Habanos Festival 2012 Report
Laurence and Johnny busy quality testing at the Cohiba El Laguito Factory
With the great and the good from the cigar industry from all over the world, and a number of Sautter customers we all headed for Havana in February for the Annual Habanos Cigar Festival. Many cigars were smoked, and a number of Mojitos were taken.
A small but select group of travellers gathered at the landmark National Hotel in La Habana for the 2012 Habanos Festival. This year the centre of operations was Laurence’s Presidential suite with a huge balcony overlooking both the Malecon and the hotel swimming pool. the ideal spot to sit take in the sun and smoke some wonderful cigars but also a fantastic spot for an evenings entertaining.
After the Traditional Sunday evening trip to El Ajibe for Roast Chicken and Cuban black beans Monday saw the start of the Festival proper with the Welcome reception.
The musical entertainment was provided by an all star cast which featured top Cuban performers together with Phil Manzanera who for the uninitiated was the lead guitarist with Roxy Music and Jack Bruce a member of Cream. The opening event was followed by a cocktail reception at which we were all given the very first of the new Cohiba Pirámides Extras.
The Cohiba Pirámides Extra which is likely to arrive in the UK in the third quarter of 2012 has a ring gauge of 54 and is 160 mm long. It has the Cohiba Linea Clasica blend which makes it a medium to strong blend.
As you may be able to see from the photographs the Pirámides Extra follows the lead of the Behike in having a number of additional security measures built into the cigar band to deter forgeries. In addition to the traditional Indian head design it also has a visible and a hidden holographic band.
The Cohiba Pirámides Extra is the first figurado style cigar in the Cohiba Linea Clasica and in addition to being available in boxes it will also be available in a tube.
After a day touring the old town and some of Cuba’s very finest cigar stores on Tuesday we moved on to a tour of the world famous famous El Laguito Cohiba Factory on Wednesday.
This is the first time we have made a visit in the morning and we were able to see the full production process from the moistening of the wrapper leaves (using the only automated process in the whole factory) through the fantastic aroma of the blending room, to the tiny rolling rooms.
The only automation in the Cohiba factory, used to dampen the wrapper leaves.
The factory, which was set up to make cigars exclusively for Castro and for diplomatic gifts is housed in an old colonial house so instead of the huge traditional factory floor the rollers are housed in what used to be bedroom suites on the first floor. .
One of the rolling rooms at the El Laguito Factory
We met Berta, who many of you will remember rolling cigars for us in Sautter. She is head of Quality control at the factory. We were pleased to see huge quantities on Behike boxes ready to be shipped so there will be plenty of stock for those of you who love these wonderful cigars. We finished the day off with dinner at Havana’s most famous private restaurant or Paladar; La Guarida and, naturally a late night cigar on the Nacional terrace. .
Quality control at the El Laguito Factory
Thursday was a relaxed day spent sampling cigars at the fantastic Condes de Villa Nueva where they always manage to produce something a little different for us to try during the festival week. we followed this with a wonderful lunch at what will become the secret Sautter Paladar. Thanks to Magali, who found the restaurant for us, we had the very best meal I have ever eaten in Havana and at probably the lowest price. Come and join us next year (or in November) we will most certainly be going back.
Thursday evening was one of the high points of the trip; the Churchill memorial dinner.
The Champagne is chilling ahead of the Churchill dinner.
When Sir Winston Churchill returned to Cuba in 1946 for his second trip to the country he stayed for his first few nights at the Nacional hotel in the Presidential suite. having read about this in Stephen McGinty’s wonderful book “Churchill’s Cigar” we set about recreating the meal in every possible detail.
We drank Pol Roger Champagne (specially imported from the UK) on the terrace as the sun went down with some wonderful Partagas Churchill cigars which had been rolled for the evening.
Sitting down in the same dining room, at the same table and with exactly the same menu as sir Winston ate was a great experience. The Menu included red snapper, filet steak and a cherry dessert.
David Savona of Cigar Aficionado with the Sautter group at the Churchill diner.
The guests at the dinner included David Savona the editor of Cigar Aficionado, Simon Chase the former Marketing Director of Hunters & Frankau and friends and customers of the store. The chef certainly pulled out all the stops to create a wonderful evening.
