Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cigar aficionados vie for longest ash

HAVANA, Cuba—Pungent smoke filled the room, obscuring the lights and leaving clothing and skin reeking.
There was applause, shouts, and laughter, and above all plenty of H. Upmann Sir Winstons—formidable 17.8-cm (seven-inch) Cuban cigars.

More than 450 stogie aficionados took part in an unusual contest yesterday at Havana’s annual marquee Cigar Festival: competing to see who could create the longest unbroken ash.
“I love it,” Argentine sommelier Flavio Lanfredi said good-naturedly despite falling out of contention early on.
“For me, this is like going to Mecca, or a kid entering a toy store and they tell you to grab whatever you want, it’s yours.
“It’s really exciting.”
In a cavernous room in Havana’s Palace of Conventions, contestants exhaled clouds of smoke and handled their cigars gingerly to keep the grey ash intact as long as possible.
They lolled on luxurious leather chairs set amid tables holding dozens of ashtrays, lighters, chocolate-flavoured hard candy, and snifters of aged Cuban rum.
Many, like Lanfredi, lost their ashes before smoking even halfway through.
Others managed to keep going until their cigars were little more than tiny stubs.
“It was a little bit stressful, and I’m somewhat dizzy,” said Andres Espinosa, one of the better finishers with a 15.8-cm (6.2-inch) ash.

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