I knew I was going to like Havana when, at breakfast, there was a gentleman wearing a pink, linen, long-sleeved guayabera with French cuffs. After breakfast, we took a walking tour of Old Havana that included –not at my request but I certainly wasn’t complaining– a stop into the Conde de Villenueva. I probably visited at least 6-8 cigar shops in Havana, and this one was my favorite. Great selection. Roller on-site. Cigar lockers. Private lounge. And the building it’s in is beautiful. So beautiful that it’s where peacocks go to peacock (they literally have a peacock and rooster that roam the lobby!). I went a little crazy there, picking up some all-time classics including the extremely rare Montecristo A, a Trinidad Robusto, Punch Punch, Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure, Romeo y Julieta Churchill, and one of my favorite cigars ever, the Bolivar Belicoso Fino. Of course, if you’re there, you also need to ask about their hidden “house blend” which is stored in unmarked drawers in the lounge. No name, no label, but a ring gauge and shape that only a hardcore cigar smoker could love (we’ll return to this cigar later; it’s the one on the far right in the photo).
A day’s rations
After lunch, we continued our walking tour which culminated in a tour of the Museo de Ron (Rum Museum). Like the rum down here, the tour was short and sweet but well worth the time. The built-to-scale model of an actual rum factory was worth the price of admission. The thing about rum in Cuba, at least in my humble opinion, is that, for now, where else are you going to be drinking Havana Club rum? So I easily consumed more rum in 6 days in Cuba than I have in my entire life leading up to this trip. I am a little disappointed I passed on a bottle of the Maximo, which is the finest they make, comes in a handmade bottle etched with gold, and sells for just $2,000 USD. Instead, we bought a bottle of the 15 year Grand Reserve which is nothing to sneeze at for $150 for a bottle of rum. But again, when else am I going to be able to purchase something like that (ok, after the embargo is lifted, yes, but that’s been 50+ years so who knows how much longer it might be — life’s too short).
A rum factory to scale
We took a trip to the market, and picked up some gifts. Then more walking and I lit up the Trinidad Robusto. An uneven burn kept it from being a great smoke, but it was nice.
That night, we went to another paladar called La Fontana. It was a gorgeous setting, almost unbelievable that it would be someone’s home. The food was fabulous (especially the chorizo appetizer course). Paella was the main course. And just as dessert was being served, the Flamenco dancers took the stage.
Havana Club Maximo bottle locked up
A cigar roller at Conde de Villenueva