The executive chef of the Nacional ‘finishing’ the steak with a little 7 year old Havana Club
After dinner we smoked 1997 English Market Selection Hoyo de Monterrey Churchill’s and everyone had their picture sitting at Sir Winston’s desk with a cigar and pulling their most ‘Churchillian faces’
David Savona lights up at the Churchill diner
Friday at the festival is the day of the Gala Dinner, the culmination of the Festival week at which we get to smoke the major new cigar to be launched for the coming year. The Gala is always a huge spectacular with a fantastic stage show.
Johnny ran into Jim Belushi during the Gala Dinner
As the dinner progresses a number of new cigars are presented. They are handed out to the guests at the table by a number of beautiful Cuban hostesses who tower over some of the more diminutive British cigar retailers. This year the night was a celebration of the Romeo y Julieta brand.
Johnny gets a warm welcome at the Habanos Gala Dinner
The trend to shorter cigars for those without the time to smoke a full Churchill continued and the first new cigar we sampled on the Gala night was the new Petit Churchill.
Habanos estimate it at a 20 minute smoke and with the balanced Romeo y Julieta blend it is likely to be extremely popular when it arrives in the UK. it will be available in boxes of 25 and in a three tube pouch.
Ana Lopez, Marketing Director of Habanos introduces this year’s Reserva
After also enjoying a wide Churchill the evening’s main event was the launch of the Romeo Y Julieta reserva which this year will be one of the most historic vitolas ever; the Churchill.
The tobacco for this limited production run was harvested in 2008 and aged for at least 3 years. The final blend selection was made by a committee of more than 50 factory manager and respected experts to create a harmonious, balanced and aromatic cigar
The Reserva cigars will have an extremely limited production run of only 5.000 numbered cases, each containing 20 cigars.They are expected to arrive in the third quarter of 2012.
A wonderful stage show at the Gala Dinner
The evening’s final event was the traditional auction of amazing humidors. Over the last 12 years this event has helped to raise around $10 million for the Cuban Public Health System
This year’s auction was another bumper evening with six humidors being sold for a total of $ 963,506. The humidors were:
Lot No. 1 - H. Upmann Humidor + 2 H. Upmann Ceramic Jar and Ashtray
Humidor Dimensions: 70 cm x 110 cm x 60 cm.
This humidor contains 350 Habanos of the H.Upmann brand, distributed into 9 trays .
Sold for $79 200
The H Upmann humidor at the Gala Dinner
Lot No. 2 - Hoyo de Monterrey Humidor + Meissen Porcelain Piece
130 cm x 60 cm x 40 cm
The humidor contains 350 Habanos of Hoyo de Monterrey brand.
Sold for $52,800
Lot No. 3 - Romeo y Julieta Humidor + Romeo y Julieta de Sargadelos Porcelain dinnerware.
Length: 130 cm x Height: 160 cm x Depth: 40 cm
The excellent humidor contains 350 Habanos of Romeo y Julieta brand.
Sold for $171 600
Lot No. 4 - Partagas Humidor + Chess Game
1.95 m. Width: 98 cm. Depth: 50 cm.
The Partagas humidor contains 350 Habanos.
Sold for $79,210
Lot No. 5 - Montecristo Humidor + Alexis Leyva (Kcho) Work
80 x 60 x 160 cm
The Montecristo humidor contains 375 Habanos.
Sold for 106 500$.
Lot No. 6 - Cohiba Humidor
120 cm x 120 cm x 50 high
This humidor contains 520 Habanos of the Cohiba brand.
Sold for an amazing $469,944
The amazing Cohiba humidor from the Gala Dinner
As we all headed back to the Hotel Nacional for a last cigar and a nightcap on the terrace Johnny couldn’t resist grabbing a little something for later on.
Johnny and a ‘friend at the Gala Dinner’
If you think you would like to join us at either the Partagas Festival in November or at 2013 Habanos Festival please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details of the trips.
A raft of new video Cigar Reviews
If you are one of the 57 people already subscribed to the Sautter YouTube channel then you may already be ahead of us on this story.
