Rollers and Appies and Humidors, Oh My!

Unfortunately due to the events we did on the 4th day, I wasn’t afforded the opportunity to snap many pictures.  Our itinerary for the day was to have breakfast, then immediately head over to the La Corona factory.   I’m not sure if the story was true, but we were lead to believe that the vehicle we were riding in was originally one of 12 fleet vehicles specifically for El Jefe.   It probably isn’t true, but the tale sounded interesting enough and the driver was entertaining.

Pictures were strictly forbidden while on the factory tour, so unfortunately I had to sling my camera for the duration.

It was interesting going through the facility, having previously been on factory tours in Nicaragua.    Many things were the same, but there were tons of little differences that I found interesting.   In Nicaragua, the factories I toured had the torcedors working in pairs.   In Cuba most torcedors were either completing a cigar from start to finish.

The cigars themselves are sorted and grouped according to wrapper color.   The idea is that you want a consistent product when you bundle them together in a box.

While on the tour one of the rollers saw my Cohiba band and her eyes lit up.  In what Spanish I had and what English she had I tried my best to answer her questions.   I was thrilled that she appreciated the quality of the ring.

We also received a tour where they were taking the bare boxes and applying the labels for the specific brand it belonged to.    Another interesting tidbit that I gleaned was that the cigar glue and band glue apparently comes from a plant in Ontario, Canada.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find out what the exact plant was.

 

Now quite hungry and very thirsty we hopped into cabs and made our way over to El Templete.   We sat down at an extended table and I was able to enjoy some relaxed conversation.   The group ordered a number of appetizers to share instead of individual meals.  It turned out to be an excellent idea as we all had the opportunity to sample various dishes.    Several Mojitos, some beers and some espressos and we were recharged for the afternoon. 

 

The afternoon event was to be a tour of  ‘Humidores Habana’ which was some distance away.    Humidores Habana creates amazing humidors that transcend storage of cigars and are full fledged works of art.

 

This is a shot of their new facility.    Their old facility, which is still in use, would be generously described as a walk in closet.   I don’t mean that in a disparaging way, but rather as a testament to how much skill Jose Ernesto and his group have in creating their projects.

 

I’m an average height guy and I had to crouch in order to get into the room that they were working in.   I can’t imagine how oppressively hot this gets in the summer time.  

 

 

Each workstation had a variety of mock up drawings and various items from which they were drawing their inspiration.

 

 

On the far side you can see the hand made jars they are creating.   Breath-taking level of detail.

 

 

These pictures don’t do justice to the intricacy here.  The artist works with scribes and other tools to create each complication by hand.

Inside the new facility we got a sneak peak at a number of projects they were working on.  Some of them were for the Partagas festival (not pictured here) and some of them were for the festival in February.

 

 

After the tour of the new facility was completed, we received a tour of the office where some of their showcase pieces were on display.  The ‘Terminator’ humidor was sitting prominently on the floor and we all stood in awe and amazement at how beautiful the creation was.     Sadly my cell phone took this moment to run out of battery (after more than 80 hours of usage) so I wasn’t able to snap any pictures.  

With the tour completed we headed back to the hotel.   We were pretty tired from a full day, so I ended up ordering a Cuban sandwich and was more than satisfied until late into the evening.

 

 

The next day we had been invited to a cigar and whisky pairing by Rob Fox.    It was very generous of him (and of Nino to host), and the cigars and whisky were both quite delicious.  

 

From there we decided to take a light afternoon and search LCDH’s around Havana to see if we could find some rare or aged stock.  We had lunch at a beach bar, unfortunately the food turned out to be not very good.  We did find a substantial amount of older boxes at an LCDH.

 

 

And this gem.  Wow … just … wow.     After gathering all of our cigar booty we headed back to the Nacional to prepare for the evening.  We were going to have a very special dinner at a restaurant called Ivan Justo.   We hopped back into a mini-bus and headed over for a culinary experience I was not prepared for.

There is a blackboard which has the appetizers, meals and deserts of the day listed to order.   We ordered some drinks and settled on what each of us was going to have. 

 

 

This was the lobster.  The picture does not do it justice, as it was the size of my chest and stuffed with other seafood and vegetables. 

 

 

This was my main course.  A quarter suckling pig.  Crispy skin, with tender vegetables and garnish.   If I wasn’t hungry before I sat down, when this was placed in front of me I was starving.   It was every bit as delicious as it smelled and looked, and I devoured the entire thing.

They listed the desert options  and when the chocolate flan was listed I think 12 or 13 hands shot up.  Sadly there was only 2 chocolate flans available and I was not one of the fortunate recipients.  

 

 

Look at this delicious concoction. 

 

 

In the end the flan was not quite as tasty as it appeared, after I was generously offered several spoonful's to try for myself. 

 

 

Back at the Nacional I couldn’t stay up too late because we were scheduled for a long day of travel to Pinar del Rio to take some farm tours.  Several people decided not to go as either they had already been on a tour or weren’t feeling very well.   I wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to see all that I could of Cuba.

 

Tobacco Farms Are Best Farm

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