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22/02/2015
By Indira Roman Geraica / Photos Ferval & Yailin Alfaro

When John F. Kennedy and Winston Churchill pressed a Cuba-made cigar between their lips for the first time, it weren’t only the aroma, strength and taste what dazzled them. Many assert that from the very first puff, the geographical gap between Cuba and the U.S. or between the island nation and Great Britain was bridged down to a whisker. That first cigar unraveled a new Havana for the two statesmen, a city different to the one they’d known or heard of.

 

Fábrica de tabacos H. Hupmann

 

And the fact of the matter is that some of the most puzzling cigars have been and still are rolled in factories based in Cuba’s capital. La Real Fábrica de Tabacos Partagás, Por Larrañaga, H. Upmann, Romeo y Julieta, Corona and El Laguito are the best known, where some of the world’s best cigar rollers and tobacco selectors have worked. And even though Montecristo is the bestselling brand –accounting for half of all Cuban cigar exports- Havana shows off many others that also make the city stand out around the globe.

 

A Good Cigar Takes an Icy Beer…

As the Alameda de Paula awed people for decades with its olden tobacco and wood warehouse, today a mini-factory of beer and a restaurant win the hearts of whoever traipses around this Havana area.

Large enough to seat over 400 patrons, the new brewery consists of a large section where three kinds of beers –light, lager and black- are made in a natural way and relying on malt and technology hailing from Austria. As many as 1,000 lt. of suds are brewed in a single day.

For those who haven’t made it there yet, this is a project rolled out by the Office of the Havana City Historian –led by Eusebio Leal- in an effort to give the old Havana Bay harbor a new lease on life now that all cargo and freight activities will be moved to the Mariel seaport, some 45 kilometers from Havana.

Some 100 tables, a board, a couple of grills and a bar –the latter overlooks the brewing process- arranged in a meson-style ambience, is how the brewery looks like as it harmonically combines the old industrial fonts with a modern design. Two traveling derricks that once operated in the former warehouse back in the early days are in display, together with other pieces of the industrial heritage.

Fancy Casas del Habano (Habano Houses) also reach out to visitors, a franchise with internationally registered trademark and owned by Habanos S.A. Corporation. Right now, there are more than a hundred of these establishments around the globe, with operating houses in North America, the Caribbean, Cuba –as the main house and place of origin of the habano- Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Far East.

SOME CASAS DEL HABANO

Casa del Habano, Partagás Cigar Factory. Calle Industria #520 e/ Dragones y Barcelona. Partagás rolled cigars on this street from 1848 to 2012, when the factory was moved out. This store is no doubt a milestone in the history of Cuban tobacco and cigars.

Casa del Habano, La Quinta Ave. 5ta #1407 e/ 14 y 16, Miramar. This was the first exclusive cigar store that opened in Cuba back in 1990. It’s a well-stocked smokers’ store that also dishes out coffee, drinks at the bar or lunches. The laidback atmosphere stacks up against any other place within the tourist beltway.

Casa del Habano, Club Habana Ave. 5ta e/ 188 y 192, Flores. It boasts a sales lounge featuring the best brands and their vitolas, as well as a bar where patrons can pair their cigars with rum, cognac and other drinks. The Casa is also outfitted with a private walk-in humidor –roughly 50 percent of its 72 spaces can be enhanced- where lots of faithful customers preserve their Cuban cigars, some of them for over a decade.

Casa de Habano, Hotel Habana Libre, Calle L e/ 23 y 25, El Vedado. This 160-square-meter establishment features a smokers’ room, a bar that serves Cuban cocktails, a VIP lounge, a cellar stocked with vitolas from the finest habano brands and a 48-niche locker humidor equipped with all technical requirements for the best preservation of habanos.

Casa del Habano Hotel Meliá Cohiba. This is by far one of the fanciest Casas of this franchise. Its cigar lockers, a reading room, a VIP lounge, a bar and a store decked out with paintings by celebrated Cuban artist Flora Fong combined for a very cozy ambience.

A Curious Note…

San Cristóbal de La Habana is the only brand exclusively dedicated to the Cuban capital. Launched in 1999, it was named after the city of Havana’s original place name as it was founded in 1519 by conquistador Don Diego Velázquez.

It consists of four vitolas with a soft-to-mild blend made of tobacco leaves from the Vuelta Abajo region. Each vitola was named after the fortresses located in the city, all of them built during the colonial rule to deter possible attacks.

The four vitolas are rolled completely by hand and featuring long filler. Two of them –Morro and Fuerza- are factory vitolas that can only be found in this particular brand. Mercaderes, Oficios and Murallas are vitolas exclusively sold at the Casas del Habano.

You can’t miss out on....

The Tobacco Museum, dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of collections linked to the growing, making and marketing of Cuban cigars. Its interiors show off a great collection of pipes, leaves, lithographing stones and machines that once rolled major cigar brands. It’s fitted out with three exhibition halls, two foyers and the Habano Specialized House, a small store where visitors can buy habano brands and assorted smoking items.

Address: Calle Mercaderes No. 120, Old Havana, Havana, Cuba

Entrance Fee: Free

Opening Hours: Monday thru Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

 

Tel: (+537) 861 5795

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