I’ve been attending the IPCPR tobacconist trade show in the USA for the last 17 years. It has always been a brilliant opportunity for me to meet suppliers and chat with other retailers as well as clients of ours. From exceptionally humble beginnings 2 decades ago Laura and I have managed to create a colossus of a cigar and smokers accessory business and the US trade show has been a monumental factor helping in that growth as it always gave us the opportunity to bring in ranges of humidors and accessories that no one else would have in the UK. Better still as importers we passed the savings on to our customers and ensured best value as well as best range in the UK.
As the business grew and grew we expanded our cigars range from Havanas only, steadily into New World cigars and introduced some incredible ranges to our clients such as Fuente, Padron, Oliva, Dunhill and Davidoff to name a few. As the popularity of New World cigars grew we started to add boutique and other high quality brands such as Regius, Inka, Nat Sherman, Tatuaje and many others to bring our clients a huge choice of cigars from all the different tobacco growing regions.
At last year’s show I was ‘wowed’ at the Padron exhibition stand by the Padron 50th anniversary humidor - I think this is possibly the single most beautiful humidor I have ever seen. The cigars
50 perfectly crafted cigars per humidor made with the finest tobacco aged for 10 years. Available in natural or maduro wrapper and a unique bold full flavoured blend make this possibly the finest cigar I have ever smoked from Nicaragua. Demand was high as we expected but Padron kindly allocated a small number of humidors to C.Gars. We are keeping number 321 humidor for display in a flagship store we are planning to open later this year.
What a lot of fun I’ve had opening specialist cigar stores over the last 15 years. C.Gars started out as a mail order- internet cigar merchant and I remember when we bought the first cigar shop in Liverpool that everyone told me I was mad to do so! Well that store was on its knees thanks to the previous owner and pathetic management but we turned it around and Turmeaus Liverpool will celebrate its 200th anniversary in style in 2017.
I then moved on to open a Turmeaus in Chester, followed by Turmeaus Mayfair. Last year we opened our beautiful La Casa del Habano in Chester and we are soon to open a rather swish Turmeaus Tobacconist in Norfolk.
Whilst all this has been going on I was also the owner and Managing Director of Robert Graham Ltd, another business that was on its knees and hanging on with its last very sad looking whisky and cigar store in Glasgow. Well, long story short, we turned that one around as well, opening additional specialist whisky and cigar stores in Edinburgh Rose street, Edinburgh Canongate, London West Hampstead, Cambridge and of course our incredible flagship in the heart of Glasgow.
Robert Graham Ltd has also won a raft of awards for many of the incredible range of Independent bottled single malt whiskies we created so I’m very proud of that achievement. I am still involved with this fabulous business but have taken a back seat to concentrate on Turmeaus tobacconist expansion and handed the reins over to new managing director Steve Johnstone who will no doubt continue the solid growth and family run ethos of the business for the future.
The tobacco industry is extraordinary in terms of crazy legislation that seems to be never ending (despite being targeted at cigarette smokers but affecting cigar and pipe smokers) and products that are introduced but arrive late in the market, in tiny quantity or not at all ! We are still waiting for the Upmann No.2 Reserva introduced at last year’s Festival in Havana but absolutely no sign of them surfacing as yet ! I wish they would do as they were an outrageously good smoke when I tried them.
Some very good news though insofar as the Hunters and Frankau 225th anniversary Ramon Allones humidor will be released on time and is expected 3rd week of June. Tons of interest in this magnificent humidor and no doubt splendid cigars. I’ll be tucking a few of these away in my retirement fund !
A few events for your calendars :) :
Monday 23rd February – Single Malt Whisky and Havana cigar tasting evening at La Casa del Habano –Chester
Tuesday 17th March – Opening party and Cuban rum tasting evening at La Casa del Habano – Chester. Guest of honour is Sean Croley, Sales Director of Hunters & Frankau
Tuesday 24th March – Launch evening for Turmeaus Tobacconist – Norfolk. Guest of honour is Brian Shapiro of Oliva Cigars
Wednesday 13th May – Cigar tasting evening at Turmeaus Chester featuring Alec Bradley Cigars. Guest of honour is George Sosa
Thursday 14th May Cigar tasting evening at Turmeaus Liverpool featuring Alec Bradley Cigars. Guest of honour is George Sosa
15th June Vintage Cigar Auction 2pm at The Bulgari Hotel Knightsbridge
Lots are already arriving for the next cigar auction and we expect to have a good range of Pre Embargo, Davidoff, Dunhill, Limited Edition, Aged and Rare Havanas knocked down my resident C.Gars auctioneer Jonathan Humbert. If all goes to plan the format of the next auction will be completely different to all previous auctions as this will be a live auction but we are adding additional technology so internet bidders can bid online right up till the hammer falls. More details to follow.
Okay so I am constantly asked what is my favourite cigar and what am I smoking now ? well I can do no better than tell you that I don’t have a favourite ! Yes, I have regular smokes on rotation such as Bolivar Belicosos and Montecristo No.2 but it’s all down to vintage (much like fine wines) when it comes to Havana cigars. I love just about anything from 2007 but I also love trying out some of the great new Havanas such as the incredible Cohiba Robusto Supremo Limited Edition, Partagas Serie D No.6 ( great breakfast smoke) and Trinidad Vigia ( never had a Trini I didn’t like !)
That said I also mix it up a bit these days with New World cigars for a change of pace. My exclusive Orchant Seleccion range by Oliva are on the daily rotation and are selling like mad so it looks like I got that blend just about right. Perfect sizes and unbelievable value for a premium cigar. I honestly don’t think you can find a better value premium cigar in the UK
I’m also enjoying Inka – Secret Blend, the brand and blend I created from 100% Peruvian tobacco. Nothing else like it on the market and a huge success story for C.Gars Ltd.
Not long to go before this year’s Festival del Habanos in Havana. I reckon this is the 16th Festival ( out of 17 held ) that I will attend. This year the featured brands are Romeo y Julieta and Montecristo ( celebrating the 80th anniversary of good old Monte !) and I can’t wait. I think around 2000+ attend the Festival and it’s always good to catch up with friends from all over the world at the Mecca for cigars.
Have a smokey valentines weekend