Category Archives: Cigar News and Other Cuba Tidbits…

CBC News Story – “Communist stalwart Miguel Diaz-Canel becomes Cuba’s president, ending decades of Castro rule”…

Meet the new boss.  Same as the old boss.

“Communist stalwart Miguel Diaz-Canel becomes Cuba’s president, ending decades of Castro rule”

Fingers crossed for them.  I say that (new boss / old boss), as that’s just what simply comes to mind.  But I dunno.  I hope for more positive changes.  I’ve seen the benefit since the 2008 transfer from Fidel to Raul, and then the Obama détente, and in last November’s trip, the DEFINITE pall that’s been cast since Trump rolled back some of those benefits.  As a few fellow travelling friends said then, Cubans have seen the benefit economically of having American tourism dollars roll in unabated, and now they’ve “had a taste”, so there’s a definite depressive feeling since it’s disappeared a bit again.

And as the CBC News story mentions, there is also the concern of removing the two-peso-system in place there (with both the CUC and CPE pesos in use), and the worry among some of us cigar travelers that we could wake up with our pocketed CUCs (sometimes said as the “C-U-C” letters, or stating CUCs in plural such as “cooks”, or more jokingly “cookies”) suddenly unusable overnight.  Though “the rules” on the island state that the CUC money is not to leave the island, and should be exchanged back-and-forth when arriving and leaving, there’s quite a few of us that pocket a few hundred bucks in hand when we leave, so that we have ready cash available for our next return to Cuba.  To simply have readily-available funds to grab a taxi at 3am from the airport, or something like that.  Some moolah on hand for hitting a restaurant or bar that first evening on the island, to be able to not fret about needing to hit a cadeca (money exchange) until later the next day or as needed.

So that is something that’s been talked about for 2 or 3 years now at least, about a perhaps overnight transition of their financial system, with some of us worried about any personally-held CUCs to be potentially worthless.  And the sounds back when a lot of it was first mentioned, a few years back, and discussed then was that the two-peso-system would remain until a Castro wasn’t in power.  So there’s a lot of chance that it will be one of the first things to change under Diaz-Canel, perhaps.  It’ll be interesting to see what he decides to do to pick up the economy, so to speak, with the current funk that things appear to be in from many accounts.

But, alas…first world problems there on us travelers losing out on a few CUCs.

There’s the definite note that Raul will still chair the party until 2022 or something like that, so Diaz-Canel will likely be leading while also being led himself.  So that’s where the “new boss/old boss” thought and comment popped into my head.  But, he definitely is of a different leadership ilk and generation than the Castro brothers, so I do hope for more positivity for Cubans with this.  Fingers (and toes) crossed.

Cheers all.

Encuentro Partagas 2018 anyone???

So, a friend on the FOH forum recently shared a picture of the general program poster for the Encuentro (de la yada y a yada) Partagas for this upcoming November 2018, and said no issues to share it here.

And fuck, I know I still have to update posts and such from my Partagas Fest trips to Havana from both November 2017 and even 2016 still, but I figured I’d get this up here ASAP for any wondering about the dates…


Apparently, this was on display back at the start of March, during the Habanos Festival.

Time to confirm and book my tickets, if they’re actually being that much in advance, and confirming again the move to the 2nd week of November instead (they’ve done that for the past year or so, as opposed to the 3rd week during previous years).  Weather’s turned out not too bad during the last few years, so…fingers crossed!

Cheers all.


Recently Updated “Cigar Price List For Cuba”…

So a great BOTL, Yann, out of the Montreal-area, he runs the YUL Cigars online price list tool for Cuban cigars, with pricing for purchases of Habanos right at the LCDH shops in Cuba directly.  I think I’ve passed along his info / blog-link before, and with high praise.

Well, recently, he passed along to a bunch of us in the different forums and groups that he’s just completed some further updating and additions.  He’s also now added pricing for a lot of the rums, coffees, wines and other goodies that Havana-philes specifically look for too.  So, it’s an absolutely awesome reference to look over.

Quite simply, you can find the price list at his link here:

An absolutely invaluable tool for anyone into cigars, travelling to Cuba, etc.  Bookmark it, save it, add it to your Favorites, whatever you need to do.  Note that all prices are listed in Cuban convertible pesos (CUCs).

Cheers all.

