Havana, Feb 29: Cigar enthusiasts from around the globe are set to gather in Cuba this week for the 18th edition of the Habanos cigar Festival.
The festival is expected to attract more US buyers and aficionados than ever before, since Washington has relaxed travel and trade restrictions as part of a year-long bilateral push to normalise ties, Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.
Renowned among the world's cigar sellers and consumers, the annual festival attracts about 1,500 visitors from some 50 countries.
Highlights of the five-day festival usually include tours to award-winning tobacco plantations, visits to cigar factories, a cigar rolling class, a sommelier contest, and an auction of choice humidors containing limited edition cigars.
This year's festival will bring together the winning sommeliers of the past to compete for the title of "Master of Masters" in pairing cigars with fine liquors and cocktails.
It will also mark the 50th anniversary of the Cohiba, a premium brand that had been popular in the US before an expanded trade embargo banned the importation of Cuban cigars in 1962.
At last year's festival, the co-president of Cuban cigar producer Habanos S.C., Luis Sanchez-Harguindey, said the company was ready to meet additional demand from the US.
US travellers can now bring home a limited number of cigars, but it is the eventual lifting of the trade embargo that the company is eyeing.
Sanchez-Harguindey said that as soon as the embargo is repealed, the company can begin to supply the US market with 170 million premium cigars.
Hoyo de Monterrey, another premium brand, will feature significantly this year, with its 2012 Harvest Reserve.
The Cuaba, a brand sold exclusively at La Casa del Habano's more than 140 locations worldwide, will also be highlighted during the event. The brand will also unveil a special edition to mark its 20th anniversary.