon in Cuba.
5- SAN CRISTOBAL DE LA HABANA, as a companion to go over the city history in a dinner at Divina Pastora, on the east side of the Bay of Havana. This brand, created as a tribute to the town that once held the same name, boasts a medium-mild flavor and a great aroma to recall passages from Havana's historical chronology, while you delight in one of the most impressive panoramic views of this ancient city.
6 ANY SUGGESTIONS TO GO DEEPER INTO THE EXCITING WORLD OF HABANOS?
Yes, of course: i am very fond of these two documentaries: El arte del tabaco (1974) a short but interesting film by talented cuban director Tomás Gutiérrez Alea (Titón); and Habanos: el corazón y alma de Cuba, which the Canadian director James Orr created together with James Suckling, a very famous Habanos and wine expert from the US.Thank you very much Victor! It has been a pleasure to have you for this interview. So, if you are thinking about organizing a trip to Cuba , on your own or in one of our tailor made trips to Cuba we will craft with pleasure and care in our travel agency specialized in Cuba, don't miss any of our recommendations to travel to Cuba without complications, we recommend you spend at least 10 days in Cuba so as not to miss the essentials, and above all, go ahead and discover the universe of the Cuban cigar and try any of the 5 emblematic brands that we suggest in these 5 ideal places to fully enjoy them, in contact with the magical city that gave them their name. We wait for you!!!
Interview conducted by Gabriela Rodríguez, , independent Cuban guide.
Video produced and edited by Javier Ernesto Hernández-López.0