Trump Hits Reset on Obama’s Cuba Policy…

Is anyone surprised at this really?  As much as it does suck for fellow cigar fans and Cuba buffs out of the U.S., I think that most of us felt this was inevitable…

Trump hits reset on Obama’s Cuba policy, challenges Castro

Most notable bits, in my opinion:

  • “Announcing the rollback of President Barack Obama’s diplomatic opening during a speech in Miami, Trump said Cuba had secured far too many concessions from the U.S. in the “misguided” deal but “now those days are over.””  [Really?!?!  The U.S. gave up too many concessions?  From a brutal policy that they enacted almost 60 years ago?!?!  LOL.]
  • “More details about the changes are expected to be released Friday, when the new policy is set to take effect. But none of the changes will become effective until the Treasury Department issues new regulations, which could take months. That means that any U.S. traveler currently booked on a flight to Cuba in the next few weeks, or even months, could go ahead and make the trip.”  [Dear gawd, I hope that travelers don’t get screwed over this.  As we’ve all seen with the Trump White House’s implementation of the Muslim travel ban, one minute things are one way and the next minute it’s different.  I hope that travelers that are currently booked for something, already “approved”, don’t end up showing up to an airport and getting stuck in limbo.]
  • “But individual “people-to-people” trips by Americans to Cuba, allowed by Obama for the first time in decades, will again be prohibited. And the U.S. government will police other such trips to ensure there’s a tour group representative along making sure travelers are pursuing a “full-time schedule of educational exchange activities.””  [Wait, what?!?!  So, you’re cancelling out some aspects of the détente, because you don’t like the undemocratic military-state, but you’re adding layers of bureaucratic policing?  Pot, meet kettle.]

It’s just unfortunately another shitty situation for the Cuban people.  The Castro regime(s) definitely aren’t a piece-of-cake for the citizens there, and changes need to be made.  But on the surface, this appears like it may hurt those local-people more, than any government entity.  (Not that the détente has overly assisted those same people either, but something’s better than nothing.)

And frankly, as a longtime Canadian traveler to Cuba…

I must be honest and say that a part of me is happy for this too, for purely selfish reasons, I may add.

Many of my fellow American cigar compatriots know how to get to Cuba, one way or another, before/during/after this détente bullshit.  Whether the U.S. government “allows” them to travel is of moot difference really.  However, since the Obama-Raul détente, the sheer number of American travelers (not necessarily those brethren cigar aficionados either) have overwhelmed damn near everyone.  Cuba is building additional hotel rooms in shudderingly terrifying numbers (especially if one is aware of construction “norms” in Cuba).  Availability still continues to drop disproportionately, and prices have been skyrocketing.

Fuck, I remember when we did one of the first bigger Canuck group-trips to Havana for the Friends Of Partagas festival in November 2012.  Airfare from Toronto, transfers, taxes all-in, and double-occupancy room bookings at the Hotel Nacional in Havana was just under $1200 CAD then.  We’re just looking in the past month for a few different options for this November’s Encuentros again (probably doing the same casas again as last year’s big FOH / AmiCigar group trip, which were AWESOME).  Anywho, looking at doing the same thing as we did in Nov. 2012, Toronto airfare, Nacional hotel, all-in, and the current pricing is just over $5600 CAD per person now!

So, frankly, once the “standard American tourist” is banned from the island, I can’t say I’ll honestly be upset from my own personal perspective.  That said, I definitely doubt that hotel prices will ever drop to what they were for us before (but shit, if they drop into the $2k range, it’d almost be a steal again.)

But I still hope for the best for some Cuban friends – some have put some hard work into the current small-business atmosphere.  I hope these changes don’t see worsening conditions for them.  It scares me what some foreign government’s can do to another’s country, just with the swipe of a pen.  Without an appreciation for the people on the ground, who are these people to make those choices?

Cheers all.


Prepping for Partagas Encuentros again…

The foodie in me starting to “prep” for Cuba…

Enjoying a pint of Strongbow and a bowl of Thai coconut chicken soup at a pub in Toronto, downtown while The Wife is at a nursing exam at Ryerson U, and making plans for next week’s trip down to Havana. 

It’s been MONTHS since I’ve been on here. Haven’t so much as even logged on to the FOH forum since May or June issue. Purposely still stayed unplugged this summer, to continue the family “healing” and such as outlined before. All those “catch up” posts are done and ready mostly; just sone final proofreading before publishing. Planning on rolling it all out after this next trip down to Cuba for this year’s Encuentros de Amigos de Partagas festival week. 

