Among the many things that attract people to Cuba, the Habano culture is by far the most alluring of them all. According to field experts, a Habano is nothing less than the best cigar you will ever taste in your life. And you can do it, if you come to El Festival del Habano, also known as the Habanos Festival or Cuba’s Cigar Festival. This festivity is the main event of the year for anyone who is a Habano enthusiast. It takes place once a year ever since the first edition in 1999.
In the last week of February, cigar aficionados from all over the world come to Cuba for an entire week of glamour, luxury, history, and tradition. For obvious reasons, the international event has remained true to its original purpose: to celebrate the finest cigars in the world. It is the perfect opportunity to share experiences and the enthusiasm of partaking in the activities. All of which are meticulously planned for the enjoyment of the participants. They discover the secrets of this tradition accumulated over centuries.
The program ranges from specialized tours in tobacco plantations to cigar tasting seminars and social events. And one special treat that the participants enjoy is being the first in the world to taste the new Habano vitolas that are introduced during the Festival.
It is astonishing the plethora of guests, over a thousand, from around eighty countries, that are welcomed: Habano aficionados and Habano professionals, such as distributors and cigar merchants. But to make the event even more celebrity-styled, many international personalities from the worlds of culture, fine dining, film, fashion, sport, collecting, and artisanship also attend; all of which share the sole purpose to come together and enjoy their passion: Habanos.
Actors such as Jim Belushi, Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes, Mia Maestro, and Peter Coyote; sportsmen like Ryder Cup, golfer Miguel Ángel Jiménez; and restaurateurs like Sir Terence Conran have all been present at the Festival in recent years.
Festival nights have been enlivened by special guest performances: Grammy award winning Cuban musician and composer Chucho Valdés, Brazilian singer and composer Ivan Lins, Portuguese singer Mariza, and Spanish flamenco dancer Joaquín Cortés, to name but a few.
An entire week full of adventure and refinement.
The social program includes a Welcome Night on Monday and a dinner on Wednesday, which leaves plenty of evenings free to explore the delights of Havana in the company of fellow enthusiasts.
As the tobacco harvest is still in full swing at Festival time, a whole day is devoted to visiting some of Cuba’s finest tobacco plantations in the Vuelta Abajo zone, including a traditional lunch in the countryside.
On another day guests can join specialized tours of Havana’s most famous cigar factories. Some years it is even possible to visit El Laguito, the mythical Cohiba factory which is not normally open to the public.
One of the foremost events is the fair that takes place throughout the week at Havana’s Convention Palace where companies as well as craftsmen display everything from the latest Habano humidors, accessories, and artefacts both modern and antique. From midweek onwards the Convention Palace also hosts an International Seminar where you can learn how to roll your own cigar, participate in tasting and matching Habanos with drinks like Whisky or Cognac, witness the final of the World Habanosommelier contest or attend lectures on important Habano-related topics.
The Gala Dinner, the Awarding Ceremony, and The Auction.
The last Friday night is the most awaited. Reserved for the Gala Dinner at which good food, good wine, and great cigars abound accompanied by spectacular entertainment, everyone will leave with a bittersweet taste in the mouth. The annual Habanos Prizes are awarded in three categories: for producers, business people and communicators, and the evening concludes with an auction to raise funds for the Cuban Public Health Service. Under the hammer are humidors made by leading Cuban artists and craftsmen filled with Habanos produced specially for the event, including rare sizes. It has been known for raising more than a million dollars in one night.
Everyone who shares the passion for Habanos should attend the Festival at least once. It offers a unique experience to witness at first hand the traditions and history of the Habano. Reservations for the Festival can be made via the official Habanos website at www.habanos.com starting in January each year. The doors are open: light your favorite Habano, enjoy your coffee, and let the soul of Cuba fill your spirit.