Havana is the Mecca for cigar smokers. Knowledge, experience, glamour and authenticity are all present in abundance on the island that is home to the best cigars in the world. For an introduction to Cuban cigars, where better to start than the Partagás cigar factory (520 Industria St., behind the Capitolio) in Havana? Cigars have been produced here since 1845 and the will create an appreciation for the art of cigar making that will last long after your return home. Just before you exit to the street, veer left into La Casa del Habano, probably the most famous cigar store in the world.
One of the recent accomplishments of the Cuban cigar industry has been the release of a large selection of shorter cigars of exemplary quality of which the best include Hoyo de Monterey Petit Robusto, Romeo y Julieta Short Churchill, and my recommendation, the Montecristo Petit Edmundo. I love this little cigar, perfect for when you need a relatively quick smoke that is full of flavor and richness.
For a completely different environment to smoke, my favorite locale is La Casa del Habano in Miramar commonly referred to as La Quinta for its location on the beautiful 5th Ave (Calle 5ta No. 1407, esquina 16.) This was the first high-end cigar store in Cuba when its doors opened in 1990. Relax in a wicker chair and enjoy a larger, longer smoke. One of my recommendations would be the Punch Churchill. Recent vintages are reminiscent of the glory this cigar achieved in the late 90s with a steady even draw that fills your mouth with the flavors of spice, leather and wood. They are beautifully constructed and the wrappers I have seen on recent vintages are absolutely glorious to both the senses of sight and touch.
Other longer smokes include the Montecristo No. 2, the Hoyo de Monterey Doble Corona or the H. Upmann Sir Winston. Further west past Miramar is the enclave of Club Habana (Calle 5ta entre 188 y 192, Miramar). This was the exclusive Biltmore Club and although it boasts tennis courts, gym, fine dining and a private beach, the real draw for cigar smokers is La Casa del Habano run by Enrique Mons. One of the living icons of the cigar world, Monswas in charge of quality for Cubatabaco (predecessor of Habanos) for almost 20 years. There hasn’t been a cigar produced in Cuba in the last 35 years that Mons doesn’t have an opinion on. The comfortable lounge is a great place to sit, smoke and chat. Here it would be appropriate to smoke a full flavored cigar -this is a great place to enjoy the resurgence of the Montecristo No. 2. Once revered as the ultimate pyramid, it suffered through a couple of quiet years. Current production is, once again, a king among cigars. Above all else, cigar smoking in Cuba is still an unbridled pleasure to be savored and appreciated. It fits the ambience, the culture, and is an intricate part of the Cuban experience. The selection offered is unmatched and the knowledge of the industry, immense and forthcoming.