We have embraced YouTube as a way to give you all a regular insight into which cigars are smoking particularly well and as an ideal way to introduce you to the many new cigars which arrive from Havana every year.
So this year we decided that it would be a great idea to do a run down of our favourite cigars. Not just the best new cigars to come out of Havana this year but, as Sautter is renowned the world over for the wonderful vintage Cuban cigars it stocks, we thought we should create a list of the best 5 cigars in the store. Laurence decided that short videos on each cigar would be the best way for you to which cigars he had selected and why.
Laurence Davis will always, cheerfully refer to himself as ‘an industrial smoker’ but when he sat down on a Saturday morning to work his way through his top 5 cigars in the store and then the top 3 new cigars from 2011 no one realised quite what he was letting himself in for.
The best 5 cigars in Sautter at the moment
You will see from the videos below that every cigar was cut and lit as he describes why he had selected each cigar. What you won’t know was that by the end of the day all of the eight cigars were finished.
- The El Rey Del Mundo - Choix de L Epoque - EL 2009
- The Romeo y Julieta - Hermosos No.2 - EL 2004
- The Montecristo - Sublime - EL 2008
- The Romeo y Julieta Duke Edicion Limitada 2009
- The Romeo y Julieta - Wide Churchill
The top 3 cigars which arrived in 2012
The new Montecristo No 2 Gran Reserva
The "Archduke" Humidor
The ‘Archduke Humidor’ recently acquired by Sautter.
Many wonderful and historic cigar related articles have passed through the compact Sautter store in its fifty years but few have been as significant as our latest acquisition the “Archduke Humidor” which has a quite extraordinary and poignant history.
Robert Branks Powell was a Canadian tennis player, born in 1881 in Victoria, British Columbia. In his day he was considered Canada’s greatest player and he took part in tournaments all over the world. In 1904 he founded the North Pacific Lawn Tennis Association.
In 1907 he played at Wimbledon, Queens and in the South of France championships. In 1908 he played again at Wimbledon and the Paris international championships He was the captain of the Canadian tennis team at 1908 summer Olympics in London where he managed a joint ninth place in the singles and, partnered by James Foulkes, he came joint seventh in the doubles.
In 1908 he also competed in the Hungarian tennis tournament organised by the Magyar Athletikai club. He won the tournament and his prize was a silver cigar box which was presented to him by the Archduke Ferdinand. The beautiful box bears the Archduke’s coat of arms in a crystal and gold mount on the lid. The box was recently acquired by Sautter and is currently being displayed in the window of our Mount Street store.
He continued to play on the international circuit playing at wimbledon from 1909 to 1913. In 1913 he also represented Canada in the 1913 Davis cup .
As many of you will remember from your school history lessons, on the 28th of June 1914 the Archduke Ferdinand, who had presented Branks Powell with his trophy only six years before was assassinated at Sarajevo and this single event was the start of the First World war.
Branks Powell joined up and served as a Lieutenant in the 48th Canadian Inventory Battalion in France. He was killed on the 28th of April 1917 at Vimy at the age of just 36.
New Sautter Cigar Training Samplers
Sautter’s Saturday cigar training sessions have now been running for over a year and we have listened to your feedback and to the huge level of interest there is from both new and experienced cigar smokers for more knowledge about Cuban cigars. Our new Training samplers will broaden your understanding of brands and cigar sizes.
There are two samplers, one of light cigars and one of medium cigars. In every case the cigars have been selected to continue your cigar education.
The light sampler includes 5 cigars of different sizes, ring gauges and from different brands. To buy a ‘Light Education sampler go to our web site or pop into the store.
The Sautter ‘Light’ training sampler
|H Upmann||Coronas Junior||A great light, mild everyday cigar very similar to the Petit Upmann (The favourite cigar of President Kennedy before the embargo)|
|Rafael Gonzalez||Petit Coronas||A fine cigar with hints of vanilla and subtle flavours of complex spice, further down. A superb sweet and creamy daytime smoke.|
|Cuaba||Divinos||A great little cigar in a traditional double Figurado shape which make Cuaba unique. Mild but tasty.|
|Trinidad||Reyes||This is a great little cigar from a brand which is often missed but treasured by serious cigar lovers. Light/medium but with spicy peppery flavours that improve wonderfully with a little age|
|Sancho Panzas||Belicosos||Time to try something a little different in terms of shape, this ‘Figurados’ is a great size and decent girth giving these belicosos a first class flavour. Specially selected for this Sampler by Magali.|
The medium sampler includes 4 cigars of different sizes, ring gauges and from different brands. we have selected some longer and more complex cigars and we have included some traditional sizes which may not be fashionable today but which we are certain you will enjoy.
