• April 17, 2024

Cuba Festivalgoers Roll Cigars at Factories

 Cuba Festivalgoers Roll Cigars at Factories
Ana Isel Mederos Cano (Photos Special to Tobacco Reporter)

Activities during the 2024 Habanos Festival usually only vary slightly. However, this year, attendees were allowed to roll a cigar alongside professional rollers at one of five factories. It marked the first time the festival hosted its master rolling class in the same buildings where Habanos cigars are produced.

Daymi Difurniao Rodríguez, communications and marketing specialist for Habanos, said that the venue change was to allow more attendees to learn firsthand about the “Totally by Hand” production process of a Habano.

“I wanted the press to make their own Habano so they could understand the details and intricacies involved in creating the Habanos, the world’s finest cigars,” she said.

The torcedor (cigar roller) who taught the El Laguito class was Ana Isel Mederos Cano, main quality specialist at El Laguito. She is also a nominee for the Habano Woman of the Year award in the production category for the XXIV Habano Festival currently taking place in Havana.

She has been at El Laguito for 25 years, 11 of them as a roller and the past 14 in her current position.

“I love that I have been given this opportunity to teach the art of cigar rolling to the representatives of media from around the world,” she told Tobacco Reporter.

The venue change was a welcome addition, according to several festival attendees. A seasoned festival media participant, Nicholas Syris of LH Cigars and several cigar podcasts, who also rolled at El Laguito, said the personal attention from the professional rollers helped festival goers learn the challenging art of rolling cigars better than in a large conference room setting.

“It was really good. It was a nice addition to the festival,” he said. “I would say many more people rolled a smokable cigar than previous editions of the festival.”

Visitors had the opportunity to visit La Corona, Partagás, H. Upmann and Carlos Baliño. El Laguito was for media only.

La Corona has about 750 employees, 300 of which are dedicated rollers. The rollers produce brands such as Hoyo de Monterrey, Montecristo, Cuaba, Diplomaticos and San Cristobal de la Habana.

At the H. Upmann Factory, H. Upmann, Montecristo, and Romeo y Julieta, and sometimes several sizes of Cohiba are produced. Partagas is one of Havana’s iconic factories and Carlos Baliño is the former El Rey del Mundo factory.

Tobacco Reporter was only permitted to attend El Laguito, the legendary home where many of Habanos’ premier marcas are produced.

Festival roller trainees were given a wooden board to roll, a “chaveta” tobacco leaf cutting blade, some vegetable glue, and an apron. Several factory rollers made rounds around the room helping festival attendees roll their cigars.

“I love this new idea,” said Brooks Whittington with Halfwheel, a major industry cigar information website.  “While the rolling competition has always been a favorite part of the festival for me, getting to roll the cigars at the actual factory we were visiting took the experience to the next level.”

Many other attendees said they hope the tradition continues. The 2024 Habanos Festival is being held in Havana from Feb. 26 – March 1.