With that, just heard in the last week that Cuban custom cigar prices are likely going up by 20-35%, a result of higher raw material costs. No doubts also due to the massive amount of additional U.S. travelers too! I’ll have to drink the pain away instead!!!

Bring on the liver prep!

Cheers all. 

A Detroit Evening with Hamlet Jaime Paredes…

So, similar to my write-up about my visit to see Hamlet Jaime Paredes for a “Tabaquero” cigar-line promotional evening at a Michigan brick-and-mortar shop back in January, I once again had the chance to go see him for another “Tabaquero” promotional night.  Nick Mitchell, the local Rocky Patel rep, had e-mailed me a while before, and gave me a head’s up of another night to visit with my Cuban buddy, this time at a spot a bit closer to me, in wonderful downtown Detroit.

Since emigrating from Cuba to the U.S. in January 2015, Hamlet has been working with Rocky Patel, and the two of them last year released the “Tabaquero” line of cigars, which were Hamlet’s baby under his palate- and blending-prowess.  This particular meet-up with Hamlet was again part of his touring program for the brand, and we met up at La Casa in downtown Detroit, MI, and I was able to bring along good brother Don / “Hubba”, from the Friends Of Habanos online cigar forum.

What a venue!  I was quite pleased by this locale.  Funnily enough, I’ve been to the parking lot right outside of La Casa a number of times – it’s the one I always go to for parking for taking in a Detroit Tigers game, as Comerica Park is literally just a few steps away across the street.  It was a nice cigar parlour, with a fairly well appointed shop and humidor downstairs (along with some interesting Xikar pouches, something custom made with a lithograph of a supposed Sylvester Stallone note, but something which the newer gal behind the counter was unable to tell me anything about)…

It also has a nice long main-bar with a good performance area for live jazz bands and the like, and a sparsely laid-out and intriguing upstairs VIP Lounge, with six or so different rooms, an outdoor terrace looking right at the Tigers’ play-place, and a really nicely appointed upstairs bar as well.  Comfortable chairs throughout, interestingly and nicely decorated all around, and just a great “vibe” to the place…

As during my January visit with Hamlet I tried one of the “Tabaquero” Toro cigars, this time I went with a Robusto Grande, a 5″ by 54-ring-gauge stick.  At only $10.99 USD a stick (prices different in each state due to tax variances), it’s quite a decent value.  I started the smoke at 7:05 pm, pairing it at various times with a Captain Morgan dark rum & Coke, then a straight Zacapa 23 rum, and lastly a Blue Moon Belgian-wheat beer.  Yup – some interesting pairings in there.

Hamlet, Nick, Don and I all had quite a bit of time to shoot the breeze.  Unfortunately, with the individuality and quantity of all the various rooms in the VIP Lounge, people were spread out all around.  Add that to the fact that it was a GORGEOUS evening out, and the attendance wasn’t as high as Nick was really hoping for.  There wasn’t as much of a “circling of the wagons” feeling to people hitting up Hamlet for questions and lots of time.  However, that loss let us sit and chill and relax and have lots of time to chat again.

Hamlet corrected me from my earlier post, and continuing thought initially that evening, that these “Tabaquero” cigars were Nicaraguan puros.  He corrected me that these are NOT Nicaraguan puros, but that they are instead Nicaraguan filler, the binder being half Mexican San Andrés and half Brazilian binder, and then the wrapper being Mexican San Andrés.  So, my bad on that (I’ve corrected that in my January post as well).

Talking about leaf, Don happened to ask Hamlet a question that got him on an interesting thought train, and that we had some good discussion about.  For the long and short of it, he stated that the Nicaraguan filler leaf, to him, seems EXACTLY like Cuban tobacco.  Yes, he acknowledged that obviously the taste is different, as the terroir from Cuban tobacco just has that certain essence, and tells a story of smoke that’s different on the palate from other region’s tobaccos.  But he said, if he closes his eyes, and he’s not actually smoking it, the physical properties seem damn near identical.  He said the texture, the tooth sometimes, the weight and tensile properties – it’s just like Cuban tobacco.  He said, to him, “if I close my eyes, it’s just like I’m back rolling at Briones Montoto [the old Romeo y Julieta factory].”

He also was quite excited – the “Tabaquero” Salamones just apparently got a 90 score in Cigar Aficionado.  Though I have my own personal gripes about Cigar Aficionado magazine itself (and especially the way they do scoring tastings), it still definitely will do good for him, Rocky, and the product line to get the extra attention that way.  He’s happy, so I’m happy – glad to see the extra attention coming his way.

