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New Havanas, Cigar Aficionado

CHANGES SEEM TO BE continuous in Havana's world of fine cigars. Some of the hottest news I heard on the street while in Havana two weeks ago was about the closure of the Romeo y Julieta factory. Apparently, the old factory had become too dilapidated to be refurbished. Workers will move to a new factory being developed just outside of Havana. It's the third traditional factory in Havana to be closed — H. Upmann and La Corona were moved to newer facilities over the last two years.

In addition, many in the Cuban cigar business continue to speak about how the old El Rey del Mundo factory will be converted to a specialties factory, where all Cuba's limited-edition humidors will be produced. These special releases include the 200 H. Upmann Special Series replica of an ancient humidor that holds 50 Tacos Imperiales cigars that measure 6 5/8 inches long with a ring gauge of 49. There's also the 500 Trinidad Habanos Collection Humidor, which resembles a book, and has 20 Torre Iznagas measuring 6 11/16 inches by 52 ring. Both cigars should be out later this year.

Some people believe it's a shame that RyJ as well as the other two factories have been closed. They say that quality Cuban cigars should be made in traditional, age-old factories. But I think the opposite. Cuban cigars need to be made in the best environment possible, where workers will be happy and conscientious. And the new factories appear to be providing that atmosphere.

Miguel Barzaga, production deputy manager of H.Upmann factory told me: "You have to go forward and accept the new," he said. "You cannot stop and not let progress in! One needs to be up to date with the rest of the world. In the past, what was in fashion was the traditional way of doing things; nowadays, it doesn't work like tha... you need to let new technology in the door."

He also said that it is important to have a clean and healthy environment for his workers, so they could focus on making the best possible cigars. And the new factories, like his, provide this. "There's improvement not just in the working conditions for the workers but also improvement in the production process," he added.

Habanos didn't say whether the specialty factory at El Rey del Mundo would make regional cigars, which have been a great success after a couple of years. The concept is that a special limited-production cigar (about 1,000 boxes or more) is made for particular markets on a one-time basis. For example, this year six cigars new regional cigars will launch.

For the Asia-Pacific region, there will be a new Punch called the Super Robustos, measuring 6 1/8 by 50 ring, as well as a Ramon Allones Estupendos, a classic Churchill size at 7 inches by 47 ring.

Germany will have the Por Larranaga Lonsdale (6 1/2 by 42) as well as the Bolivar Colosales (6 1/8 by 50).

For France, there's the Bolivar Libertador (6 1/2 by 54) and the Juan Lopez Obus (5 1/2 by 52).

Source: Smart Money