To buy a ‘Medium Education sampler’ go to our web site or pop into the store.
The Sautter ‘Medium’ training sampler
|Cohiba||Lancero||A great cigar of an older (thinner, longer) style. Not fashionable now but that is no reason why you should not enjoy them. Smoke slowly the cigar should not get too hot. Originally a diplomatic gift from the government of Cuba long before the Cohiba brand was generally available, gives us a notion of its qualities. With a strong Cohiba grassy flavour, combined with medium floral, herbs and bean flavours.|
|Montecristo||Petit Edmundo||A great short smoke from the worlds most popular Cuban Brand. A real classic and a solid performer.|
|Romeo y Julieta||Churchill||Well we really had too didn’t we. The development of the Churchill cigar size is a whole story in itself but by the time you get this far down the list you should be ready to take on a monster like this and enjoy it properly. Ideal after a good meal with a glass of brandy like the great man.|
|Punch||Punch||A beautiful smooth creamy cigar with a fine floral scent with woody notes. Could be destined to be a long term favourite.|
How accurate is your hygrometer?
Keeping Keeping your fine Cuban cigars in a ‘Cuba like’ atmosphere is the best way to age them and ensure that as they mature and remain in perfect condition so that they will be great to smoke when you are ready
Once you have chosen your humidor you have made a start but to ensure your finest Cuban’s are stored in perfect conditions, especially where your humidor has to do battle with the dying effects of central heating in the winter and the increasingly parched British summers you will need to monitor the humidity of your humidor and that’s where a hygrometer fits in.
If you have a decent humidor it will have a hygrometer, which is a digital or analogue gauge which measures the humidity of the air inside your humidor.
You are aiming for a humidity of between 65% and 72% humidity, depending on your personal taste, and at a temperature between 16 and 18 degrees. It is worth checking the accuracy of your hygrometer once a year to ensure it is within a known tolerance. This is particularly true if you have an analogue gauge which can often give readings that are up to 10% out, depending on the quality of the meter.
Testing your hygrometer - The salt test
The best way to test your hygrometer at home is to place the meter in an enclosed space with a substance which gives a known level of humidity, this is called the salt test. It’s a simple test using items everyone has around the home and it’s very quick.
What you will need for the Salt Test:
- A bottle top
- Tap water
- Two teaspoons of ordinary table/cooking salt
- A clear Ziplock plastic bag
How to do a salt test
1. Fill a bottle cap or other small household container with a couple of teaspoons of normal household cooking salt. Then add a couple of drops of water. Not quite enough to completely dissolve all the salt.
2. Put the cap and the hygrometer(s) inside the clear Ziplock bag and seal the bag.
3. Leave the bag for about 4 - 5 hours and then the bag aside for about six hours and then check the reading on the hygrometer through the clear plastic bag. The salt produces a consistent 75% humidity so you will be able to judge the level of accuracy of your meter.
4. As you will see the digital hygrometer shows exactly 75%. The analogue hygrometer shows around 73% and so is reading 2% below the correct level. This is within an acceptable tolerance but you need to consider that variance when checking your humidor.
5. If it’s possible to adjust your hygrometer make the adjustment to correct the variance you have found. If it’s not possible to adjust the hygrometer then make a note of the variance or put a label on the back of the meter to remind you.
6. Make a note in your diary to remind you to Salt Test and re-calibrate your hygrometer once a year.
7. Consistency of humidity and temperature are critical to ensure that your cigars remain in perfect condition and that they will age well and be perfect when you eventually decide to smoke them.
It is worth remembering that if you keep your humidor at a particularly high level of humidity (above 68%) we suggest that cigars for smoking should be removed from the humidor a couple of days before smoking to allow the level of humidity to drop a few points for perfect smoking pleasure.
