Havana: The Megabuck Smoke of Habanos
The Habano Festival is described, along with Las Vegas’ Big Smoke, as the utmost event in the international tobacco industry. In its twentieth edition, the Festival gathered over two thousand attendees from 70 countries, 200 officially registered journalist and 184 exhibitors from 20 nations, who participated in the trade fair. During the five-day event, the smoke of totally handmade premium cigars flooded the halls at Havana’s Convention Center where attendees learned that, in 2017, over 500 million dollars were collected in terms of Habano sales, which represented a 12 percent growth if compared to the previous year… this achievement does not include the biggest market for this product on earth: United States.
Habanos S.A. international corporation was created back in 1994 and it is a joint venture, equally managed by Tabacuba and the Spanish company owned by British Imperial Tobacco. The corporation presently exports 27 brands to 150 countries, where it runs Casas del Habano and other sales outlets that market a catalog of products made up of over 220 store vitolas, 350 references and some 80 factory vitolas or industry formats.
The growth of Habanos has been amazing. Its main markets are nestled in Spain, France, China, Germany, Cuba (domestic market), Switzerland, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Canada. As a new element, the premium cigars have grown popular in China, so sales in the most populated country of the world went up to 33 percent in 2017.
In terms of continents, Europe stands out as the main market for Habanos, with 54 percent of sales, followed by America (17 percent), Pacific Asia (15 percent) and Africa and Middle East (14 percent). “If compared to the luxury sector, where we have gone 5 percent up, our 12 percent growth makes us proud and we are pleased to see that our product has gained momentum at world level,” the Development vice-president of Habanos, Jose Maria Lopez, told EFE.
COHIBA & PARTAGÁS, STARS OF THE 2018 FESTIVAL
Two brands took center stage in the 20th edition of the Habano Festival because of their new products: Cohiba and Partagás; although the event was also a showcase for Hoyo de Monterrey Le Hoyo Río Seco and Vegueros Centrofinos.
Robustos Reserva Cosecha 2014 was the much-anticipated launch, by Cohiba, the most prestigious brand with Habanos’ catalog. According to specialists, these Robustos, ring gauge 50 x 124 mm, were made with leaves (filler, binder) that underwent a three-year aging process. It is a highly exclusive product, since only 5,000 boxes were made, carrying 20 units each. On the other hand, Partagás launched its Línea Maduro, which introduced two new mature wrapper vitolas, obtained after an extra fermentation period.
Moreover, Habanos’ Hoyo de Monterrey put out its new vitola, Le Hoyo Río Seco, ring gauge 56 x 140 mm, and Vegueros unveiled its thick vitola, Centrofinos, ring gauge 50 x 130 mm.
MEGABUCK AUCTION OF LUXURIOUS HUMIDORS
The Festival came to an end with an interesting auction that put on the table seven luxurious humidors, made with precious woods. Cohiba’s humidor was sold for 340 thousand euros. This humidor, a true artwork backed up by National Fine Arts Award winner Roberto Fabelo, included 550 Cohiba Behike cigars, considered as the most expensive Habanos of the world.
The list of auctioned humidors also included: Partagás in 250 thousand euros, Montecristo in 200 thousand euros, El Rey del Mundo in 185 thousand euros, H.Upmann in 110 thousand euros, Hoyo de Monterrey in 150 thousand euros and Romeo y Julieta, 260 thousand euros.
The auction totaled 1.495,000 euros that were donated to the Cuban Public Health System.
THE TOBACCO OSCAR AWARDS
Like in every Festival, the Habanos of the Year Awards were delivered, which can be described as the tobacco Oscar awards and pay tribute to the people that foster and favor the tobacco industry.
The winners in this edition were: Cuban Virginio Morales in Production, Austrian Ercan Hazar in Business and Italian Franchesco Minetti in Communication.
A VISIT TO HABANO’S SEED
Cuba has been labeled as the cradle of the best premium cigar and the Festival’s program always includes a visit to tobacco plantations in Vuelta Abajo, in Pinar del Rio province, where farmers collect nearly 65 percent of the leaves that are used to make cigars.
Among the reasons that explain the world-class fame of Vuelta Abajo land we can mention the quality of the ground and expertise of tobacco growers. This industry provides employment for 200,000 people in Cuba and, for the 2017-2018 harvest, the Habanos executives are looking forward to producing over 32 thousand tons of tobacco leaves.
HABANOSOMMELIER: A PREMIUM PAIRING
The Festival also engulfed several competitions. Previous editions included the attractive “longest Habano ash” contest and this one had the first version of the Habanos World Challenge (HWC) and the seventeenth edition of Habanosommelier International Contest.
The Habanosommelier contest was fought by specialists that showed their skills when it comes to combining drinks and food with Habanos, known as a “pairing”. British Darius Namdar was the winner. Meanwhile, the first version of the HWC put together connoisseurs that answered several questions related to the growing of tobacco, different ways to make cigars, brands and launchings; moreover, theory was combined with practice, since competitors showed the jury their skills to cut and light up a cigar, and they also suggested pairings with renowned Habanos brands. Cypriots Raffi Der Garapetian and Alexis Tselepis conquered the trophy in the HWC.