NYC herfing :)

Following my last blog and rant about the ‘Chantler report’ on standardized packaging for tobacco in the UK, the results sort of came back like this:

The Minister announced the findings of the Chantler Review and declared the Government’s intention to take the policy of standardised packaging forward.

plain_packagingThe Minister said that she is ‘minded’ to proceed with introducing regulations to provide for standardised packaging. However, before reaching a final decision, and in order to ensure that that decision is properly and fully informed, she intends to publish the draft Regulations, so that it is crystal clear what is intended, alongside a final short Consultation in which she will ask, in particular, for views on anything new since the last full public Consultation that is relevant to a final decision on this policy.

Under questioning she said that she will publish the draft regulations and the Consultation document, together with an Impact Assessment, this month and expects that the policy will be introduced during this Parliament. She did however say that there needs to be a sensible transition period and would not be drawn on when Standardised Packaging would actually appear on the shelves.

As ever, none of this make much sense to a simple cigar merchant like me as standardized packaging has already failed abysmally in Australia where tobacco sales have increased. The reality is the UK will just have more illicit trade of tobacco robbing the exchequer of much needed tobacco tax revenue and no doubt many more businesses will go to the wall and many more jobs lost.

Could be a repeat of the UK smoking ban in 2007 which murdered the pub trade just as the recession started to take grip. Pubs closed and continue to do so, jobs were lost, tax revenue was lost. Bravo politicians… Another genius piece of work that has failed. Did the nanny state smoking ban make any difference to the smoker? Not a jot… You couldn’t make it up.

I commend the brilliant politicians that want to reduce underage smoking but I repeat; children don’t smoke cigars or pipes. At least I have never come across a child coming into one of our specialist cigars stores asking for a Monte 4! Under 25’s (we use Challenge 25 scheme) are not even allowed into our shops!

So legislate as much as they want but leave cigars and pipe tobacco exempt and the hell out of this madness.

Michelle, my “Man Friday” returned from a fabulous vacation in Czech Republic with the obligatory cold caught on the plane back just in time for me to head off to New York on Thursday for a long weekends herfing activity. I relaxed in the Virgin lounge and had the usual facial and massage (hey – I’m metrosexual!) and a glass or two of Champagne before hopping on to my Upper Class seat. Now either the seats are getting smaller or I am getting bigger but considering my diet (the 5 + 2) is working very well, I reckon the seats are smaller. Good luck to anyone much taller than me on the flat beds!

Herfing at the Grand Havana Rooms New YorkI love NYC – so civilized and cigar friendly. I checked into my hotel on the Avenue of the Americas, changed into my smartest suit to look like a toff and headed to Grand Havana Room to meet with a few friends. Well, more than a few friends actually as I reckon there must have been around 15 or so of us doing some serious herfing.

GHR was crammed full, I was amazed at how busy this huge cigar lounge was. Armed with a baggie full of Inka – Secret Blend and Davidoff cigars and having a constant refilled glass of Mac 12 and Balvenie 12, it’s fair to say that a bloody good and late herf was thoroughly enjoyed by all ☺

Friday morning and I settled into my usual routine of herfing at De La Concha cigar shop/lounge. DLC is an “Olde Worlde” cigar shop and a very charming one indeed. Plenty of seating and I always enjoy sitting at the front by the window so I can watch the world go by. It’s so funny as numerous people walk by and look in with either looks of disgust at people smoking, smiles or in the case of a number of Asians; smiles and waves!

I herfed my way through a load of Davidoff Puro D’Oro sizes that we don’t seem to have in the UK (probably due to the barmy taxes that would be applicable on the size/weight of the cigars) such as the Notables and Gigantes. I love the blend of Puro D’ Oro, here are our notes:

Puro d’Oro features 100% Dominican tobaccos to make up its wrapper, binder and fillers. Inside, you’ll find a smooth, elegant blend of Dominican long leaves all bound by a Dominican binder. Davidoff’s exclusive Yamasa wrapper creates a unique flavour of coffee and spicy notes as the oily wrapper leaves a heavy feel on your palate.

Smooth, earthy flavours – medium bodied cigars.

The small range in the UK can be found here.

