In and… Out!

This blog comes to you from the smokey world headquarters of C.Gars Ltd :) In cloudy Kilburn lol! Not that I’m complaining about the weather today (For a change) as I have just returned from a meeting in bloody freezing Basel, Switzerland.

Even with my best gangster hat and coat on (Think Enzo the baker from Godfather film) I was freezing and struggling to hold my cigar with my gloves on!

So dear blog reader what on earth was I doing in Basel (Or ‘Basil’ as the British Airways lady kept announcing, as in Basil Fawlty!) Well, those jolly nice people at Davidoff kindly invited me to join the Retailer Panel for Europe together with 9 other cigar specialists from Germany, Holland, Belgium and Austria. Fortunately the whole group spoke perfect English and we all got on very well indeed.

Meeting up at the hotel with our friends from Davidoff of London, Eddie and Edward Sahakian on Wednesday evening and introducing myself to the other retailers at the hotel we promptly headed off to Acqua for dinner. If you are ever in Basel, you have to visit this restaurant as it was absolutely splendid. Ambience, menu – First class. Service – Absolutely brilliant. Highly recommended.

Dinner was followed by smokes at Puros y Mas which is a delightful cigar shop with a fabulous walk in humidor as well as a superb smoking lounge upstairs. So we sipped single malt and smoked Davidoff cigars till rather late in the evening or should I say early in the morning.

Thursday morning was an early 8 a.m. start (Good grief – These Swiss boys know how to get up early in the morning, bit of a struggle for me as I usually work a late shift!) and off we went for a series of confidential presentations at the Davidoff offices. More details to follow when the info is declassified :) Save to say we are big fans of Davidoff cigars and sell them online and in all of our stores. Here’s the huge range available by the box and in singles.

I smoked my way through a variety of regular and limited edition Davidoff cigars over a long day and every cigar was quite… Perfect.

Blends were full and sweet, construction was without any doubt as good as it gets, wrappers were silky smooth. All in all 100 pointer smokes that we are happy to recommend to our clients. We plan to increase our in store range over the coming months and will also hold a few tastings in our Cambridge flagship store.

My thanks to Albert and the Davidoff Team for the hospitality and a wonderful 24 hours in Basel.

Headed to the airport with the Sahakian chaps and tried to check in, only to be told that the B.A flight was overbooked and I should spend another night in Basel and take the morning flight! After I stopped laughing (as I thought it was a joke) and went suitably bonkers, fortunately they managed to ‘find’ me a seat on the flight that I had booked some months ago. Excellent for the blood pressure I’m sure.

Headed back home to decompress with a Romeo Reserva and a wee dram of Ailein Mor clearing up over 2000 emails from the previous 24 hours. Good grief, we are one busy little cigar merchant.

I think we may well be madly busy currently due to the expected HUGE tax increase on tobacco due in next week’s Budget. Its sensible to stock up. Cigars have never gone down in price in a Budget! We have enormous stocks of premium cigars in our 2 warehouses and 10 retail cigar shops and will hold prices as long as possible but inevitably they will be increasing very soon after the Budget.

The new import of Inka - Secret Blend cigars from Peru (Very proud to boast that I created this brand!) arrived last week including the new size Poderoso maduro and as predicted the cigars are literally flying off the shelves. In fact I think we have now sold out of the robustos! Fear not, we have another huge import on the way :)

So , they came in and they went out!… Finally we received first allocation of  Romeo y Julieta Churchill Reserva which were first introduced to the cigar trade at the 2012 festival over a year ago. Well done to all the clients who pre ordered at the silly low introductory price and apologies to all the clients who are on back order. We hope to have more stock in the next week or so. These cigars are very tasty indeed possibly the best of the Reserva series though the others aren’t too shabby. I’ve put a sampler pack together of all of the Reserva cigars (Cohiba, Montecristo, Partagas and Romeo) which will likely be very popular. These really are Havana cigars at their best. View the Reserva Sampler here.

I’m very happy to introduce my latest Orchant Seleccion Havana cigar, selected by yours truly from Hunters and Frankau finest EMS stocks. Just 27 cabinets of 25 Juan Lopez Seleccion no.1 cigars from 2008 vintage will be made and double banded and branded Orchant Seleccion. Selected for their excellent blend integrity and condition, these delightful corona gordas have smooth colorado wrapper, a good draw, medium strength and an array of sweet flavours from the first to the last puff. Available in singles and cabinets whilst stocks last which won’t be for long. My thanks to Sean Croley at Hunters & Frankau for all his kind assistance with our Orchant Seleccion cigars.

