Woven into the very fabric of Cuban life and tradition is the age-old art of cigar making (and smoking, if you’re that way inclined). Although other places have tried to rival the high standards of the Cuban cigar, they somehow fall short, making the city of Havana a pilgrimage site for any cigar aficionado. Here are some great tips on where to seek out the best cigars in the Cuban capital, and the places and people that can impart expert knowledge along the way.
A pinnacle of the Cuban cigar industry is Partagas, one of the oldest cigar factories in Cuba. Production has now been moved to an alternative factory, but it’s still worth visiting to get a feel for the history behind Havana’s infamous deep flavoured tobacco scene.
The Tobacco Museum, or Snuff/Cigar Museum as it’s sometimes referred to, gives a comprehensive historical overview of Cuba’s most lucrative trading industry. Housed within a quaint 18th century building on 120 Calle Mercaderes, visitors can explore the numerous exhibits and collections that chart the industry’s early beginnings and evolution on the island.
There are a few vital things to remember when buying cigars in Havana in order to avoid getting ripped off. Do your research on what brand authenticity hallmarks to look out for. Being able to identify correct holograms, serial numbers and packaging goes a long way. And if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Ensure you don’t get lumbered with fakes by seeking out one of the cosy La Casa del Habanos dotted across the capital. In these specialist stores you’ll have expertly trained assistants at your beck and call, whose extensive knowledge will bring you up to speed on the finest hand rolled cigars Cuba can offer.
La Casa del Habano Fabrica de Partagas, housed within the grounds of the old factory, has long been established as a popular stop off for tourists on the tobacco trail, and as a result, it does get busy. But it’s still worth visiting this 20 year-old store, simply to soak up the atmosphere. La Casa del Habano in Miramar, situated on 5th Ave, (Calle 5ta No. 1407, Esquina 16) was the first high-end smoking saloon in Cuba when it opened its doors in 1990. Since then it has become a popular haunt for ardent cigar fans who descend on the city each year. Not far away is another great spot located a stone’s throw from the harbour, housed within the cigar-themed hotel Conde Villanueva is La Casa del Habano Villanueva. Their resident Torcedor (cigar roller) is a fountain of knowledge and will help you choose from a wide range of Habanos to try.
The annual Habanos Festival is a key event in any serious cigar aficionado’s calendar. The festival sees an array of events taking place each year around February “” from master classes, tastings and gastronomic pairings to performances, trade fairs and an auction. This year the Cohiba brand will take centre stage, as it celebrates its 50th anniversary with new launches and special editions, all carried off in true Havana style.
Header image: Cuban man smoking a cigar © Les Haines/Flickr
Are you a cigar connoisseur? Have you tried cigars in Havana? If so share your recommendations in the comments section below.
Written by Chantelle Symester