From the desk of Smokeymo… www.cgarsltd.co.uk
I created the cigar brand Inka Secret Blend last November to fill a gap in our UK range of cigars. I wanted them to appeal across the spectrum of our cigar smoking clients and not clash with existing ranges of excellent New World cigars. New World cigars are gaining in popularity all the time as the cigar smoker market expands and new smokers are willing to try new brands from new regions.
Secret Blend are different as they are a Puros made in Peru i.e. filler, binder and wrapper – 100% all from Peru. I played around with the blend for many months till I was happy with a range of sizes in natural and maduro wrappers that would deliver a sweet and spicy full flavour but medium strength cigar. My aim was to have a blend that would not display any bitterness or aggression and the blend integrity from one box to the next had to be consistent. Construction and draw was of paramount importance to me as well of course but knowing that every cigar is draw tested made me very confident.
We managed to achieve what we set out to do and released the Inka – Secret Blend range to our clients as soon as we had successfully registered the trade mark. To say that we were happy with the initial sell out is an understatement but after all we do have a huge database of clients stretching back to the mid 1990’s and many of our clients will try anything we recommend. The acid test was our clients reactions and whether they would reorder. We were not disappointed! Repeat orders and regular orders rolled in at an alarming rate and we have been struggling to import Inka – Secret Blend fast enough to keep up with the demand. In fact it’s fast becoming our best selling non-Cuban cigar.
I kept the packaging simple to keep the prices down on the range but don’t think this isn’t a premium cigar because it most certainly is. The Rojo (Red band) range are 100% handmade long filler and the Azul (Blue band) range are handmade medium filler.
The test market was the UK as we are of course the largest specialist cigar merchant in the UK with many cigar stores and a huge mail order and internet business but our plans are to further develop the brand Internationally. With that in mind I decided that it was high time that I headed over to Peru to check out the Tabacalera del Oriente tobacco fields and cigar factory thoroughly and that’s what I did last week!
My Partner Ron Morrison from Robert Graham Ltd who is developing the branding Internationally met up with me in his beautiful Florida home – A perfect way to spend the first nights herfing, overlooking the beach. We smoked Inka Bombaso cigars accompanied by our award winning Highland malt whisky, Ailein Mor until… Very late
The next day we headed from Miami to Lima and spent a day touring round the Inka pyramid archaeological sites which was very interesting. Lunch smokes and drinks at a delightful restaurant overlooking the water. El Salto del Fraile is highly recommended (And cigar friendly!) and afternoon drinks at the Gran Hotel Bolivar in Plaza San Martin.
We then took the flight over to Tarapoto which is where our partner Gennaro Lettieri of Tabacalera del Oriente collected us from the airport with a big baggie of new sizes of Secret Blend for us to try. After a long evening sampling session we agreed that the blend on the new sizes was better than ever.
The two seeds (Some call them the Mother and father) of Nicotiana species originally came from the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes and thereafter were, I understand grown in other regions.
The next few days were spent in the fields and the factory where we observed and learnt about every step in the production process from seed to cigar. The operation was impressively HUGE to say the least, I was amazed at the many hectares of tobacco plants growing as well as the amount of prime Peruvian tobacco being aged and matured to perfection. I was also impressed that Gennaro had already rolled enough Secret Blend cigars to speed up our imports and avoid us running out of stock as has happened all too frequently due to the popularity of the brand.
We have now developed 3 additional sizes of Secret Blend for the UK and they will be rolling out in the next 2 months if all goes to plan. The packaging is a step up but the prices will be keener than ever as we are purchasing such huge volume now. To say this is an exciting project is an understatement.
We will also be launching a range of Secret Blend Internationally with a different set of vitolas as well as super premium packaging, all at a value for money prices. More details to follow.
Many people have asked me what can you compare these cigars with – Cubans, Dominicans? Hondurans? Nicaraguans? The answer is that I can’t compare them. The reason is that the other regions mentioned all make superb cigars and our Peruvian Puros are quite simply different. They may not suit all, but they will suit most cigar smokers, novice and experienced alike.
The people we met in Lima and Tarapoto were super friendly and Tarapoto is a great city. The fauna and flora are breath-taking.
My thanks to Gennaro and his team for giving us such a warm welcome. We are looking forward to our next visit later this year.