Well that’s another week done and I’ll be in Cambridge this Sunday at our fabulous Robert Graham cigar lounge sampling some Dancing Stag single malt and sampling some fine smokes from one of the two huge walk in humidors. Open from noon – Come and join me for a sampling session with pleasure.

Have a smokey weekend

Peaceful puffing

Mitchell

 

15th Habano Festival

15th Habano Cigar FestivalJust back from the 15th Habano Festival and if my memory serves me correctly, this is the 13th that I have been privileged to attend. I reckon it is also my 60th trip to Havana since 1997!

The Festival celebrates different brands every year, sometimes because a new brand is being launched or re-launched (As in Vegueros) or the brand is celebrating an anniversary. New cigars are also introduced (Though not usually released immediately) to the cigar trade.

It’s also the perfect opportunity to meet up with friends every year (Suppliers, retailers, aficionados, connoisseurs and the Press) from all over the world to enjoy the best cigars and rum in the world.

After a glass of Champagne in the Virgin lounge at Gatwick we boarded a jam packed flight to Jose Marti airport. The passengers were all tourists as I travelled last Thursday whilst most Festival attendees leave a few days earlier. Cuba has become a huge holiday destination no doubt due to the good weather (Generally), music (Everywhere!), cigars, rum and friendly people.

I’m frequently asked what I have noticed has changed over the years and I usually struggle to notice any significant difference (Except the drinks are more expensive!). This time though I did notice that customer service seemed to be far better than ever at most places I visited. I was also staggered by the increased amount of vintage American cars on the roads which I  believe is due to the government allowing private taxis to operate.

I stayed at the Hotel Nacional as usual. Perhaps not the most luxurious hotel in Havana but the perfect meeting place. I can herf on the Terrace day and night and keep bumping into friends that I know. When the embargo finally ends and an International hotel chain stamps its mark on the Nacional I believe it will be the finest hotel in Cuba.

Cigar Roller in Cuba - 15th Habano Cigar FestivalI visited (Read that as “Smoked my way round!”) a few of the cigar shops including Partagas, Melia Habana. Nacional. Melia Cohiba, 5th y 16th, Habana Libre and Palacio and was surprised that they were not bursting full of cigars in the humidors although they all had a reasonable selection of regular stocks. It’s a shame there is rarely anything… Rare, in the shops for the Festival as they have such a captive audience for the Festival week. Not sure I understand why.

My favourite remains ‘The Robaina shop’ at the Melia Habana Hotel. The cigar storage is quite perfect and the staff take great care of clients and clients cigars. The lounge is comfortable with a well-stocked bar and there’s a great range of rums as well as Yolanda rolling fresh custom blends. The Italian restaurant ‘La Bella Scala’ is very close to the shop and the food was pretty good with the best service I can ever remember in Havana.

Hoyo de Monterrey Humidor - 15th Habano Cigar Festival AuctionI went to the cocktail party at the Melia Cohiba which was a packed event – Cocktails/canapés/very loud music and a good crowd of cigar aficionado’s. Somebody bid 6000 Pesos at their auction for I believe a Hoyo humidor which was an astonishing price!

Montecristo brand introduced the new Petit no.2 and Double Edmundo with their new distinctive bands (Vast improvement). I have tried both of these cigars and look forward to them being released into the market. The Double Edmundo is sure to be very popular (6 1/8” length and 50 ring gauge) and was quite delicious. The Petit no.2 measures in at 4 3/4″ length and 52 ring gauge and will be a welcome addition to the range.

Vegueros are being re-launched in tins and I understand will be in the UK market at some stage.

My friend Amir introduced his new book on Partagas at the trade fair and I can’t wait till we have them available in the UK. A huge amount of work has gone into this incredible 270 page book which is a must for every cigar aficionado.

The trade show at the convention centre was the busiest that I can ever remember it and the Habanos stand was showcasing the specialities in the range current and future. I mooched around all the antiques stands but only managed to find a couple of photos, few Ramon jars, a Siboney Tronquito and a Romeo Barelito.

I did manage to find a fabulous humidor manufacturer based in Pinar del Rio who we have commissioned to make some special humidors for upcoming anniversaries of C.Gars Ltd and Turmeaus Tobacconist. I’ll be inspecting the prototypes when I head to the Partagas Festival in November.