Saturday and I headed for Carnegie Club for the late show which is a tribute to Frank Sinatra, a couple of friends joined me and we had fun doing a bit of a blind tasting on the planned USA release of Inca – Secret Blend (not to be confused with the UK Inka – Secret Blend cigars) followed by Davidoff Perfectos.  Sinatra music, smokes and Scotch… My kinda evening.

Sunday was time for a chilled out afternoon at Club Macanudo and time to herf some serious Fuente cigars :) In fact I was back to backing Opus X Perfect for a Sunday afternoon.

Headed back on Monday evening after another herfette at De La Concha and then off to the Virgin lounge at JFK for a bit of pre-flight pampering. Fortunately the aircraft was different for the return flight and the seats/beds more comfortable.

So thanks to my bunch of smoking chums that took very good care of me in NYC – Peter, Jay, Jeff, Leo, Rodney, David, Ricky, Howard to name a few. I can’t wait for my next trip.

Back to Blighty and straight to the C.Gars London office for coffee and a Montecristo No. 2 … it tasted sooo good after 4 days of New World cigars :) Sweet and creamy, medium strength and a perfect draw. Still one of my favourite Havanas… After all these years.

Inka Cristales are now re-launched with an even sweeter Peruvian blend that is outrageously good and very cool new packaging – check them out on this link.


Can’t believe it’s Easter/Passover next week! The year is flying by. Looking forward to a little time off and if the weather holds up (it’s beautiful in London now) some herfing on the deck.

Have a smokey weekend,

Peaceful puffing,

Mitchell

Davidoff Cigars? Mmm Yes!

Bit of a crazy week last week with 2 days in Basel participating in the European Retailers Panel for Davidoff.

Davidoff - Year of the Horse

Dinner on Tuesday was at the rather splendid Teufelhof with 10 fellow retailers from around Europe and the Davidoff Team.

Of course dinner was followed by some fine Davidoff cigars including the outrageously good Year of the Horse. The boys split  a box of these delicious cigars whilst chatting about the cigar trade on a nice, dry, if cold, evening.

Year of the Horse are a limited edition of just 3000 boxes and made with Dominican binder and filler and are wrapped in a flawless premium Yamasa wrapper.  Well balanced and bursting with flavour from the first puff till I almost burned my fingers!

Davidoff Humidor in Glasgow

The next day was filled with presentations and discussions. Top secret I’m afraid and if I tell you I would have to shoot you :-) needless to say we recommend Davidoff cigars to our clients and have a huge range not only online but in all of our stores with our flagship Robert Graham cigar shops in Cambridge and Glasgow ready to spoil you with their beautiful purpose built Davidoff humidors crammed with a comprehensive range.

Luckily I made the next flight on time as on Thursday morning I was off again to sunny Paris to indulged in a spot of lunch with friends at our favourite people spotting venue: Café Ruc is situated at 159, rue Saint-Honore, just opposite the Hotel du Louvre. Not sure how this restaurant does it but they always seems to Herfinghave the prettiest waitresses! Anyway, great service, good food and wine and Bolivar Libertadors from 2006  whilst watching the world go by. My kinda business lunch :)

Enough of all that bloody traveling for one week and I’m grounded this week as my Man Friday otherwise known as Michelle is on vacation (scandalous!) so I’m stuck in London office all week. Not to fear, my herfing chums came to the rescue on Wednesday with an office herf in the afternoon followed by a bottle of Dalmore 18  and Bolivar Belicosos 2007 vintage at the delightful Sahakian cigar shop and tasting lounge located at the equally delightful and chic Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge.

David Lewis - Chairman Hunters & FrankauMike Choi was at hand to advise our gang of 7 on the next cigar which was a cabinet selection Ramon Allones Specially Selected. To top off the evening we were joined for a smoke by David Lewis – Chairman of Hunters and Frankau… Perfect!

Back to the grind today with a meeting at the magnificent BAT Dunhill shop at 1a St James’s (thank you Robert) with all the cigar retailers in London’s Westminster area including my good friends Eddie and Edward Sahakian. The meeting was  to discuss the Tobacco display ban that will come into play in around a years’ time and the measures that we should take to comply with the latest daft law.

Now I’m not particularly bothered by display bans. Yes they are downright stupid but it’s not likely to stop my customers popping in to any of our shops across the country to purchase or sample their favourite cigars. Legally we won’t be able to show any tobacco product that can be seen from the outside of our shops. Another brilliant piece of legislation… Not.

