First ever Scottish Whisky festival in Havana Cuba a huge success

View photos of the Whisky Festival

Cuba is currently going through fundamental changes to its economic model. Plans are well advanced in the tourism sector with significant investment in Hotel and Leisure Resorts. The recent party congress in April (the first in 14 years) outlined a raft of reforms encouraging Cubans to open their own businesses and 340,000 have done so thus far. The government has also signaled that property sales will now be allowed for the first time in 50 years. This combined with an increase in tourism revenues of almost 20 percent in the past year will have a profound effect on the economy.

Scotland has a very strong relationship with Cuba because Havana and Glasgow are twinned. In recognition of this relationship and recognising the current re-energising of the Cuban economy Esencia Group and the Glasgow Lord Provost's office travelled officially to Cuba to celebrate on Nov 16 the anniversary of the establishment of the City of Havana with Rt Hon Brian Wilson representing the city of Glasgow as commercial ambassador.

A whisky bar was inaugurated in the city for the first time on the roof top of the iconic Hotel Ingletarra with a Ceilidh band and pipers resident in the city. The festival was spread over three days and with opportunities  for the public to participate, as well as expert tastings for the sommerliers of Havana, the hotel food and beverage managers and the restaurant managers.

Whisky sales are on the way up on the island but with a plethora of non whisky brands on the market the major distributers in Cuba are keen to get their hands on the real thing and to use this first whisky festival to promote authentic scotch whisky brands inside the country as well as using this as a platform for cultural interchange between Glasgow and Havana.

Charles Palmer, representative of Glasgow City, commented:

“Hopefully Glasgow and Havana’s first ever twin-city Whisky Festival will prove to be the start of an exciting journey of discovery for our Cuban friends who enjoy a small malt or two. The atmosphere and views over central Havana from the roof-top of the Inglaterra Hotel was the perfect setting for the event and it also helped facilitate a number of informal meetings which would otherwise not have taken place.

The outcome has been encouraging for the twinning relationship and Glasgow is now looking forward to welcoming the Cuban Paralympic Team for two weeks next year. The team will be training at Scotstoun’s world class track facilities before heading south for the Paralympic Games in London. Glasgow will also be hosting an art exhibition by 20 Cuban painters next May 2012 to be held at the Lighthouse.

Thanks must go to Andrew MacDonald and his staff for making many of the meetings possible and of course for organising the Whisky Festival itself. If as hoped the event becomes a yearly fixture, it has the potential to be is an excellent vehicle for promoting Glasgow and Scotland in Havana.”

Esencia Trading is one of the few UK companies to have a Cuban import export license and will introduce the following Whisky Brands – William Grants & Sons, Bowmore Distilery and Whyte and McKay to the market there.

Andrew Macdonald of Esencia Trading (who were sponsoring and managing the event) commented:

“It was great to see so many people enjoying and understanding a full range of Scottish whiskies….the single malts were a revelation to many of the participants. The Mackies crisps were a smash hit..Overall the Cuban people seem to enjoy whisky as an alternative to their own famous rum production, and as the Cuban economy develops the market should increase significantly”


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