The factories tour was a bit too crazy for me and I gave up after visiting the Upmann factory. Partagas factory seems to be an art gallery at this time and operations have been move to the ‘Pollack’ building.

I did manage to have a splendid tour of El Laguito where I bumped into Ana Lopez (Previously Cuban Director of Hunters and Frankau) who kindly introduced me to Jorge Luis Fernandez Maique from Habanos S.A. as well as Danny Glover who was one of the guests of honour at the Festival. (The other was Boris Becker)

Production was just getting rolling (Pardon the pun) at this time of year and most of the rollers seemed to be making BHK 52/54 and 56. Plenty of draw testing and quality control going on and the production manager told me that tobacco quality was quite excellent so I have high hopes for this year’s box codes. Tour ended with a complimentary cigar and coffee in the smoking lounge which was delightful.

The Gala dinner on Saturday evening was, I have to say the most ‘slick’ event I think I have ever attended at any Festival. I had a lovely crown on my table including my smoking buddy David, Danny who worked for C.Gars Ltd Mayfair but is travelling now for a few months, Simon Chase and Chris from the fabulous Cuban Cigar Club in Newcastle

The evening was dedicated to the Partagas brand and we enjoyed smoking Serie D no.5, Serie D no.4, Serie E no.2 and Partagas Gran Reserva throughout the evening. Our Hunters & Frankau table was in pole position at the front so we had a great view of the stage and the nonstop singing and dancing entertainment which was about as good as it gets.

The star of the evening was the Partagas Gran Reserva. This could well be one of the richest, smoothest creamiest cigars I have ever smoked. I can’t wait for it to be released (5000 cabinets of 15 cigars)

Simon Chase did his usual splendid job as auctioneer and raised some £900,000 for the Cuban National health service knocking down some fantastic and breath-taking one off humidors.

Sunday evening I was invited to Club Fumadores at LCDH Miramar (5th and 16th) for dinner dinks and smokes. Excellent crowd, Partagas P2’s and a great way to spend the last night in Havana.

The Virgin lounge at Jose Marti has a smoking room so I managed to herf a BHK 54 pre-flight… How civilized! Upper class cabin on the flight was filled with H&F people! David, Simon, Jemma and Sean. Back to London and the traffic was pretty awful from the airport so I relaxed with another BHK 54 :)

Unfortunately the weather left a lot to be desired as it was fairly windy with the odd spot of rain now and again. Hopefully better weather in November for the Partagas Festival. Our travel partners at Cuba Welcome will be putting together a program for the Festival and you can email Mike Mirecki or C.Gars Ltd for more details

Back to sunny London and it’s good to be back in the office, I smoked another of my Partagas Gran Reserva this afternoon and my impression had not changed since Havana. Truly a 100% rating from me.

Next week I’m off to Basel for retailers meeting with Davidoff which I’m looking forward to.

Peaceful puffing

Mitchell

Cuban Cigar cartoon - Whisky and cigars

 

Still herfing… After all these years!

Do you follow me/us on Facebook? If not, you really should, particularly as it gave me the best laugh of the year last week :) and dear blog reader… Let me tell you why!… My wife and co-director of C.Gars Ltd, Karyn posted a photo of her and I holding a baby with the caption ‘Welcome to the newest arrival in our family’ and we literally received 100’s of emails and FB messages from friends and clients congratulating us on our new baby and lots of surprise that no one knew we were having a baby.

We even had someone emailing to ask how difficult it was for us to adopt a baby at our old age! Of course we never said it was our baby!!! So to put the record straight for the 100th time this week – Mazal tov (Congratulations) to our nephew and niece Gabriel and Verity on the birth of their very beautiful baby daughter ‘Ava’.

I mean come on – Can you imagine me having another kid? (I’m allergic to children!) Good grief!! I’m looking forward to having a celebratory Dunhill or two with my Father and Nephew in the very near future :)

Cigar Auctioneer Brian Ebbesen and I zoomed over to Geneva for a super long days business meeting on Monday. The SqeezyJet was delightfully comfortable providing you don’t have arms or legs but was at least on time. We didn’t manage to visit any of the lovely Geneva cigar shops but we did sneak a crafty Cohiba piramides Extra smoke at the Kempinski hotel in sub-zero temperatures (Brrrr) as well as a Davidoff Ch Latour from ’89 at the smoking lounge at Geneva airport (Courtesy of JT tobacco) bravo Geneva airport where common sense has prevailed.