Plain Packaging CartoonWhat does bother me is the proposals regarding the dreaded ‘plain packaging’ which I understand means all of the beautiful cigar boxes and tins/packs of pipe tobaccos that we know and love will become a thing of the past and we will be left with bland/ugly packaging with huge health warnings on and a teeny weeny name of the brand and country of origin of the tobacco.

I doubt that will stop my customers purchasing but what a crying shame to do this to the cigar and pipe tobacco trade. What will it achieve? I understand that politicians want to discourage young smokers but as I have banged on about before, it’s not possible for anyone under 21 to even enter our shops let alone purchase tobacco and in all the years I have been in the cigar trade I have never known a kid to wake up in the morning and think ‘I must pop into my local cigar shop as I fancy a Cohiba robusto!’ – World gone mad?… You couldn’t make it up! Winston Churchill must be stirring in his grave at the absurdity.

If you think it’s as stupid as I do drop a line to your local MP and tell him or her your views… Don’t delay or it will be too late sadly.

Finally the cigar trade lost a legend this week as Desmond Sautter passed away at the age of 83. Desmond was a real Gentlemen cigar merchant and loved by all in the trade. Our sincere condolences to his family. I’ll be smoking a pre embargo Punch Ideales in his memory tonight.

Next week I’m back on my travels!

Have a smokey weekend,

Peaceful puffing,

Mitchell

Happy Paddies Day!

Happy St Patricks Day from sunny London :)

Guy and MitchellMy Partner, Guy from The Decent Cigar Emporium spent the morning at our offices where we toasted the good saint with some Alec Bradley Filthy Hooligans and some Jameson’s Irish whisky. When in Dublin, there’s only one cigar store to visit, find us on Grafton street and mention C.Gars for a warm welcome.

I’ve had a crazy busy time since returning from the Festival in Havana especially since our Spring – Online Auction was held on the 7th March.

The results were amazing with all but 5 Lots being sold  within or above the estimate range. Clearly the market for good quality mature and aged cigars shows no sign of slowing down. Prices were very firm indeed, a few bargains were had, Davidoff and Dunhill prices keep increasing as do pre Embargo cigars.

From all the feedback from bidders and sellers, everyone was happy with the functionality of the site which puts a big smile on my face as we created it completely in house. So well done to Laura and her Team at our Norfolk offices.

We’ve almost completed our auction admin work (quite a task I can tell you!) and we expect that all auction Lots that have not been collected already will be shipped out over the next week… Making way for the next auction!

Our Summer Auction will be held online again on the 1st June 2014 and we are inviting prospective sellers to contact us soonest as the catalogue is almost full already so we will likely close it in a few weeks’ time. Once again we will offer a fine selection of aged, mature, pre-embargo, limited edition, Davidoff, Dunhill and limited edition humidors, cigars for smoking and cigars for collecting. Always happy to take any enquiries by email at sales@cgarsltd.co.uk

For those who enjoyed our rather outrageous Winter Auction event at Boisdale Canary Wharf (Cigar Smoker of the Year Awards Dinner with Boisdale and The Spectator) you’ll be pleased to hear that Ranald and I had our first planning lunch meeting last week (at the lovely and cigar friendly Boisdale Belgravia) and we are planning another spectacular event this December.

Last week I visited our cigar and whisky shops up in Glasgow and Edinburgh, had a few drams of Robert Graham single malt and smoked a few too many Inka Secret Blend cigars with my partner Ron, whilst reviewing our retail operations.

Our shops are such a delight as are our retail Team. Jo at our Rose street branch is very happy with her walk in humidor which has been refurbished to twice the previous size. We’re expanding our range substantially due to huge demand from many of our clients.

Linda at our flagship Glasgow store is delighted with her additional showcase Davidoff humidor whilst Dougie in Canongate tells me we have a larger and more exclusive range of single malt whisky than we have ever had before.

naturally_sevenI love hanging out at retail and chatting to our customers, it’s great to find out what they are looking for so we can make sure we stock the right range for all of our customers. I never know who I will bump in to and at the Glasgow store it was a pleasure to meet some of the guys from Naturally Seven, the group that perform with Michael Buble who were playing in Glasgow.

