February 20 through to the 25th saw us in Havana for the 2005 Habanos Festival – the annual conference put on by the Cuban government for their cigar business. Over 1000 industry representatives, including 80 from Canada, descended on the City for a good dose of Cuban hospitality and product knowledge on what consumers can expect this year. Here is a peek of our visit.

Havana from the 9th floor of the Sevillia Hotel. (view pics)

Sarah and Denise (Cigar Bodega) and yours truly in the garden terrace at the National Hotel. (view pic)

Opening night at the Festival 2005. I had a chance to chat with Habanos S. A. President Fernando Valdes – Hevia. (view pic)

My distributor, Havana House, was a terrific host for their evening at La Fuente on Tuesday Night. Local food and rum was washed down with Trinidads and Cohibas. (view pic)

We had an extensive tour of the new Jose Marti factory (Upmann). The difference between this and other new facilities are incredible compared to older factories like Partagas and Romeo Y Julieta. Here workers sort filler tobacco before it heads off to rollers’ benches. (view pics)

The brand new Partagas Series P, Pyramide, Edicion Limitada 2005. This new cigar was created to celebrate 160 years of Partagas. We saw it in its final stages of aging and we will see it in Canada this spring or summer. (view pics)

Everything is handmade, even dressing the boxes. (view pic)

The biggest reason for the improved quality in Cuban cigars in the past 3 years has been the re-introduction and measurement of higher quality standards. Quality control measures insure that cigars taste and perform as good as consumers expect (view pics)

Dancing at the Havana Club Rum Factory. It is only 11:45 in the morning. (view pic)

The Festivals Dinner highlight was “Noche Canadiense”. Chef Jamie Kennedy was the star in the kitchen while Jane Brunnet was the star on stage. Wow!! (view pics)

How could one not smile following an evening like this!! (view pic)