If the Salt Test has revealed that your analogue hygrometer is too inaccurate or if it’s time to upgrade to a modern digital hygrometer, check out our website or pop into the store for the latest digital technology.
You may also find that it is difficult to maintain the humidity in your humidor at the right level, particularly if it’s in a centrally heated room.
Sautter has recently introduced two new Humidor aids to help you:
Sautter new Humidor water
All waters are not the same and Sautter’s new humidor water is formulated to reduce the possibility of mould developing in your humidor. It also comes in a special new spray top bottle which will help you to prepare your new humidor and keep the level of humidity perfect for your Cuban cigars.
New compact electronic humidification unit
We have just started stocking this great electronic humidification unit which has been designed and manufactured for cigar storage.
It will automatically maintain the perfect humidity in a humidor of up to 55 cubic feet and with a huge gel filled reservoir it only requires refilling every 3 months.
Full features include:
- Dual Re-calibrating technology
- Low battery and water alarm indicator
- Maintains the humidity in humidors up to 55 cubic ft
- Up to 110 CB-FT w/sub. tank (optional)
- Powerful and quiet dual HD fan
- Liquid crystal display with light
- Display RH Max/Min
- Display 3 days average
- Display °C/°F, low water
- Display humidity %, humidity setting
- Manually adjustable 40%~90%, +/- 1%
- 9”L x 4 3/4”W x 4 1/2”H
- Model DCH-55C
Sautter’s new Fishing (and Shooting) Sampler
To mark the start of the new fishing season this month and looking forward to the heady days of May and June Sautter is delighted to announce the latest in our line of samplers; the Fishing sampler. These three cigars have been carefully selected to make the most of your relaxing day by the riverbank.
The sampler contains three tubed cigars to carry in your tackle bag:
- A Montecristo - Open Master, an ideal cigar to start the morning off with a coffee as you ‘tackle up’,
- A Partagas D4 (Tubo), ideal after lunch to help you focus on the afternoons fishing.
- A Cohiba Siglo IV (Tubo), the perfect cigar to smoke at the end of a successful days fishing.
This sampler is also supplied with a Sautter simple cutter and a Sautter Lighter so that you won’t get to the river bank and find you can’t cut or light your cigars.
To buy a ‘Fishing sampler’ just go to our website or pop into the store.
Partagas Festival - Havana November 2012
If you enjoyed the coverage of our 2012 trip to the Habanos cigar festival in La Habana Cuba we will be heading back in November 2012 for the smaller and extremely sociable Partagas Festival. The provisional dates are Monday 19th - Friday 23rd November 2012.
Sunset over the Partagas Factory (from the Saratoga)
The Festival program is likely to be very similar to this year's program and Sautter will be putting a full program of meals and events around the Festival events.
Monday - Accreditation at La Casa del Habano Partagás
Tuesday - Welcome Dinner
Tasting of 3 Habanos, Musical show.
Location: Hotel Riviera
Wednesday - Beach Day
Seafood lunch and drink, cigar tasting, nautical sports, games.
Location: “Club Havana”
Thursday - Day in the Country
Cuban lunch, cigar tasting, games, horse riding.
Location: Finca Alcona.
Friday - Gala Night
Exquisite dinner with three excellent cigars, combined with fine wines, cigars, awards, auction, artistic show
Location: Cabaret “Tropicana”
Don’t let anyone tell you the food in Cuba is poor (travel with Sautter)
Habanos Festival - Havana February/March 2013
If you enjoyed the coverage of our 2012 trip to the Habanos cigar festival in La Habana Cuba we will be heading back to the next Habanos Festival in February/March 2013.
If you love Cuban cigars the Habanos Festival in February is the best place to meet friends old and new and to enjoy the new cigars which will be launched in the following years. As in previous years the Sautter trip will include:
- Cigar factory tours
- Tobacco farm trips to see the harvest
- Sightseeing trips around the old city and the sites of the new city
- Great restaurants
- Habanos events
- Cigar store tours
- The odd Mojito or two!
Once again we will be based at the Nacional, we will have more special Sautter events to announce in the run up to February. If you would like to be kept up to date with the details of our trip please email email@example.com and we will send you regular email updates.