El Festival del Habano, (a.k.a. as the Habanos Festival or Cuba’s Cigar Festival) is the foremost event in the Habano enthusiast’s calendar. Organized for the first time in 1999, it has been held every year since then during the last week in February.
Over the years the Festival has remained true to its original purpose to celebrate the finest cigars in the world.
It has established itself not only as a unique beacon for the excellence and quality of the Habano, but also as the perfect opportunity for Habanos aficionados from all over the globe to meet and share their enthusiasm and experiences.
During the week Habanos enthusiasts meet in Cuba to celebrate the Habano and to discover the intriguing secrets of a tradition accumulated over centuries. They are drawn to a programme that ranges from guided tours of tobacco plantations to cigar tasting seminars and glittering social occasions. They enjoy the privilege of being amongst the first in the world to taste the new Habanos vitolas that are introduced during the Festival.
A gathering for a wide variety of people
The Festival welcomes over a thousand guests from around eighty countries. Apart from dedicated Habanos aficionados and Habanos professionals such as distributors and cigar merchants, many international personalities also attend from the worlds of culture, fine dining, film, fashion, sport, collecting and artisanship; all with the sole purpose to come together to enjoy a shared passion: the Habano.
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.
And Festival nights have been enlivened by special guest performances from the Grammy award winning Cuban musician and composer Chucho Valdés, Brazillian singer and composer Ivan Lins, Portuguese singer Mariza, and the Spanish flamenco dancer Joaquín Cortés.
A complete programme of events
As the tobacco harvest in 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 specialised 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, but please check the year’s programme in advance.
An International Fair takes place throughout the week at Havana’s Convention Palace where companies as well as craftsmen display everything from the latest Habanos to humidors, accessories and artefacts 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 Habanos-related topics.
The social programme 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.
The Gala Dinner: the glittering finale
Friday night is reserved for the Gala Dinner at which good food, good wine and great cigars abound accompanied by spectacular entertainment. 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 more than a million Dollars to be raised in one night.
Everyone who shares the passion for Habanos should attend a 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.