At the end of the XXV Encuentro de los Amigos de Partagás meeting the light goes out in the Casa del Habano Partagás, the legendary store in the Calle Industria. Blackout! No problem for the guests in the VIP lounge, who continue smoking in peace by the light of an iPhone flashlight.
The new boss of the casa, Grecia Anely Quiñones Marrero, doesn’t let the temporary issue bother her, either. She’s survived the baptism by fire and pulled off her first meeting of the Friends of Partagás successfully. The lounge visitors are raving about the opening dinner on the Plaza de la Catedral in Havana’s Old Town under the open sky and the excellent organization.
The Partagás meetings started in the Nineties. The casa’s then manager, Abel Expósito Diaz, initiated these one-week events to bring the friends of the house together. Abel included the employees from the Partagás factory, which gave Habanos fans the unique opportunity to personally meet the experts who manufacture their beloved cigars. “During the first few years,the yellow Partagás bus took us and the employees from the factory on day-trips,” remembers hotelier Mario Cioffi from Sardinia, who experienced the beginnings of the festival. “One time, the Cubans weren’t allowed into the hotel where we were supposed to be dining. We protested and waited outside the door until they issued permits for all the Cubans.”
In the last few years, the meetings have constantly been growing, while the familiar character has also been maintained.
In the last few years, the meetings have constantly been growing, while the familiar character has also been maintained. It is held in November every year and sometimes, additionally, in spring. Traditionally, it begins and ends with a dinner; during the week, the Casa team organizes trips to Pinar del Río, factory tours, fun meetings on the beach, and so on. A year ago, the arrest of Abel Expósito Diaz shortly before the event shocked Partagás friends. Abel was not only the initiator of the meeting, but had also been the unofficial “boss” of the Partagás family for many years.
To this day, Habanos S.A. has still not issued a formal statement on the matter. In any case, the allegations have not been substantiated; Abel is free again and has been cleared of all guilt; but his return to Partagás was denied. Following an interim solution last year, Grecia Anely Quiñones Marrero, who used to be the store manager in Cayo Coco and at the Hotel Parque Central, has now taken over the reins.
However, since the change in personnel at Partagás, nothing has changed with the close friendship that connects many visitors. “That’s the power of cigars,” says the Italian Mario Cioffi, who has been attending the Partagás meetings for 16 years. “When I smoke a cigar I sit around with other people for a couple of hours. We’ve got a lot of time to talk. That’s how relationships start.”
Similarly to the Festival del Habano, the Encuentros de los Amigos de Partagás are also an excellent starting point for a trip to Cuba. In contrast, casa manager Grecia says, “The Festival del Habano has more of a business character; it’s about the dissemination of information. The Encuentro de los Amigos de Partagás, on the other hand, is a big party.” Fine cigars belong to any Cuban party. And these are generously distributed – preferably from Partagás, of course! Alongside the standard-production cigars, the Puros from the hands of the house roller La China are particularly popular.
Just at the right time, in November the stores in Havana also received the El Rey del Mundo Infantes Edición Cuba 2013, which stimulated the general hunter and collector’s instinct. Something that contributes to the familiar character of the meetings includes many private initiatives. Alexandre Avellar from Brazil, a regular at the meetings, organized a tasting with the Bolívar Redentor Edición Regional Brasil 2013, cachaça and a Brazilian cigar.
And the Swiss dealer Andreas Stachl treated the group to a suckling pig meal. The auction on the following gala evening brought in 28,000 euros; a total of 250 attended the 2013 edition of the Encuentros. At the end, the boss Grecia Anely Quiñones Marrero is satisfied and happy that the guests who have been connected to the house of Partagás for so long have dispensed with their initial reluctance towards her. “The Partagás family has taken me in.”
Encuentros de Amigos de Partagás 2014
• April 14–18, 2014
• November 17–21, 2014
This article was published in the Cigar Journal Spring Edition 2014. Read more