I also popped into our Cambridge store and herfed Davidoff Puro d’Oro from the new Davidoff walk in humidor with clients in our sampling lounge. Our next tasting evening is on this link.

Back to London and I zoomed round our shops in West Hampstead and Mayfair – small shops, huge range and a warm welcome from our experienced staff. Relatively easy parking and of course cigar sampling encouraged at both locations. Take advantage of our click and collect service by ordering online at website prices (guaranteed lowest in the UK) and collect in store!

Last Thursday I herfed with  a few of my smoking chums at the Edward Sahakian cigar shop and lounge at the Bulgari hotel. Great to see Mike Choi back from Havana with a more than respectable 2nd place in the International cigar sommelier contest. We herfed our way through BHK 54’s matched up with Dalmore cigar malt and then headed back to my smoking deck which is finally complete in my garden. Fire pit, heating, lighting and seating all well tested and working!

It’s that bloody Budget time of year and time for the Chancellor to bash the smoker again no doubt. I’m holding prices as long as stocks last but if you want to beat this week’s Budget get your orders in soonest.

Heading off to Basel for the Davidoff Retail Panel meeting in the morning, will be there for a couple of days and then off to Paris… Back in London office Friday to catch up but always available on email and more than happy to advise.

Have a smokey week,

Peaceful puffing,

Mitchell

Gallery

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XVI Festival del Habano

The weather has changed from rainy and humid to blue skies and sunshine in Havana and I’ve been tearing around herfing at all the usual joints during the last few days of the Festival.

The cigar shops are fairly full of regular stocks but everyone moans as usual that they can’t find any ‘specialities’ like Ramon Allones Replica, Partagas Gran Reserva, Cuaba Coleccion Habanos books etc. Of course they can’t, I have bought them all already! ;-)

Had breakfast with Simon and Sean from H&F and bumped into Mike Choi from the Bulgari (Sahakian Cigar Shop and lounge) who came second in the cigar sommelier contest. Well done Mike.

The Trade Fair seemed a little quieter than usual but that may be as it was winding up on the last day. I was very excited to see the first of our Turmeaus humidors made specially for us by Cuba de Arte. The humidors are a numbered limited edition of 10 made of Bubinga with intricate marquetry. Planning to release them complete with some outrageous aged Havanas later this year. Partagas VIP was the perfect place for bumping into friends from all over the world and catching up with them over a smoke (BHK54′s) and a spot of Santiago. Manager ‘Hamlet’ is exceptionally hospitable.

Late lunch at Asturia followed by cigar (Hoyo Grand Epicure) and espresso in the cigar lounge. Could this be one of Havanas best kept secrets? Lovely service, comfortable and in a great location.

Headed to Pabexpo for the gala dinner with Pals, David and Zaffie. Simon Chase hitched a lift with us so we were VIP’d through past the crowds into the reception with a glass or two of champagne and an Upmann Half Corona. Good start to the evening that was to celebrate the brand of H. Upmann.

I had a delightful table including David Savona (Cigar Aficionado magazine), Colin Ganley (Cigar Journal), Gary Heathcott (Communications Award nominee), Paresh Patel (Havana House – Windsor) and Bert Stagnetto from Gibraltar LCDH. Needless to say that a good laugh was had by all.

Being a veggie, the food ain’t for me but the general consensus was that it was pretty good and the service was very slick. There was plenty of wine and rum too as usual.

Tom Jones at the XVI Festival del HabanoThe evenings entertainment started off with a surprise performance by Tom Jones (who thanked Sir David Tang for the invite) singing 3 songs, including ‘Its Not Unusual’ Tom told us he loves Havana cigars and has been enjoying them since the 1960′s but this was his first visit to Havana. Well ‘my chair turned around’ lol as the Tom Jones performance was the highlight of my trip. Just brilliant!

Entertainment was non-stop (and very loud!… Read that as too loud!) for the rest of the evening. Cigars flowed between dinner course – H. Upmann Connoisseur No. 1 , H. Upmann Magnum 50 and finally the long awaited H. Upmann No. 2 Reserva Cosecha 2010.

