A well-dressed crowd of 1,200 guests from all over the world were waiting for the doors of Room C at Havana’s Pabexpo Exhibition Complex to open last Friday night. It was the formal, final evening of the Habanos Festival and some of the attendees were wondering what cigars would be given out for the last party of the show. The theme of the night was Cohiba’s 50th anniversary—this much everyone knew—but what would everyone be smoking? The new Cohiba Medio Siglo? Cohiba Behikes? A 50th Anniversary cigar? As it turned out, the answer was all of the above.
Although the doors opened much later than the 7 p.m. start time printed on the invitation, each guest probably forgave the delay once they walked into the reception room. Everyone was handed a weighty gift bag as well as the new Cohiba Medio Siglo. It’s not out on the market yet, (and Habanos has given no indication as to when it will be released), but those lucky enough to attend got the chance to smoke one with their Moët & Chandon Brut Imperial Champagne. After that point, the night immediately went into full gear with live entertainment, an awards ceremony, dinner, cigars and, of course, the annual humidor auction, which ended up raising 865,000 euros (nearly $1 million) for Cuba’s public health care system.
Dinner was a course-by-course affair of wine and cigars, starting with a first course of rum-scented foie gras. This was paired with a Spanish Torres Waltraud D.O. Penedés white wine and a Cohiba Robusto. The next course was a cream of pumpkin soup paired with Spanish Bodegas Valcarlos Fortuis 2009 D.O. Navarra red wine and a Cohiba Maduro 5 Magicos. Musical acts during the meal included Chucho Valdés, Niurka Reyes, Jorge Drexler and Estrella Morente.
Once dishes and utensils were cleared, a Cohiba Siglo VI appeared at each setting to accompany the main course of seafood-stuffed lobster and a Chilean Bodegas Miguel Torres Manso de Velasco, 2011. Those with a penchant for dessert were treated to the 50th Anniversary cake, which was a clever pastry of chocolate cake and mango mousse layered to resemble the yellow-and-black Cohiba band. A sip of Vin Santo in a cordial glass was, of course, welcome, but not as striking as the bottle of Havana Club Cohiba Atmosphere Unión Rum. Each table was allotted a single bottle to share, along with a Cohiba Behike BHK 54, which everyone received. This was an unexpected surprise seeing how Cohiba Behikes of any size were practically nonexistent throughout all of the Casa del Habano shops in Havana. That’s 1,200 Behikes—or 120 boxes—that retailers around the world did not receive.
After the Habanos Man of the Year awards were given out (Manuel Tuero won for the production category; Dominique Gyselinck, business; Valerio Cornale, communications) the annual humidor auction commenced. First on the block was a Cuaba 20th Anniversary humidor containing 320 cigars, including 30 rare Bariay vitolas, which are large figurados over 9 inches long. It sold for 70,000 euros ($77,146). Next on the block was an H. Upmann humidor designed to resemble a wall clock. It contianed 340 cigars, including 20 Butifarras, a rare, short, squat perfecto only available in special humidors. This lot closed for 80,000 Euro ($88,167).
An ornate humidor of 360 Hoyo de Monterreys (which held rarities like 20 Maravillas and 20 Extravaganzas) sold for 70,000 euros before an avant-garde humidor filled with 365 Romeo y Julieta cigars went for 85,000 euros. But a Partagás humidor of 370 cigars was the first to hit six figures, as it sold for 100,000 euros ($110,195). Another unusual-looking humidor was the Montecristo “Castle of If,” inspired by the fortress from the book The Count of Monte Cristo. It was loaded with 450 cigars, some rare, some not, and closed at 140,000 ($154,273).
The star of the auction, however, was the Cohiba 50th Anniversary humidor made by Elie Blue. It stood on the stage all evening, rather aloofly, with its golden doors closed. Made of rare woods, the humidor holds 50 Cohiba 50 Aniversarios, each measuring 7 inches by 60 ring. The cabinet doors are set with 24-karat, gold-foiled tobacco leaves and the humidor even allows the owner to remotely track the temperature and humidity via an exclusive phone app. Only 50 humidors will be produced, but up on the block was humidor number 001. In addition to the cigars, it’s loaded with another Elie Blue travel humidor (also inlaid with gilded tobacco leaves). Bidding started at 150,000 euros and closed at 320,000 Euro ($352,505).
While not everyone walked out of the party with a $100,000 humidor, each guest did receive a beautiful gift bag that contained a Cohiba lighter, cutter and ashtray all emblazoned with the 50th Anniversary logo and all produced by Comercial Iberoamericana S.A. of Madrid, Spain.
Also in the bag was a shadowbox that framed mounted reprints of every Cohiba band from the 60s all the way to the present day. As for the cigars, earlier speculation of an “anniversary” smoke came true. Everyone got a mini-case of two Cohiba Majestuosos 1966, which is a massive 5 7/8 by 58 cigar. Only 1,966 humidors of 20 cigars will be produced. Like the Cohiba 50 Aniversario, these commemorate Cohiba’s 50th birthday.
The farewell dinner went on until 1 a.m. the next morning. Not only was it the largest, grandest celebration of Cohiba this year, but a truly international event that has become emblematic Cuba, its national product and its capacity for charity.
Gregory Mottola, cigar aficionado
March 7, 2016