- new releases from Cuba -

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Cuba's cigar industry is releasing many new premium cigars in 2006. Some will be sold only in limited markets, others will be limited in production, and some will become market mainstays.

One of Cuba's more exciting new smokes is the Romeo y Julieta Short Churchill, a 4 7/8 inch by 50 ring robusto that was released in Havana in late February.

The Cohiba Siglo II, which comes in cabinet boxes as well as five-packs, is now available in cool designer aluminum tubes, exactly like those made for the Cohiba Siglo VI. Habanos is also giving new life to the culebra, those three slender smokes intertwined into one. Although it might be folklore, I heard that the culebras originated in the early 1900s as a way to control what cigar rollers took home every night after work from the factory. They were allowed one culebra, or three premium cigars twisted together.

In recent years, culebras were made by machine with short filler and then twisted together to give a snake-like impression. Habanos is now having them completely hand-made with long filler.

Regional premium cigars have been a great success for the Cuban cigar industry. The concept is that a special limited-production cigar (about 1,000 boxes or more) is made for particular geographical markets on a one-time basis. For 2006, Cuba is releasing six new regional smokes. For the Asia-Pacific region, there will be a new Punch called the Super Robusto, measuring 6 1/8 by 50 ring gauge.

There will also be a Ramón Allones Estupendos, a classic Churchill size at 7 inches by 47 ring, for the same market. Germany will get two regional premium cigars as well, the Por Larrañaga Lonsdale, which measures 6 1/2 by 42, as well as the Bolivar Colosales, a cigar measuring 6 1/8 by 50 ring. For France, there's the Bolivar Libertador, which is 6 1/2 inches long with a very fat 54 ring gauge, and the Juan López Obús, 5 1/2 by 52.

Last year's selection of regional Cuban premium cigars included the Ramón Allones Selección Suprema (5 3/5 by 46) and Punch Superfinos (4 3/8 by 42) for Italy, and the Ramón Allones Eminencia (5 3/5 by 44) and Punch Robusto (5 by 50) for Switzerland. The Edición Limitada releases for 2006 will be a repeat of sorts' Cuba is bringing back some of its most popular Limitadas. The 2006 releases will consist of the Montecristo Robusto (originally released in 2000), Cohiba Pirámide (which first came out in 2001) and the Partagas Serie D No. 3 (also 2001). Limitadas are typically produced in quantities of about 10,000 premium cigars each.

Cuba has a few other special releases coming out in 2006, including the 200 H. Upmann Special Series replica of an ancient humidor with 50 Tacos Imperiales premium cigars, which measure 6 5/8 inches long with a ring gauge of 49.

There's also the 500 Trinidad Habanos Collection Humidor, continuing the Cuban trend of releasing special premium cigars in boxes that resemble books. The Trinidad release has 20 Torre Iznagas measuring 6 11/16 inches by 52 ring.

Both premium cigars should be out later this year.

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