The Upmann Reserva did not disappoint (neither have any of the Reserva series!) The additional years of age have softened the usual No. 2 blend into a more sophisticated balanced cigar. Medium sweet, cedar, woody flavours and medium strength. My cigar had a colorado wrapper that was smooth and vein free, cool and easy draw. It doesn’t get much better than this in all honesty. The only down side is we have no idea when they will be released and available in our cigar shops although we are hopeful it will be before the end of the year.

If you haven’t tried previous Reserva series cigars, we usually have Montecristo, Partagas and Romeo Reserva available and you should try them while you can as they are awesome smokes!

If you’re thinking of starting to collect fine cigars, Reserva and Gran reserva are a great place to start. Historically they have proven to go up in value steadily. (We do have limited availability of Partagas Gran Reserva at this time)

Simon Chase conducted a very exciting auction that achieved excellent results with all proceeds going to the Cuban National Health Service.

There were 6 cigar Lots and an extra Lot ’0′ which was a painting.

Lot from the Gala Dinner AuctionIts hard to say which was the best Lot as they were all quite breathtaking. Beautiful cigars and magnificent humidors.

The auction was conducted in Euros and the final hammer (or should I say Chaveta) price included shipping and import duties to final destination.

Well done Habanos S.A. On another incredible evening.

I’m hosting dinner this evening at La Fontana and will be enjoying a 1960′s Montecristo No. 2 with… The oldest rum I can find :)

Raspberry of the week goes to Mastercard who have fraud blocked my credit card whilst in Cuba. Bravo, very clever… Not (I have others no worries!)

In other news… Our Online Cigar Auction ends on the 7th March, still time to get your bids in.

Our next Online Cigar Auction will be Mid April. Still a little time to send us your entries.

Hasta luego

Mitchell

Festival del Habanos

Greetings from sunny Havana where I am enjoying the annual Festival del Habanos.

Just arrived and enjoyed an LFDC Gran Cano in the airport whilst waiting for my suitcase… How civilized :)

My able assistant Arturo met me and my chums as usual with our regular driver Hector who had a bottle of HC7 and a bucket of ice waiting for us, perfect to decompress after a very long Virgin flight.

Never mind unpacking, we were hitting the ground running and straight off to the Robaina shop at the Melia to get some serious herfing started.

Kicking back with a Partagas Gran Reserva and some Havana Club 15 for a sublime combination whilst seeing numerous friends from all over the world that are in Havana to celebrate the finest cigars Havana has to offer and introduce to us this week.

Staying at the Nacional as ever, I reckon the terrace is one of the best places in the world to herf.

Looking forward to the gala dinner where I understand we will be trying out the new H. Upmann Reserva.

We understand the following line up are due to be launched this year although goodness knows when exactly!

Hoyo de Monterrey Le Hoyo de San Juan  150mm length and 54 ring gauge, cabinets of 10, 25 and tubed

Partagas Serie D No. 6  90mm length and 50 ring gauge, cabinets of 20 and 5 packs

Trinidad Vigia 110mm length and 54 ring gauge, cabinets of 12 and tubed

Romeo y Julieta  Julieta 120mm length and 33 ring gauge, boxes of 25

Quintero Petit Quintero 105mm length and 43 ring gauge, bundles of 25

Romeo y Julieta Cedros de Luxe 140mm length and 50 ring gauge, boxes of 10

Por Larrañaga Picadores No.1 127mm length and 48 ring gauge

H. Upmann No. 2 Reserva Cosecha 2010 156mm length and  52 ring gauge, cabinets of 20  Limited edition of 5000

Cohiba Robustos Supremos Limited Edition 2014 127mm length and  55 ring gauge, boxes of 10

Partagas Seleccion Privada Limited Edition 2014 160mm length and 50 boxes of 10

Bolivar Super Coronas  124mm length and 50 ring gauge, boxes of 25

H. Upmann Humidor Antique Replica 50 Butifara Limited edition of 450 humidors

Partagas Coleccion Habanos Serie E No. 1 170mm length and 54 ring gauge, limited edition of 1000 numbered books

I can’t wait for the Cohiba Limited Edition Robustos Supremos, what a funky size with a whopping ring gauge. If the blend is as good as I hope, I’ll be stashing away a huge amount!

Trip photos on my next blog.

Have a smokey weekend… I know I will :)

Hasta luego,

Mitchell