Tuesday evening and Karyn and I had a little time to kill after we closed the office so we zoomed over to the cigar terrace at the Lanseborough which was rather full of cigars smokers. We have an amazing range of cigar friendly establishments in London now but the Lanesborough was the choice as they serve the best smoked salmon in the world! (Ever thinking of my stomach!!) so over a few glasses of Tatinger Rose and 2 Cohiba Behike ( a 54 and a 56) as well as the usual brilliant service from Davide and Mateo, we had a most relaxing herfette.

The Lanesborough has a super range of limited edition and vintage Havana cigars. I spotted Davidoff, Dunhill selection, Gran Reserva and Cohiba Behike 40th anniversary to name a few. Great place to herf in London – Always highly recommended.

Inka Secret Blend cigarsInka – Secret Blend cigars from Peru have arrived and will be back in store and online early next week. Our hugely successful Bombaso maduro has been imported in substantial quantity so hopefully we won’t stock out again. (Popularity of this cigars certainly took me by surprise!)

Torano’s have been the big success story of the last week and clearly the blends in this range and the keen pricing have hit the spot with our friends. Checkout the Torano range here, boxes, singles and samplers. If you haven’t tried them yet, you really won’t be disappointed when you do.

Co-Director Laura and I are working tirelessly on our website redesign and hope to have it online in the next month. Since our business was established our website designs have always been created in house which we are suitably proud of. As Laura and I are getting so terribly old now, we rely on young James in our IT Team to guide us through all the latest design innovations and we are looking forward to our friends comments when we go live.

I’m getting ready to head to Havana for the Festival next week and looking forward to trying out the latest Havana cigars planned for this year’s release. I’m staying at the Hotel Nacional as usual and looking forward to catching up with fellow cigar smokers from all over the world, as we do every year. My friend Amir is launching his phenomenal if not breath-taking ‘Partagas – The book’ an incredible journey through the history of Partagas with outstanding photography and information about the factory, the brand, the owners and… Everything Partagas.

Vintage Cigar Auction? (Loads of clients are asking!) Yes yes – Absolutely, we are planning our next (Summer) auction but have not set the date yet although it is likely to be sooner rather than later so if you wish to enter Lots… Get them in fast as we are planning to make this our biggest auction ever if not the biggest in cigar auction history! Email enquiries to Auctions@cgarsltd.co.uk

Peaceful puffing

Mitchell

Happy Valentines!

It’s been a nonstop herfing week since my last blog, no idea how I have any time to actually run this huge business (That was sort of tongue in cheek as Laura and Michelle run the business!)

It started off last Thursday with 30+ attendees at our first whisky and cigar sampling at our fabulous Robert Graham shop in Cambridge where we released the latest in our Dancing Stag single cask single Malt whisky range. Our Mortlach from 1996 is bottled at 46% and paired up perfectly with the Mi Amor cigars kindly supplied by Scott and Ludo from Tor Imports.

We also enjoyed our splendid Auchentoshan 1991 paired up with a variety of other cigars including Inka – Secret Blend from Peru and Regius from Nicaragua.

Cambridge Evening news sent over a photographer who took some splendid photos of our Team looking magnificent in their kilts – Hope to have the photos up soon.

The tasting went on somewhat longer than expected (Until 2 am!) due to the variety of cigars that were sampled. Thanks to the Robert Graham Team for the splendid canapés and service and special thanks to Chris, our Manager at Robert Graham Edinburgh for coming down to help set up the evening.

Friday morning was spent at the Cambridge cigar lounge with friend and clients sampling Bolivar Britanicas, 2012 UK regional edition which has all but sold out now – Hurry if you want to stock up on these superb limited production cigars. Full flavoured, sweet and complex, great shape and size – Truly a delight.

Saturday evening pre herf with friends at my house with a bottle of Boisdale champagne and an El Rey del Mundo Choix De l’Epoque another winning UK regional edition before heading to the Palladium to see A Chorus Line. The theatre is really quite beautiful, such a shame that the seats are only comfortable if you have no arms. Having unfolded my body after 2 hours of being incarcerated in the hugely uncomfortable Palladium seats, we headed off to the Hard Rock Café for some late night cocktails and then back home for some serious herfing.