And, once again, he did put on a clinic on cigar rolling aspects with his Culebra rolling display (funny to see the Stinky Cigar Ashtray with all the remnants in there too)…

Add to that, there was lots of other talk too.  Some interesting things coming in July at the IPCPR tobacco trade show, which he explained to me, and I’m excited to see come to fruition.  Also, hopefully his green card / U.S. citizenship is sorted out promptly as well, and we can make some plans for him to travel north of the border soon, as well as some other thoughts that he and I shared.

As for the cigar itself, while I found it didn’t start as well as my Toro from January, it was still quite nice, and finished fairly well.  It started somewhat harsh and tannic.  But, the cigars felt somewhat damp to me – while it isn’t overly humid in the region right now at all, and wasn’t that day, it definitely was more so compared to our January meet-up, so that could have had an effect.  Again though, this cigar reminded me thoroughly of some of my favourite Padron Serie 1926 and 1964 maduro sticks.  I had strong hits of dark rich leather throughout, and an omnipresent mahogany-and-cedar bold woodiness, with some dark fruits in there as well on the fringes.  The cigar had good volumes of smoke, and a medium-strength-and-not-overpowering peppery spiciness on the finish.

The stick finished at 8:38 pm, one-hour-and-thirty-three minutes.  I’d score it an easy 89.  Don had smoked one of the Coronas himself, and was amazed.  While he didn’t tell me any particular point scoring on it, I do believe he said he had the Robusto and the Toro before as well, and said the Corona was the winner, and worked so well with the blend.

Huh!  Who woulda thunk it?  Hamlet’s “Tabaquero” blend, working better with a skinnier format!!!  (Sorry – a bit of an inside joke for those that personally know Hamlet.  He HATES rolling thin-and-skinny cigars, as his preference is for Salamones and Robusto Extra / Canonazo formats and the like.  It’s funny as shit to get him swearing at you, Scarface-esque, when you ask him for “pencil sticks” though!!!!)


Well – I guess it’s only prudent that we all continue to bug him for a Lancero release then, right?!?!?  LOL.

Cheers all.

Further on the La Patrona jars from San Ramon Producciones…

So back in February of last year, I wrote about my visit to see Ramon Iglesias Centeno, who runs San Ramon Producciones down in Havana, Cuba, back during the November 2014 Encuentros Partagas.  Ramon had helped me do a run of special jars for some fellow international cohorts and degenerates in the previous year, and during my visit, he also released details to me and John Reiner of some images and concepts behind two new jars he was planning on coming out with – a line commemorating “La Patrona”, and another of the pre-revolution 1920’s-defunct brand “Baire”.  Please check out that initial post if you wish to read more on that initial stuff.

Well, there’s some new updates and pictures available (all photos courtesy of Ramon Iglesias Centeno / San Ramon Producciones)…

Back in late February / early March of this year, Ramon had posted to Facebook about making some miniature “La Patrona” perfume jars.  Don’t know why he did this prior to getting the main cigar jar line of them done, but it appears that’s now on the go.

Ramon has put some updates on his Facebook page, along with some pictures (forwarded to me by John Reiner – thanks John! – as I don’t have Facebook actually, LOL), which Ramon (with Jose Antonio Candia’s help) has allowed for me to share here.  Apparently, my jar is now going to be number 48 – yay, moving up in the world! – as he had a few cancellations.  With the kind assistance once again of Jose Antonio, he passed along some info and a translation for the writing on the Certificado card insert.

Ramon is apparently working on my and John’s jars already, so it’s good news and likely that they’ll be able to be given to us/me for this upcoming November’s Friends of Partagas Festival (that said, I’ll still keenly wait unexpectantly, until they’re actually in my hands, as sometimes things do definitely run on “Cuba time”, LOL).  These were initially stated to be released / available for the Encuentros Partagas in November 2015, so a year or so delayed is not too bad, considering.

Also, from the pictures shared, there’s a few things that appear different from the original details as I previously passed them along per Ramon’s statements at that time.  Instead of 120 units, it looks like only 100 now.  And, from those pictures, it appears that there’s generally nothing on the reverse of the jar itself.  Previously, Ramon had stated there would be a replication of a farmer’s almanac chart which was wrote by Don Alejandro Robaina from the year prior to his death.  Here’s keeping fingers crossed, hoping that that item is still going to be on there, and it’s just simply not in that graphical picture due to simplicity reasons.

