Phoenicia Group marks 40th anniversary in style with virtual event

LEBANON/CUBA. Phoenicia Group celebrated its 40th anniversary in sumptuous style on 23 June, with 2,000 business partners, aficionados and friends from 64 countries around the world tuning in to a spectacular virtual gala evening. The occasion marked the company’s long-standing partnership with Cuban cigar group Habanos. The virtual anniversary celebration also saw the launch of two new regional editions of leading Habanos lines, the Quai d’Orsay Baalbeck and the Ramon Allones Phoenicio 40, plus a special luxury humidor series.

The innovative event had both physical and virtual elements. Alongside videos of the cigar launches and interviews with, among others, Phoenicia Founder & Chairman Mohamed Zeidan and senior figures from Habanos, the evening saw a multinational herfing (gathering of cigar smokers) in cities around the world, where 500 aficionados were the first to try the new cigars. Pictures of the herfing were broadcast live from Beirut, Havana, Limassol, Kuwait City, Dubai, Athens, Sofia, London and Brindisi.

Mohamed Zeidan said: “We are here with Habanos and with Cuban cigar aficionados from around the world to celebrate a 40-year long relationship between Phoenicia and Cuba. We launch two very special cigars that have been kept aging for three years in our warehouses for this special moment.

“Throughout my business career Cuban cigars always had a special stature for me. It is a story of love, passion, friendship and loyalty. Every time I smoke a Cuban cigar I feel nostalgic for the beautiful island of Cuba, for my farmer friends, for their simple life, their passion for the land, and their dedication to their work that produces the best tobacco in the world. I think of the hard working, experienced and skilled cigar rollers, who have rolled the special cigars we are trying today, and thank them for their dedication.”

Of the 40-year relationship, Habanos SA Co-President Inocente Núnez Blanco said: “The initiator of this great project is Mohamed Zeidan, who through his passion for the Habano and appreciation for our country, has been an important link in the promotion and growth of the commercialisation of Habanos in the world. He is an important ambassador for our products and a person we always count on.”

Click on the video to view the full virtual gala celebration

Long-time business partners and friends paid a special surprise tribute in video to Mohamed Zeidan, among them former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Sanyoura, AXA Middle East Chairman and CEO Dr. Roger Nasnas, Habanos SA Co-Presidents Luis Sanchez-Harguindey and Inocente Núnez Blanco, Habanos Vice President Commercial Leopoldo Cintra González, Lebanese Tobacco Monopoly General Manager Nassif Seklaoui and Tabacalera President Fernando Dominguez.

In a memorable and touching salute these long-time colleagues paid tribute to Zeidan’s character, innovative thinking, persistence in business, tough negotiating skills, passion, friendship and humanity, and hailed him as “an icon within the world of Habanos distributors”.

Habanos marked the moment with a special Lebanon edition (named Baalbeck) from the Quai d’Orsay line

Two special editions launched
The Quai D’Orsay Baalbeck – Regional Edition Lebanon – is named after the ancient Baalbeck temple complex in Lebanon and is an expression of one of the most popular lines in the Habanos offer, Quai D’Orsay. The Duke size cigar features tobacco aged for three years, in boxes of 50 for the first time. The initial idea was to produce 60,000 sticks, but with demand expected to be high, the quantity was increased to 120,000 sticks or 2,400 boxes. This was related to forecast high demand among Lebanese aficionados, and the opportunity for cigar fans from other places to purchase the new line when travelling through Beirut, notably at the acclaimed La Casa del Habano managed by Beirut Duty Free.

Coprova Co-CEO Antoine Bathie underlined the importance of the Quai d’Orsay line in the Habanos tradition. “This is definitely a very special cigar. France and the Levant have always been very close in their economic and diplomatic relationships. And Quai d’Orsay holds a special place in the Habanos portfolio. From the brand’s beginnings, aficionados from the Levant area have always loved these singular cigars. Quai d’Orsay was created in the 1970s, after a request from Valéry Giscard d’Estaing who was at the time Finance Minister. French cigar company Seita was assigned to create a cigar with Cubatabaco that would signal French refinement and one to smoke at the end of a wonderful meal. They called it Quai d’Orsay because the tobacco company was based at this prestigious address in Paris, close to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“We used to consider this cigar as a kind of secret diamond but these days it is not hidden any more. It is now one of the trendiest brands of Habanos. It is a gourmet cigar, very consistent with the aim of its origins.