Back to Miami to relax for a day before flying home and I enjoyed herfing at Deco Drive cigars on Lincoln. South Beach is buzzier than ever and I love Deco Drive cigars – Always great service.
Back to London and back in the thick of the action! the June 10th cigar auction Lots are now live and bids are already rolling in. It’s a huge 340 + Lot auction and our events are always great fun.
Auction catalogue is on this link, Bids can of course be placed online or by email always happy to advise regarding any specific Lots and a reminder to be careful to bid on Lots that can be shipped to where you are located (See notes on each Lot)
You can also join us and bid at the auction at Boisdale as well enjoy a whisky and cigar tasting.
Next week we have a Cuban cigar roller at our offices rolling ‘ freshies!’ Juramys Valdés Alguezabal began her career at the Romeo y Julieta factory in Havana and quickly demonstrated the skill and understanding required to achieve the highest ranking within the categories defined by the Cuban Cigar industry before transferring across to the Partagás factory where she has been for the last 9 years. We are looking forward to welcoming her.
May 23rd cigar and whisky tasting at Cambridge Robert Graham is now fully booked but we still have a few places available at the June 13th tasting event and I look forward to seeing friends for an evening of fine single malt and cigars at both.
That’s all the news for now,
What is project X?? Well I’m afraid I can’t tell you dear blog reader or I would have to shoot you But if you look at the photo you will see that I have had a hard day’s work testing out sample blends for a new, very exciting and exclusive cigar being made for Turmeaus Tobacconist.
Not easy smoking my way through a dozen blends but with my trusty palate cleansing sherbet dib dab I managed to make it through the day! That said, my office was in a complete cloud and the smoker filters could hardly cope!
The cigars are from one of the finest tobacco growing regions in the world and the final blend is light to medium strength but very full sweet and smooth flavoured. The type of cigar that leaves you wanting to spark up another one as soon as you have finished the first one.
We expect to launch later this year and it will be available in all Turmeaus tobacconist shops as well as Robert Graham shops and C.Gars Ltd online – More details on Project X soon!
I had a terribly busy Tuesday with lunch at the magnificent Wellesley. Blow the diet! I went for an ‘Old Fashioned’ (best I have had anywhere in the world) and pasta followed by a Cohiba 1966. You can order from the full menu or the bar menu and enjoy it on the terrace by an open fire. Friendliest service and a magnificent selection of vintage, rare and recent production Havanas in the breathtaking walk in humidor. Can’t recommend this cigar venue highly enough.
I continued herfing at the Bulgari Hotel in the evening with friends from overseas (Well… Texas and Essex… Does Essex count as overseas?!) The manager, Mike Choi, took excellent care of us as usual and recommended delicious Trinidad Havanas cigars for my friends who were novice smokers but I think may be hooked now. We whammed through a bottle of Ailen Mor our award winning single malt whisky followed by a few bottles of Champagne.
Great article in Cigar Journals latest issue. After years of selling vintage cigars we seem to be getting more recognition than ever in the press lol. Seriously we love this real cigar magazine. Loads of news and reviews and great photography too.
If you haven’t booked up already we have 2 great cigar and whisky tasting events coming up at Robert Graham – Cambridge. Nominal priced tickets, drinks, smokes and canapés included… Yes I will be at both events and happy to do a Q&A as usual
Auction Catalogue is closed and at the printers! It will also be online next week. Almost 350 Lots of Vintage, Aged, Rare, Mature, Davidoff, Dunhill and Pre Embargo cigars will be sold on June 10th at Boisdale Canary Wharf. Come and join us for an evening to remember cigar and whisky tasting as well as canapés and auction.
Could be your last chance to stash Cohiba 1966 Limited edition. Great smokes and potentially a great investment if past Cohiba LE’s are anything to go by. When they are gone they are gone so stash ‘em while you can.
We retrofitted our London office walk in humidor so we can fit another 300 boxes of cigars and I must say it looks pretty impressive. We were so choc a block I couldn’t even see the stocks we have and had a few nice surprises when I finally managed to rearrange all of our stocks including:
Cohiba Gran Reserva
La Gloria Cubana Gloriosos
Por Larranaga Magnificos
Cohiba Seleccion Reserva
I even found a Bolivar Centenary humidor (EMS of course) and a Cohiba Millennium jar
… And it really went on and on
Ok well its May and that’s another week done so I am the hell outta here and heading to sunny Peru this weekend to check out the fields and factory where my Inka – Secret Blend cigars are being made. Sorry for the delay in availability of the robustos and petit coronas. They are now imported into the UK and should clear customs and be on the shelves and online store next week,
Full Peru report on my next blog
Have a very Happy May bank holiday weekend
Packed up my Palio cutter and lighter and headed to New York City last Thursday for a solid week of serious herfing :) with Guy Hancock from the Decent Cigar Emporium Dublin.