Now, last but definitely not least, the details from Jose state that the writing on the Certificado card is apparently “a prayer tobacco growers use to invoke good health and nice weather for their crops.  The patron saint of tobacco growers is called Our Lady of the Snows, literally Nuestra Señora de Las Nieves.”

Photos courtesy of Ramon Iglesias Centeno / San Ramon Producciones

The prayer is translated as follows:

“Grant us, O Lord, by the glorious mediation of the forever loved Virgin Mary under the evoking of Las Nieves, the joy of health for our souls and bodies, and help us to be free from all hurricanes, pests and droughts and especially storms and lightning, against which she has always bestowed singular protection.  By the infinite power and merits vested in you by our Divine son Jesus Christ, who eternally lives and reigns beside you and the Holy Spirit for the centuries of the centuries…AMEN.”

Kind of interesting for a society that is fairly heavily non-secular and generally non-aligned religiously.  Beautiful nonetheless.

Those interested in ordering any jars from Ramon can contact him via his Facebook page at, or via his e-mail at

Cheers all.

Another Evening With Hamlet Coming Up…

So, back in January, I had a great evening catching up with Hamlet Jaime Paredes, at a cigar event over in Michigan.  We shared some good chats, I saw him in his element “working the crowd” again, and I (somewhat surprisingly) enjoyed his new line of non-Cuban cigars, which he’s paired up with Rocky Patel to produce.

Well, I was recently informed by Nick, the local rep, that Hamlet’s got another event coming up, later on this week in Detroit, MI.  For those that can make it, the info is in the picture below.

Hope to see you there!


Cheers all.

An Evening With Everyone’s Buddy, Hamlet Jaime Paredes…

So, just over a week ago, Saturday, January 16th, I was able to meet up with everyone’s “buddy, mang”, Hamlet Jaime Paredes.  Since emigrating from Cuba to the U.S. last January, he’s been working with Rocky Patel, and the two have now released the “Tabaquero” line of cigars, which were Hamlet’s baby under his palate- and blending-prowess.  This particular meet-up with Hamlet was part of his touring program for the brand, and we met up at Wild Bill’s Tobacco, in Lansing, MI, and I was even able to meet up with good brother Alex / “HabanoHam”, from the Friends Of Habanos online cigar forum, a wicked guy I’ve had the chance to do a few trades with over the years.

And while there, right off the get-go, I was able to partake in one of the “Tabaquero” Toro cigars, a 6″ by 52-ring-gauge dark and oily beast.  I enjoyed mine with a Sprite, and started at 5:25 pm…

Upon my arrival, Hamlet had organized a cherished seat right beside him to my pleasure and surprise, as he had received my message prior to me leaving of me attending this event; so, he wanted to have the chance for us both to catch up, and I got a big smile and hug from him when I got there.  Even the Rocky Patel rep, Nick Mitchell, greeted me upon my arrival, thankful for all of the support and kind words that Hamlet had passed along from myself and many other BOTL’s with regards to this new venture of Hamlet’s.  As Nick stated, the support Hamlet has got for this, especially from the various Canadian brothers, was nothing short of awe inspiring – “one of you guys are damn near at every event he comes up here to do!”  Nick was also a huge help in sorting through the plethora of new stuff with Hamlet’s “Tabaquero” line – something I much appreciated!

Hamlet – and no surprise there, for those of us who know him from his Cuban rolling days – put on a cigar-rolling clinic.  As a former master roller and house roller from the Romeo y Julieta / Briones Montoto factory in Cuba, as well as the “man behind the counter” while at the Partagas LCDH, Hamlet is a well-known personality from in Havana.  As much as Habanos S.A. is against the “cult of personality” that people such as Hamlet embodies, many believe that Hamlet was as much a great spokesman for Cuban cigars as the late gents Alejandro Robaina or Enrique Mons.  And for Hamlet to be so, at such a young age, and to have such talent in his hands, is truly a wonder to behold.

Therefore, he easily held the crowd in awe while at Wild Bill’s Tobacco.  He put on a clinic while rolling a 3-foot-plus long “culebras” cigar, and was adept at answering the myriad of questions from various American cigar enthusiasts there that have perhaps never had a chance to delve into Cuban habanos cigars, much less had the chance to talk one-on-one with a Cuban master roller.  Besides the culebras being rolled, he even rolled one of his classic “flying pig” cigars that he used to roll for custom rolls back in the day, and Brian Shaeena, the store manager, delighted in showing off the giant culebras…

The time was well spent.  Hamlet talked about his 21-plus-years rolling.  The talked about the “chaveta” / blade that he had there for rolling was the same blade he started with (“all kinds of rollers cut their fingers and hands all the time, mang – why sharpen it?  It’s already sharp enough for what you need to do – I’ve never sharpened mine, and it’s worked great for 21 years!”)

