The Trinidad Story


Of all of the new generation of Havanas introduced since 1996, none has attracted more comment than Trinidad

Boxes of Trinidad Cigars

First there is the name. Anyone from the English-speaking-world could be forgiven for assuming that it hails not from Cuba but from that other Caribbean island renowned for its Carnival and customarily coupled Tobago.

Only when you learn that on Cuba's southern shore there is a breathtaking, 16th Century city, preserved for posterity by UNESCO as a world heritage site, called La Santisima Trinidad (The Trinity) does the appropriateness for a Havana cigar become clear.

Then there is the range. Other new Havana brands like Cuaba or Vegas Robaina boast four or five different shapes and sizes. But Trinidad offers just one - the Fundadores (Founders).

Also there is the question of its history. A new brand with a history sounds like a contradiction in terms but, although Trinidad was first sold to the public as recently as February 1998, it was already a legend shrouded inveils of mystery, some of which persist to this day.

We are told that Trinidad was born in 1969, just three years after Cohiba and in the same place - Havana's El Laguito factory. Its parentage is obscure, although it now seems certain that Avelino Lara, El Laguito's director for 26 years up to 1994, was the father.

Lara took over the factory in 1968 from Eduardo Rivera, Cohiba's creator. Cohiba had, of course, been adopted as his personal smoke by Cuba's president, Fidel Castro, who restricted its wider distribution to use as diplomatic gifts. Perhaps as a gesture to confirm his prowess in relation to his predecessor, Lara created his own blend of tobaccos to fill a cigar of the same shape as the Cohiba Lanceros (71/2" x 38 ring gauge). Someone named it Trinidad.

Avelino Lara
Avelino Lara


His secret lay hidden for over two decades. It fell to James Suckling of Cigar Aficionado magazine, following his first visit to El Laguito in February 1992, to announce Trinidad to an unsuspecting world.

By that time, Cohiba had been on public sale for ten years. Lara told Suckling that Fidel Castro. by then a non-smoker, no longer gave Cohibas with as gifts but preferred to offer the more exclusive Trinidads instead.

The story appeared in Cigar Aficionado's premier issue and sparked immediate interest from the public in what was, without doubt, the world's least accessible cigar.

Lara's explanation held sway until two years later when Suckling along with his boss, Marvin Shanken, obtained their long-awaited interview with Castro.

A full report was published in the August 1994 issue of Aficionado. Many topics were covered but when Shanken asked the Cuban leader about Trinidad, his reply was "Trini-what?", or words to that effect. He did not know the brand and his gifts were then and always had been Cohibas.

Clearly Lara had embellished the truth as far as his brainchild brand was concerned.

Nevertheless Trinidad did exist. It was being made at El Laguito and it was being given to visiting diplomats. So the question became - if Fidel Castro was not behind it, who in his Government was? This remains a mystery.

The next chapter of the Trinidad story began in October 1994, when Maryin Shanken obtained a small quantity of diplomatic Trinidads for tasting at his Dinner of the Century in Paris. to Those lucky enough to be present at this $1,000 per head spectacular were impressed by the cigar's rich, earthy flavour much more in the style of a Partagas than the Cohiba Lanceros, which it matched in size. However many felt that the taste would be better suited to a heavier girth cigar.

Tasting Panel
The Trinidad tasting panel at El Laguito in November 1997


7½ x 40
7½ x 38


Some very special boxes, each signed by Fidel Castro, were auctioned that night in support of the Cuban Health Service. They achieved staggering prices.

Trinidad made its next public appearance at Cigar Aficionado's second (and last this century) Dinner of the Century staged at London's Dorchester Hotel the following year. More signed boxes were auctioned and raised up to 10,000 for a box of 50 or 200 per cigar.

Shortly afterwards some Trinidads, presumably given to non-smoking diplomats, started to appear in public auctions at Christie's. In one year alone, 1997, they broke the record price paid for a cigar not once but twice, first at £278 each, and then at a remarkable £395 each.

News of these prices spread like wildfire amongst cigar aficionados. It reached Havana where the thought was prompted that, if Trinidad was so sought after, surely it was time to launch it to the public.

Immediately a team was formed at the El Laguito factory, now under the direction of Emilia Tamayo, to work with Habanos s.a. on a project to prepare Trinidad for the market.

Two thoughts guided their work. First, that there was little point in replicating the Cohiba Lanceros size, which was also made as the Montecristo Especial, in a new brand. And second, that Lara's blend could be improved.


"I think Trinidad is going turn out to be one of the finest cigars made in 20th Century."

Edward Sahakian


Trinidad, Cuba

The fruits of their labours were presented to a tasting panel made up of Cuban industry specialists and international experts at El Laguito in November 1997.

New Size

The cigar was the same length as its diplomatic forerunner but it had been given two extra points in its girth. It measured a 71/2 inches by 40 ring gauge. But the most distinctive development was in the blend. Gone was the earthy taste and in its place was a far less strident flavour, beautifully rounded but with great depth and complexity.

The tasting panel gave it the thumbs up and plans forged ahead for Trinidad's launch at the Festival del Habano in February 1998.


The first shipment of the new cigar reached Britain just before Christmas that year and soon attracted acclaim from smokers. No less an aficionado than London Cigar Merchant Edward Sahakian commented,

"I am putting a couple of boxes of 50 aside. I think Trinidad is going to turn out to be one of the finest cigars made in the 20th Century."

With such praise, it is hardly surprising that stocks of this prized cigar remain short