One of my friends had bought a sealed box of Punch Ideales from the 1960’s at one of the C.Gars Auctions and decided it was time to crack it open. It’s always a risk buying a sealed box as you never know if the cigars will be in decent condition or not. The box was probably one of the best auction bargains I have ever seen and when we opened it the bouquet was outstanding and the cigars were pristine- we were in for a treat. The Ideales vitola is a difficult cigar to blend correctly and slender ring gauges can of course have tighter than desired draw, however these cigars were blended and constructed to perfection. We ended up smoking 4 of them back to back and each one was quite perfect. Rich, smooth, medium to full strength and full of sweet flavours from start to finish.

We wrapped up around 3 a.m with Punch Serie D’Oro no.1 – the 2008 UK regional edition and a few drams of Dancing Stag Clynelish.

Fast forward to Sunday brunch time and the herfing continued in earnest with some 1960’s Montecristo no.2’s paired up with some ’96 Bollinger. It’s amazing how well cared for Havanas can age for 50 years and be such incredible mature cigars. Aged cigars are not better than recent production cigars… They are just different, they may suit some palates and not others. They are certainly not for the novice and an acquired taste even for some experienced Havana cigar smokers.

Last night’s herf was my first visit to the Bulgari Hotel cigar lounge/sampling room, supplied by my friends Edward and Eddie Sahakian of Davidoff – London. I enjoyed a couple of Bolivar Petit Belicosos limited edition 2009 (Full strength, full and earthy flavours) whilst my friends enjoyed sampling a variety of cigars having been very well advised by Manager Mike Choi. We went through a bottle of our Robert Graham Christmas single Malt (Glenfarclas) and had a great evening at this first rate venue in the heart of Knightsbridge. Highly recommended.

My latest import of Inka Secret Blend cigars from Peru has just landed in the UK and should be on our shelves in a few days’ time including a new vitola, sorry for the delay – We have been astonished with the popularity of our brand.

I keep hearing rumours that Romeo Reserva is about to be released but sadly I have not seen them as yet…Newsletter subscribers will be informed the minute they are expected in the humidor of course.

I’m actually taking Valentines evening off to celebrate it with co-Director Karyn :)… And a good cigar or two!

Smokey Valentines wishes

Peaceful puffing

Mitchell

Don’t mention the World cup!

Bit of a heavy sampling session at the office yesterday as my partner Christoph Wolters from La Casa del Habano – Hamburg flew over for our annual general meeting.

A bottle of Clynelish later and we couldn’t agree whether Germany or the UK had the best regional editions!

We sampled our way through Ramon Allones Belicosos German regional contrasted with Ramon Allones Belicosos UK regional 2004 and I’m certain the UK version (Which was the first regional edition) was better but the additional years maturing may have played a factor.

We followed on with Bolivar Especiales German regional contrasted with Bolivar Britanicas UK regional and it was hard to choose which was the better of these two fine cigars.

Finally finishing with my very favourite Punch Serie D’Oro no.1 which is of course my favourite UK regional edition. We both agreed that this has matured into a first rate Havana. Full bodied, rich and complex from start to finish. Hint of sweetness, perfect draw and good dark wrapper leaf. Quite outstanding and a great annual general meeting!

We have been in Hamburg almost 7 years and the business has gone from strength to strength with last year being our best ever year. Our retail shop has a huge range of Havana cigars as well as all smokers accessories and a mouth-watering range of single malt whisky and rum. LCDH – Hamburg also features a superb cigar smokers lounge open till late. C.Gars Ltd and Robert Graham Ltd customers are always assured a warm welcome.

Thursday evening fast approaching and I’m looking forward to the cigars and whisky tasting at Robert Graham- Cambridge we’re launching a new cigar Ashton La Aroma de Caribe Mi Amor Belicoso paired up with the latest Dancing Stage cask release which is a 1995 Mortlach bottles at 46% and sure to be a very popular addition to our award winning range. We’re expecting a good crowd for a memorable evening.

I’m pleased to introduce the Torano range of cigars to the UK. You won’t find them anywhere else in the UK except C.Gars Ltd and our retail cigars shops (More cigars shops than anyone in the UK… All crammed with huge ranges of cigars in our walk in humidors!)

3 weeks to go till the Festival in Havana… I better start packing my lighters :) Looking forward to trying the new Partagas Lusitanias Gran Reserva, not that we have seen the Romeo Churchill Gran Reserva from last year as yet but we are ever hopeful!

Peaceful puffing

Mitchell