Speaking of years, Hamlet said that (on that particular date) he was just four days shy of being out of Cuba for one full year – and upon me asking him if he missed it, I got a resounding, “No mang!”  (Granted – he did elaborate later – he DID in fact miss his two boys from his previous marriage, but he was waiting for his U.S. green card so that he could travel back to visit them unimpeded.)  But he said he’s been too busy with the release of “Tabaquero” to be homesick.  That, and he said, he has a beautiful Cuban wife at home to cook for him – so he doesn’t even need to miss Cuban food, LOL!

Hamlet especially talked about the work that went into his “Tabaquero” line with Rocky Patel.  With “Tabaquero” specifically, Hamlet and Nick discussed the fact that it took 124 blends, 124 attempts to get things juuuuuusssst right, and in the end…the production blend is the very first blend that they came up with.  Basically, they hit a home run to start, they took 123 attempts to destroy it and make it better, but in the end it was a champion to start with.  At Tavicusa, Rocky Patel’s cigar factory in Nicaragua, Nick stated that all of Hamlet’s “Tabaquero” line are made by the same team of 85 people, that these are fully hand-made Nicaraguan puros. [EDIT / CORRECTION – Hamlet corrected me that these are NOT Nicaraguan puros, but that they are instead Nicaraguan filler, the binder being half Mexican San Andrés and half Brazilian binder, and then the wrapper being Mexican San Andrés.  See my new post, “A Detroit Evening with Hamlet Jaime Paredes…”, 9 May 16.]

Speaking of his cigar…

It was wonderful.  Frankly – it was surprising for me (slightly).  While I admire what Hamlet can do with tobacco, and while I’ve heard good things about this line from many people, Rocky Patel cigars are just not my cuppa tea – I’ve had the 10th Anniversary ones, and a handful of the dozen-or-so other lines he does.  But this “Tabaquero” blend is VERY un-Rocky-Patel-esque.  Honestly, it reminded me very much of a Padron Serie 1926 or 1964 maduro – another Nicaraguan stick.  And even then, at certain other points with dark fruity hints, it had essences of Ramon Allones, a very flavourful Habanos marca that’s a favourite of mine.

This stick finished at 7:02 pm, an hour-and-a-half-plus stick that was definitely flavourful and satisfying, scoring an easy 90 points fresh (disregarding the cracked head, which did so right after I cut it, no doubt due to dry humidity conditions in the region).  Point reductions were mostly for youth and a slightly tight draw that didn’t want to budge for the first half or so.  Hits of damp and dark leather, dark fruits (black cherries and blackberries?), a rich walnut nuttiness with heavy damp cedar tones – it was lovely.  And with a bright white ash that held on well, and light but voluminous smoke, it was a wonderful experience for all the senses.  The smoke wasn’t creamy and viscous in the mouthfeel – something I do look for and cherish in nice Cuban sticks – but the colour and volume made it interesting.  Even the smoking environment in the shop – usually I can’t stand being in an area like that, with non-Cuban cigar smoke lingering in the air; for whatever reason, it just gets to me.  But, the overall experience really surprised me for a non-Cuban stick; I didn’t have that reaction at all with these “Tabaquero” sticks being smoked.  Again, reminding me of a lighter or slightly different Padron Serie line sticks – but at the added wonder of being 2/3’s of the cost or less compared to those.  For a bold and wonderfully packaged mostly-Nicaraguan-cigar, these really do seem like a hit out of the park for Hamlet and Rocky.

Therefore, I rightly ponied up for a few goodies…

Another box of Salamones (I had previously ordered a box in the fall, but haven’t been able to touch those yet), some Robustos and Corona Gordas, and even some “Balas” (bullets in Spanish), the closest he’s able to do to his old Flying Pigs.  Further reviews on these other sticks will be coming this spring, once I lay them down for a short while.

