Cigar News: 18th Habanos Festival – Welcome Evening
As the first official event of the festival and my first time here, I really had no idea what to expect at this welcome evening other than that it would be featuring the release of the latest in the Reserva Cosecha line, the Hoyo De Monterrey Epicure No. 2. All of the buses from the various hotels spill out into a street-turned-parking-lot and slowly funnel the attendees towards a very large warehouse that is lit up with fun colored lights and blaring music. It is quite beautiful, right on the water with Old Havana in the background.
As we make our way through the entrance, we are greeted by many important looking Habanos employees and beautiful women that take our tickets and show us where to go. This excitement builds as we make our way closer to the warehouse and stage area. Everyone is in a good mood and excited for an evening of partying. There is not a literal red carpet, but it certainly feels like it with all the elegantly dressed people in a slow moving procession while being filmed and photographed by the press.
First up is cocktail hour. We are immediately handed a glass of champagne after we receive our gift bags which I can only hope also contains our samples of the Reserve Hoyo. Two young female DJ’s spin up some tunes while everybody mingles, sifts through their gift bags, and drinks champagne. Our gift bags do contain the anticipated Hoyo Reserva cigars, but most in attendance save them for later so we do the same. Expect a quick review not long after our return. Instead, we light up some of the other included Hoyo cigars, as this night is in fact, dedicated to the Hoyo brand. We went with the Epicure Especial and were not disappointed.
After an hour or so, an MC does an introduction for the Habanos President and Vice President and each say a few words about the event and pay tribute to the Hoyo brand. It is also revealed that the Cohiba 50th Anniversary cigar will include a 60 ring gauge cigar, a first for Habanos. More on that to come after it is officially revealed at the Gala night.. Next, we are shown a quite dramatic “reveal” video of the new cigar which includes a montage of the entire Hoyo brand since birth and the creation of this new Reserva, followed by a fire-twirling-esque show of L.E.D. spinners that, once in motion make different symbols and shapes and at one point show spelled out Reserva and Habanos. Once all this fanfare is over, they let us in to the actual warehouse.
Now, it’s grub time. We counted at least 4 entire roasted pigs being carved up at various stations along with shish kebabs and ribs that were all fantastic. Everything barbecued was very sweet and heavy on the pineapple. Along the perimeter of the warehouse is, of course, more food. Here we found more h’orderves than we could possibly try and various breads and cheeses. Further out along the perimeter closer to the water there are drink stations ever 20 feet or so, each featuring a different spirit and various accompanying mixed drinks choices. This is all open bar of course, and by the end of the night we had lost count of the number of Havana Club Mojitos we had drank.
Now past the midpoint of the evening it’s about time to light up another cigar, so I went with the Le Hoyo San Juan, which also proved to be quite excellent, but not as good as the Especial. This is also the time when two bands start playing on opposite sides of the warehouse so you have a choice of music genre, one traditional Cuban, the other more jazz. We continued sampling all the various drink stations, returning faithfully to the mojitos in between, and enjoy both bands before each are replaced with two other bands. After each of those bands plays a set, it is time for the final concert which is inside the warehouse now in front of the indoor bar.
This last concert concludes the evening with really no other fanfare to speak of, so we flag down a vintage Chevy and make our way back to the Hotel. This was a fun evening and made for some very nice socializing with people from all over the globe. We made friends with a couple all the way from Australia, and a father and son from Boston celebrating the sons 30th birthday. I can’t think of a better way to spend it.