As always I flew on fabulous Virgin Atlantic and chilled out at the Upper Class lounge in Heathrow before the flight. After a few drinks and a massage I was in good shape to sleep on the way over the Pond. The cabin was half empty so I was uber comfortable but ready for a smoke on arrival!
Morning smokes at De La Concha on 6th Avenue. I smoked a huge 60 ring gauge Davidoff Puro D’Oro – Total gob stopper!! DLC is comfortable and well located and the staff always offer a warm welcome.
Afternoon smokes at Cigar Inn on 2nd Avenue accompanied with a bottle of Signatory Clynlish 1998 from Ambassador wines next door. Great liquor store with very good prices. Cigar Inn is a great place to relax, super friendly service – Highly recommended.
Saturday evening I headed to the Sinatra tribute show at Carnegie Club actually it was so good I stayed for 2 shows. Herfed my way through a baggie of Regius cigars paired with my ‘go to’ Mac 12.
Sunday was a Fuente herfing afternoon at Club Macanudo with loads of friends who joined us for a bottle of wine or two or three We then moved on to Bar and Books on Lexington. Now this place is very cool, bit like a speakeasy! You have to ring the bell to get in and find a comfortable cigar bar/lounge, splendid service and comprehensive drinks menu. I’ll definitely be adding this as one of my regular herfing spots.
Monday afternoon we chilled out at my favourite cigar store in the USA! Nat Sherman, thanks to Mickael Herklots for the hospitality. (I think my friends and I took over his office to herf in for most of the afternoon!) Amazing humidor, fabulous range of accessories and plenty of comfortable armchairs to relax and smoke in. Smoked my way through a few of the Nat Sherman Timeless range of cigars and was rather impressed with them.
Monday evening we threw a herf at Grand Havana Room for 50 friends. This venue has the most breath taking views of NYC. First rate service, canapés and drinks and too many Fuente cigars to count over a long evening that went on till the wee small hours. Our friends were presented with specially engraved Orchant Seleccion 2013 Palio lighters as a parting gift. A great herf was had by all
Finally back to London and happy to get back to my Havana cigar routine… As soon as I arrived with a delicious vintage Romeo Romeo from the 1960’s a monster of a cigars that has aged to perfection.
Back in the office tomorrow and have just found out that its the end of the line for Cohiba 1966… get them while you can!
I have declared this week a Bolivar week :) One of my very favourite brands (For certain sizes at least) and have been enjoying an excellent rotation as follows:
Breakfast smoke with espresso – Bolivar Corona Junior
Lunch time smoke with a glass of wine – Bolivar Belicosos Finos cabinet Selection 2009 vintage. A sweet full flavoured smoke.
After dinner smoke with a dram of single malt the perfect choice Bolivar Petit Belicosos by my fireplace. Sheer heaven. Full flavour and full strength. The Single malt is perfectly balanced with this powerhouse limited edition from 2009
…and in between it had to be Bolivar Britanicas one of my favourite regional editions and exclusive to the UK (Sold out by our importers so you would need to hurry to stash some away) Great shape, great size and perfect Bolivar old style blend, full flavour, medium strength, earth and spice.
I love the flavour of Bolivar and I love the depth and dimension in the blend, when they are good they are great.
To make my Bolivar week complete, I enjoyed lunch at 5 Hertford Street with a good friend who graciously gifted me the Chinese regional edition Bolivar Distinguidos. Helluva smoke
Michelle is taking a break for a couple of days, no doubt exhausted after a week of photographing well over 300 Auction Lots for our June 10th sale .
We have a superb selection of Aged, Mature, Vintage, Limited edition, Pre Embargo, Dunhill and Davidoff boxes, cabinets, humidors and jars to knock down on the evening and I’m delighted to announce that Balvenie have kindly offered to do another excellent whisky tasting as part of the evening. Add Boisdale Canary Wharf wines, canapés, hospitality as well as C.Gars Ltd English Market Selection Havanas and I think it’s fair to say that we are going to enjoy a wonderful event.