And, for those of you who have been asking yourselves this whole time, “Tabaquero” means cigar roller in Spanish.  Hamlet elaborated that “torcedor” is also correct, and also means cigar roller – and that is the term more frequently used by the outside world, “torcedor”.  But he elaborated that “tabaquero” is more of a term that the workers use to refer to each other with – that a “torcedor” is someone just starting, more or less, but “tabaquero” is someone with many years of experience, someone more advanced.  That “torcedor” means SOLELY cigar roller, but that “tabaquero” colloquially means someone with anything and everything to do with cigar rolling.  So, someone who can’t just roll cigars, but one who knows and understands the full process, who can blend, who can grade and assess leaf, and who is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades master.

Very suiting.


Cheers all.

Havana Trip, Nov 2015: Booze and Cigars for Sale…

Yet again, some unique items were available in Havana when we went down for the Encuentros Partagas back during this past November…

First thing I noticed was the Isla del Tesoro rum. A fairly unique and usually hard-to-find rum, the presentation on this is just awesome. Looking like an old rum pottery cask, and in a miniature pirate’s chest with a little treasure map, it definitely has its targets set on the swashbuckler-at-heart crowd – $650 CUC for a 700 mL bottle.

Compared to usually not seeing this around the island and/or city at all, nearly every bar or hotel had at least one of these available, with a number of spots having at least four or five on display (so who knows how many extra were hiding around).

Haven’t tried it, so can’t speak as to its overall value-per-cost, but I do remember it being scarce to see before, and a number of people begrudging that.

So, lots of that around again…

Then there’s the Havana Club 15 Year Gran Reserva.  This one I DID indulge in.  At $150 CUC for a 700 mL bottle, it’s a bit more palatable than the Isla del Tesoro stuff.  But, at only $22 CUC a pour, it wasn’t too unfathomable to even try.

Smooth, lovely nectar.  LOTS of fresh tobacco and leather tones to this rum, it has that oh-so-typical-and-a-bit-unfortunate aspect of HC Anejo 7 Anos which is that slightly acrid and harsh bite to the flavour profile.  That said, the thicker viscosity of this rum, mixed with the more caramel and berry-laden profile, makes it a DEFINITE hit to sip with a Cuban habanos.

So, it’s a tinge better than HC Barrel Proof / Seleccion de Maestros.  Not as hot (just the normal 40% alc/vol), but a bit smoother and mellower.  That said, at $150 CUC, not my cuppa tea.  It’s not even quite as nice as the Santiago 11 year or Santiago 12, both of which I had pours of at different cigar spots later on that same day.  With the HC SdM being $40 CUC or so, and then the Santiago 11 being $60 I think it was, the HC 15 Year Gran Reserva would do better to be $100 or $120 CUC maximum.  I’m sure it will still sell quite heavily, but frankly, it just doesn’t seem as good a rum.  Prices being what they are, the Santiago 11 or 12 and then the HC SdM comes out leaps and bounds ahead.

I still readily enjoyed my rum that day though…

The LCDH at the Habana Libre hotel also had their usual unique offerings.  Generally, various LCDH shops can get special “limited edition” humidors done, and these are sometimes specifically set out for display purposes for the Encuentros Partagas in November or the Festival Habanos in February/March.  Not too many hotels/LCDH’s take part in these offerings that frequently, as they need time to get them done, cost issues, space to house them in-store, high-traffic needs for sales to make it a worthwhile venture, etc., etc.  However, along with the Partagas LCDH and occasionally the Nacional, the Habana Libre LCDH always seems to have something special in stock, and this past November was the same.

Their thing this year was a black Cohiba fold-out custom humidor line, as well as two round wooden-humidor smaller humidor “pillars”.  The black Cohiba one was actually very beautiful, in that it had amazingly flawless construction, and the matte black finish really made it stand out.  It contained a 25-bundle of H. Upmann EL 2015 Magnum 56’s, as well as 16 sticks of the Romeo y Julieta Cedros de Luxe LCDH release (for a total of 41 sticks), was in a “limited release” numbered series of 60 humidors, and was selling for $922.20 CUC.

The two round “pillar” humidors each were in a numbered/plated series of 80, and were identical except for the contents – one line contained 23 sticks (que???) of the Mag 56 ELs, at a price of $566.20 CUC, and the other line contained 28 sticks (I know, huh?!?!!?) of Cohiba Siglo VIs, at a price of $797.60 CUC.  For reference sake, a “normal” box of Mag 56 ELs is expected to have a NORMAL Cuban retail price of $520 CUC, and the Siglo VIs are only $490 CUC.  Boy – that sure is a lot of money to pay extra, in the per-stick cost, for a little wood cabinet!