“For the past ten years, six regional editions have been released most for the French market. Now we celebrate the new Baalbeck, presented for the first time in a 50-cigar cabinet, a presentation most appreciated by the aficionados.”

Phoenicia CEO Walid Saleh said of Quai d’Orsay: “This is a unique cigar, aged for three years, carrying a special story, as always with our regional editions. Why Quai d’Orsay and why the name Baalbeck? Paris is known as the city of love, and in Lebanon there is the Temple of Venus, known as the goddess of love. France has the best wine in the world, and in Lebanon exists the temple of Bacchus, the god of wine. Cuba has without doubt the most fertile land in the world for growing tobacco leaves. In Lebanon, in Baalbeck, the Temple of Baal, the ancient god of fertility, still stands tall to this day. And when it comes to cigars, Habanos is the god of cigars. In the same way, in Lebanon, we have the Temple of Jupiter, the god of all gods in Roman mythology.

“We witness the story of tobacco leaves grown with the fertility of Baal, blended with the refinement of Bacchus, rolled with the love of Venus and blessed by Jupiter. The outcome couldn’t be better than an aged cigar, a unique Habano deserving the name, Quai d’Orsay Baalbeck.”

The Ramon Allones Phoenicio 40 Anniversario edition was created in honour of the lasting partnership between Habanos SA and Phoenicia, to mark the anniversary. The tobacco is aged for three years, and the limited-edition cigars were rolled in Habanos’ Partagas factory, with specially selected leaves “to ensure elite quality”.

The cigars are housed in 20,000 boxes of 10 cigars, 10,000 boxes of 20 cigars and 440 limited edition humidors (see below).

Also revealed were five exclusive humidor lines under the Ramon Allones brand, titled ‘The Merchants and the Seas, designed by Jean-Philippe Martin and crafted by Elie Bleu, the same team that created the Cohiba 40th and 50th anniversary releases. The collection includes the Mediterranean, Phoenicians, Volute and Horizon lines, with 100 numbered humidors each and with 40 Ramon Allones Phoenicia 40 cigars per humidor. A highly prized line of 40 humidors with 40 cigars each rounds out the collection, under the Journey name.

Habanos SA Co-President Luis Sanchez-Harguindey said of the collection: “The Merchants and the Seas stands as the pinnacle of celebrating the incomparable history of Phoenicia, and these long years of business relations and brotherhood with Habanos SA.”

Virtual guests were also treated to a series of vibrant videos that captured and celebrated Cuban and Lebanese life and spirit.

This video brings the new Merchants and the Seas humidor collection to life

Founded in Beirut, Lebanon by Mohamed Zeidan, Phoenicia Group today operates across a range of diverse activities, from cigar distribution to travel retail and from tourism to food and real estate.

Phoenicia Group started its activities with the distribution of cigars on behalf of Cubatabaco (Empresa Cubana del Tabaco). Today, Phoenicia Group is one of the leading distribution partners for the Habanos joint venture that oversees sales and marketing for all Cuban tobacco products around the world.

These three videos celebrate the many inspirations behind the new cigar lines

In travel retail, Phoenicia has a distinguished history of activity, both within and outside Lebanon. It was awarded its first contract for the old Beirut Airport in 1979, but later took its experience to other markets. From 1991 it managed diplomatic duty free shops in Prague and Bratislava, and from 1993 ran the duty free operation at Yerevan Airport in Armenia.
In 2002 it began its 15-year contract with ARI to run Beirut Duty Free at Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport, which it extended in 2017.

Its travel retail subsidiary, Phoenicia Trading Afro-Asia, was the first to launch a specialised international franchise concept, La Casa Del Habano, at Beirut Airport in 1997. This concept has grown to become a signature of Beirut Duty Free and a beacon for cigar retailing in the channel.

In addition, the company’s La Casa del Habano concept features the largest walk-in humidor and the first vintage walk-in humidor in travel retail.

Taking inspiration from the world of travel and trade: The Merchants and the Seas collection of humidors includes (from top) the Horizon, Volutes, Phoenicians and Mediterranean lines, along with the prized Journey edition

*More coverage of this milestone anniversary will follow, including an interview with Phoenicia Group Chairman Mohamed Zeidan.










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