The Pinnacle of Maturity and Loftiness


DESTACADO 1: When it comes to developing a Gran Reserva, along with a high quality raw material, it is necessary to have count on connoisseurs of Cuban tobacco raw materials and seasoned blenders able to come up with a blend faithful to a brand and with more refined cigars

DESTACADO 2 : Until this year, Habanos had launched five products under the Gran Reserva concept. The forerunner was the Cohiba Siglo VI Gran Reserva 2003 (launched in 2009 with tobacco from the 2003 harvest); the Montecristo Nº 2 Gran Reserva 2005; the Partagas Lusitanias Gran Reserva 2007; the Romeo y Julieta Wide Churchills Gran Reserva 2009; and H. Upmann Sir Winston Gran Reserva 2011

DESTACADO 3: The Gran Reserva concept reaches out to all markets where Habanos are sold, but it includes mature markets such as Spain, France, UK, Germany and Switzerland, as well as emerging markets such as the UAE, Hong Kong and Lebanon

The material used in rolling a Habano always takes a full year aging after the second fermentation of the environment. In many cases, the raw material is aged for longer periods, among other reasons, due to the branch reserves the Cuban tobacco industry stores to guarantee nonstop and high quality production.

"The greatest experts in the field of Cuban black tobacco know that certain types of tobacco have higher aging potentials, something that gives their leaves better organoleptic characteristics when they are puffed on," explains José María López Inchaurbe, Vice President Development with Habanos, SA.

For the expert, this knowledge -together with traditional wine-making worldwide as they age their wines in different periods of time and that were eventually labeled as Reserve and Gran Reserva among winemakers- was what drove Tabacuba and Habanos SA to explore this concept in the Habano realm. That is to say, the fusion of the concept of aging tobacco, with an improvement of the product, combined with the observation of a traditional and successful commercial practice in the wine-making culture, was what eventually gave way to the concepts of Reserve and Gran Reserva in the world of Habano .

"Thus, in December 2002 the first Book of Habanos -tobaccos aged for 3 years from the 1998/1999 harvest- were launched on the market as the Reserva Cohiba 99-2002, in a choice of five different Cohiba vitolas made with tobacco that had been aged for three years.

"As a continuation of this project, but with the qualitative addition of a five-year aging, the Cohiba Siglo VI Gran Reserva saw the light of day in 2009, in which the cigars were rolled with raw materials from the 2002/2003 tobacco harvest," says López Inchaurbe.

What are the characteristics that distinguish and tell apart cigars included in this selective niche? How can you differentiate a Gran Reserva from another type of Habano?

The aging of the raw material in branch and in the thirds of tobacco produces very subtle and slow refinement of the most outstanding organoleptic features in the Habano smoke. The small spicy notes found in Habanos tend to disappear, as a result of the reduction of the small ammonia wefts that remain in fermented tobacco. Tobacco tends to have a somewhat sweeter taste, and the aroma of the smoke is somewhat less penetrating, but it keeps the aromatic tips of the smoke in the cigar. And as a general rule, the strength tends to dwindle because the leaves lose very slowly the contents that characterize the strength to Cuban black tobacco.

What is the making process really like and how much of a role do the selection of leaves, tasting evaluations and aging play in the perfect finish of these cigars?

The selection of the leaves destined for a five-year aging is the key starting point in the making of a Habano Gran Reserva, since it well known in Cuban tobacco agriculture that not all the tobacco leaves have the potential to be aged longer than their natural yearly aging, and that's a widespread guideline in the Habano business. As it is said in Vuelta Abajo, there is raw material that "washes away" with aging, an expression that defines the loss of contents in the leaf, the same content that gives Cuban black tobacco its characteristic strength. There are tobacco leaves that, in the course of the first fermentation -in the tobacco leaf selection that comes on the heels of the curing- stand out for their high levels of contents, oiliness and properties that will allow them a qualitative improvement with the aging of the branch. Other leaves, on the other hand, are rendered as inappropriate for enduring such a process, because in the course of it they would end up losing their contents, just remaining as leaves with great burning but with no taste or scent.

The properties of a leaf to accept more or less fermentation are conditioned by the agricultural process -considering that the tobacco plant has had an optimal development without any stress of nutrients or water, a timely de-budding, and other factors- and by optimal conditions in the curing process. In addition, the contents and structure of the soil determine that there are leaves with greater aging potential than others.

Therefore, the knowledge of the raw material and its agricultural and curing "history" is key in the selection of the cigars that are destined to the aging of the Gran Reserva.

Subsequently, the process of linking and tasting the different brands selected for a Grand Reserve is another key moment, as the strength and the organoleptic nuances are related to aging, the link that would be made for a standard cigar in a brand like Hoyo de Monterrey (the Double Coronas Gran Reserva will be launched during this Festival) must undergo slight modifications when the link is made with tobacco leaves that have endured five years of aging, if we want to maintain the brand's own character.

Therefore, I would wrap thing up by saying that, in order to roll a Gran Reserva, in addition to high quality raw materials used at the moment that the aging process kicks off, it is necessary to have great knowledge of the Cuban tobacco raw materials and count on seasoned blenders able to come up with a blend faithful to a brand and with more refined cigars.

Acceptance, consumption, global positioning and contribution of the Gran Reserva to the realm of Habanos?

The Gran Reserva is positioned at least 100 percent above the price tag the same Habano in its standard production would have, although in some cases it can have a value up to three to four times higher than the same product in the standard product.

As logic dictates in such a thorough product, the presentation of it and its image positioning vary greatly from that of the standard product, therefore it has specific attributes, such as a luxury packaging, double band, a vitolina with the explanation of the concept. In addition, all packages are numbered from 1 to 5,000.

As an output with a grand total of 75,000 units, the contribution of the Gran Reserva total sales of Habanos bears no great significance in terms of volume because through this concept we seek to meet the most demanding consumers and create an image of our product as the most exquisite and refined that money can buy in the production of premium cigars worldwide.