Also in the cigar category, I didn’t see the newer H. Upmann EL 2015 Magnum 56’s the entire time (aside from included in those “special” Habana Libre humidors).  But then, on leaving the island and going through the Varadero airport’s various duty-free shops, they had a mastercase there, and were starting an unboxing to stock their shelves.

Not surprisingly, the normal customer base of those shops couldn’t care less – it was all about questions of Guantanemeras, RyJ and Cohiba tubos, and the like…

And lastly, also at the Varadero airport’s duty-free shops, and even though I didn’t really see it anywhere else on the island during the week, the airport shops had LOADS of Legendario, especially of a couple additional product lines…

Cheers all.

Happy Cohiba Year!!!

So, it’s 2016.  Happy 2016, or “Happy Cohiba Year”, as the branding geniuses at Habanos S.A. have oh-so-deftly coined it in their marketing juggernaut.  LOL.

I heard the start of this during this past November’s Encuentros Partagas down in Havana.  Didn’t think much of it – meh, it’s the 50th anniversary of Cohiba, for SURE they will milk it for all it’s worth.

But recently…


Now, that poster / ad looks to be a Siglo VI in the model’s hand.  But, I’ve heard and seen of some further updates, and the new Cohiba stick being rolled to commemorate the anniversary is to be a new 60 ring gauge by 178 mm (7″-1/8″) monstrosity.


What a shit show, Habanos, seriously.

Another class act way of destroying the traditional aspects behind the Cuban cigar, and manipulating things for utmost profit and bastardization of a marca’s / brand’s history.

I’m just waiting for the Cohiba Reserva Maduro 5 Open Nub next.

Havana Trip Updates Coming…

I know I have to do an update from the recent Cuba trip that my wife and I went on, down for the Encuentros Partagas in Cuba back in November.  It was my eighth trip or so, and my wife’s third, but her first one directly for Havana for the week (not a sand-and-sun trip to Varadero for her).  So, we had a great time overall – it was great to share a different Cuba with her, and great to have her broaden her horizons aside from sand and surf.

However, until I get the trip particulars all formatted down into posts for my blog, it’ll be another couple of days before I can get all the breakdown posts up here.  So, here are some tidbit photos for you all to enjoy in the meantime…

Cheers all.

Notes On Upcoming Habanos Festivals…

As I’ve been massively backed up in a number of things, I’ve really delayed (by over two months) posting some info.  I recently got some e-mails regarding details for the upcoming Habanos festivals here in 2016 now.  A bunch of the usual / expected items, and nothing really new or unique (aside from the expected Cohiba-themed focus), but still thought I’d share it here…

XVIII Habanos Festival:

The next Habanos Festival will take place from February 29th to March 4th in Havana.  Some activities in the program are:

Monday 29th: Welcome evening

Tuesday 1st: Visit to tobacco plantations in Vuelta Abajo region

Wednesday 2nd: Evening dinner to celebrate cigar rollers

Thursday 3rd: Visit to cigar factories

Friday 4th: Gala dinner and auction

This Festival will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Cohiba brand and the 20th anniversary of Cuaba; as usual, attendees will have the opportunity to be the first to taste the cigars that will be launched to the market in 2016, like the Hoyo de Monterrey Reserva Cosecha 2012.

Cheers all.


Travelling Again to the “Island-South-Of-Miami”…

So, I’m off once again to Havana, Cuba, for the Encuentros Partagas.  No doubt, I’ll have lots of pictures and updates to come here upon my return, and some nice new reviews and tastings too hopefully.

Fingers crossed – let’s keep my jail-free streak going!!!!

Nov 2015 Encuentros Partagas poster

Cheers all.


Ramon Allones 2014 RE Alemania 898’s – They’ve Finally Arrived!!!

So, they’re here…

Sadly, the band shortage must have been the reason for Habanos S.A. delaying on these for a year.  Lol.

A bit lighter than I normally like to see RA, and not overly oily either, but nice aromas, and an EXCEPTIONAL gesture that myself and a few other Canadian amigos received in assisting us to get the transaction set up.  Very happy to have these in hand finally – a year late is better than never!  And, though it’s only two boxes, I’m glad to at least have part of my order too!

Boxes 0279 and 0347 of 2000, both Jul 2015 “RAE” coded.  Can’t wait to dig into them and give them a good reviewing.  Will be doing that towards the tail-end of November after the next Cuba trip, and after these have 30 days or so to settle.

Cheers all.