Cigars. Rum. Chocolate. The Dutch-speaking Caribbean island of Curaçao. All of these ingredients blended together for the second annual Caribbean Habanos Days festival last month. The two-day cigar celebration, held at the Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort in Curaçao, also included dinners, live entertainment and various opportunities to learn more about Cuban cigars.
While Cuba’s Habanos Festival, held each February in Havana, boasts participants from some 60 countries, the local Habanos Days brought together participants from France, Poland, Jamaica, India, St. Kitts, Australia, China, Suriname, the Cayman Islands, Aruba, Brazil, Trinidad, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Uruguay, Bermuda, Guatemala, Japan, Cuba and the United States. Co-sponsored by the Caribbean Cigar Corp. and Habanos S.A., the event showcased a variety of Cuban products, including the island’s cigars, rum, coffee and chocolate, as well as seminars and other activities led by recognized experts in the world of Cuban cigars.
Day one began with a lecture by Cuban historian Zoe Nocedo and included an in-depth look at the readers in Cuban cigar factories, known as lectores. A blind tasting competition followed the morning lecture, with the audience smoking Cuban cigars without their labels. After about 40 minutes of puffing, the participants wrote down their guesses. These were no beginners when it comes to cigars, and eight competitors correctly named the Vegas Robaina Famoso. Next on the itinerary was a master class on chocolate, focusing on the history and origins of the sweet treat, ending with a tasting of chocolates from around the world. The afternoon included lunch and a mixology demonstration of various cocktails paired with Cuban cigars and a bus tour of the island.
Cuban music filled the air of the first evening as musicians from Havana entertained the crowd. There were numerous food stations and open bars, and the rum flowed freely. The dancing, fun and fellowship didn’t conclude until after 4 a.m.
Day two included a demonstration of how a Cuban cigar can stand on its own burning ash and a seminar on how to correctly prepare and present a cigar, with tips on choosing, cutting and lighting a smoke. There was also a pairing of cigars with spirits. The Romeo Julieta Cedros de Luxe No. 3 went nicely with Ron Varadero 5 years old, and the Cohiba Robusto was paired with a Ron Caney rum that had been aged in old Irish whiskey barrels.
The event ended in a way like a Habanos Festival, with a closing dinner featuring a Cuban band and a live auction of humidors. The three handmade humidors, each of them filled with cigars, were crafted by Jose Ernesto Aguilera Reina, a famous Cuban artisan. The auction raised $89,000, and went to Cuba’s public health system. The event wrapped up at around 1 a.m. with a fireworks display lighting up the ocean.