Cohiba 55 Aniversario Finally Launched

Cohiba 55 Aniversario Finally Launched

by Nick Hendry

The most famous Cuban cigar brand in the world is Cohiba.  In fact, the most famous cigar brand in the world from any tobacco-producing country is Cohiba.  They are universally accepted as the top of the super-premium cigar pyramid, so whenever they announce something the world takes notice.  This past Saturday, the announcement grabbing everyone’s attention was that the Cohiba 55 Aniversario cigars had finally arrived to the market, almost a year after their initial unveiling.

As has been the way with so many things these past few years, the launch event for these exceptionally rare cigars was, at least in part, a virtual affair.  Live, in-person events were held, but with the guest lists limited to 55 at each one and fans invited to join a live stream of the proceedings instead.  Phoenicia TAA Cyprus, one of the largest Cuban cigar distributors in the world, were chosen as hosts and small groups of lucky invited guests gathered at lounges in 13 countries – all served by Phoenicia – to be the first to smoke the new cigars.

Cohiba 55 Aniversario

The Cohiba 55 Aniversario is an all-new vitola.

This was a grand event, illustrated by the calibre of speakers: both co-presidents of Habanos SA, executives from Phoenicia and Óscar Rodriguez Carvalleira, the boss of El Laguito himself, were all on the stage.  This grandeur is of course fitting of the greatest cigar brand in the world.  It will no doubt be surpassed by the grandeur of the event in Havana announced for 9th September this year, at which the 55th anniversary of Cohiba will be marked once again, albeit this time with physical tastings of the Ambar, Ideales and 55 Aniversario.  At long last pandemic and supply issues will be overcome and the cigars intended to celebrate the 2021 anniversary will be smoked by aficionados.

These announcements are clearly good news – new cigars arriving is always a good thing – but their timing may, to a more cynical smoker, seem to be designed to deflect attention from other announcements made at the same time.  As is usual around this time of year, Habanos SA divulged to the world their results for last year and their plans for next.  While some of this was fairly standard, there were other elements which have the entire Cuban cigar family talking.

First, to the standard: sales of Habanos grew again last year, with revenue for the company up 15% to $568 million.  Given the supply issues faced, and the general effects of movement restrictions on the global economy, this is impressive.  Spain is once again the largest purchaser of Habanos in the world, reclaiming top spot from China, and Europe once again accounts for 59% of global sales.  This has been the way for hundreds of years, and is not surprising news.  The physical retail franchises of Habanos, including Cohiba Atmosphere and La Casa del Habano stores, grew in numbers and success throughout 2021, proving they are popular destinations for smokers and profitable ventures for the company.  Again, for anyone who has been fortunate enough to visit one, this news will not be a shock.

The Cohiba 55 Aniversario

The eventual arrival of the 55 Aniversario was the highlight of the recent announcements.

The seismic news contained within Habanos’ yearly announcement list came after all the normality of the revenue growth, and the glamour of the gala evenings and new limited cigars.  Rumblings and rumours have been heard in the cigar community for a while now, but the confirmation came that Habanos SA have decided to embark on a global price homogenization drive across their luxury brands, working on the logic that the name Cohiba is as recognisable and prestigious as others like Chanel and Cartier so should follow the same global strategy to control its price in the market. Brands placed by Habanos in the “highest segment of the price pyramid” will now carry the same price tag in every market in the world, and that price tag will be set to mirror the Hong Kong RRSP.

In practical terms, this means price rises in most markets.  The extent of those rises will depend on the current price disparity between each individual market and Hong Kong prior to this strategy being implemented.  The largest jumps, however, will be in the largest markets:  Spain, Germany, France and Switzerland differ greatly in price from any market in Asia, and will now have to rise to meet Hong Kong’s higher benchmark.  This strategy is initially to be applied only to “the elite of Habanos’ brands” – this has been defined as, in addition to Cohiba, Trinidad and the “most exclusive items” of brands such as Montecristo, Partagas and Romeo y Julieta – but popular opinion assumes that it will be rolled out across every cigar in the portfolio sooner rather than later.

Tomás Marco Domínguez

 Tomás Marco Domínguez has been appointed as the new Quality Director of Habanos, S.A.

Naturally, this news has not gone down well with smokers.  Forums and social media have been ablaze with posts, comments, tweets and threads variously calling this the “end of the market” and the “beginning of the great switch to New World”.  Whether this happens remains to be seen, but it cannot be denied that a huge change is on the way.  One thing, however, will not alter: the unique Cuban terroir will continue to produce the most delicious, complex of flavour tobacco in the world, and Havana cigars will continue to be the gold standard.  A new Quality Director in Tomás Marco Domínguez has been appointed to ensure the consistency of rolling is even greater across all the factories, and the new products offered by Cuba will represent both innovation and adherence to tradition.

One more thing was missing from this year’s announcement: a list of new Limited Edition cigars for 2022.  This could be a result of delays to 2021 (and even 2020) cigars arriving, but it could also be indicative of more good news to come on 09/09/2022.  Watch this space to find out.

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