Tickets available on this link.
Cigar auction catalogue will be online and in print around 4 weeks before the sale.
Inka – Secret Blend Petit Coronas and robustos have completely sold out yet again – Sorreee but will be arriving next week. If you can’t wait, try Bandolero great value and great smokes!
I’m overseas late next week again herfing in a sunnier climate (I hope) then back for a few days and off to Peru to test out some new blends and approve new packaging for additional range of Inka – Secret Blend cigars (Finally happy to report that we have received our trade mark for this brand… All very Dragons Den )
My Twitter account and my Facebook account are in competition to see who can get the most followers so if you are not already following me… You know what to do
We have whisky and cigar tasting evenings planned at Robert Graham – Cambridge for May and June, if you would like to be put on the mailing list, drop me a line email@example.com
Taking pre orders now for ‘Partagas – The Book’ expected at the end of this month. Order early to avoid disappointment.
Following the Budget, prices have been increase but not by much as we have absorbed the price increase as much as we possibly could. Don’t forget, we guarantee to offer the best prices in the UK. We have HUGE inventory and deliver rapidly. We are also online 24/7 – Every day of the year so if you need any advice or suggestions or want to tell us something that we are doing well or something that we can improve on we are always happy to hear from our clients and friends. firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a smokey weekend
First quarter of the year gone already! If ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ I must be having a marvellous life as it seems that Christmas was a few minutes ago and we are already making business plans for Christmas 2013!
One of my marketing Team at our Norfolk office decided to do an April Fools on our Facebook site claiming that I have been invited to appear as a judge in the next series of the Apprentice! Needless to say… I am not! Thanks for all the emails congratulating me lol
I spent the long Easter weekend herfing through a good variety of superb smokes including:
Juan Lopez Orchant Seleccion no.1
Helluva smoke, rich and sweet, cool and easy draw.
Davidoff Puro D’Oro Sublimes
This small format cigar packs quite a punch, I’m becoming fond of Davidoff smokes (Oh and Year of the Snake cigars coming out next week! Which will fit nicely into the Elie Bleu Year of the Snake humidors :))
Punch Serie D’Oro no.1
Still may favourite regional edition of all time.
Cohiba Magicos 2007 vintage
Outrageously good cigar with the benefit of 6 years in the humidor now.
Trinidad Fundadores 2002
13 years age on this cheeky smoke has made it a firm favourite.
Our ‘new’ Cambridge shop doesn’t feel new anymore and has been well integrated into our Group. The cigar and whisky sampling lounge has proved very popular indeed as has our specialist range of whisky and tobacco. Cambridge was crying out for a cigar specialist and we are very happy to have expanded to this location.
We have a cigar and whisky tasting planned for June 12th at Cambridge, drop me a line for details. email@example.com
I’ll be at Robert Graham Cambridge this Sunday from noon – Pop in for a coffee sampling session with me
Glasgow is our smallest whisky and cigar shop but one of our most successful. After quite a few year in West Nile street we are planning to relocate in the Summer to a flagship store for the Group. In fact if all goes to plan this will be the largest cigar shop in the UK with a walk in humidor breath taking in design and astonishing in range as well as our full offering of Robert Graham Dancing Stag award winning single malts of course and a very comfortable whisky sampling lounge. More details to follow…. And then coming to a location near you ☺
Our latest release is this first rate single malt in Robert Grahams’ Dancing Stag range: Miltonduff 1998 Limited edition of 420 bottles and great value at £46.50 a bottle. I love a good Speyside with my cigars and this one is the perfect complement especially with the delicious Cohiba Maduro Genios that I’m smoking now from 2007 vintage.
Inka Robustos in blue and red as well as more Poderosos and petit coronas are due to arrive in the next few days. I am somewhat staggered by the success and popularity of the Secret Blend range. I plan to release the premium line of Aztec Secret Blend later this year which I believe will become the most popular premium brand of non-Cuban cigars in the UK.
A few places still available for June 10th Cigar Auction on this link.
Last few days to stock up before our online prices increase, we’ll be keeping the increase as small as possible and as always guarantee the best prices in the UK (Don’t blame me… blame the Chancellor!)
Have a smokey weekend
Best from snowy London