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Up In Smoke

- By Nick Hammond
Formula Life Magazine

Up In Smoke

Summer Auction Lots
Summer Auction Lots

Gasps and then claps and cheers follow the increasingly savage bidding on a box of 100 pre-embargo Cuban cigars at the C.Gars Ltd Summer Auction. While the two gentlemen involved continue to raise their paddles and auctioneer Jonathan Humbert continues to raise the pitch of his voice, the excited gathering at London's Bulgari Hotel just sits back and watches. It's great theatre.

This mint condition box of 100 cigars - rolled in Cuba prior to 1962 and more than likely still eminently smokeable - eventually sold for £20,500. The winning bid was from a gentleman in the front row, who also procured the lion's share of the best booty in this £435,000 sale of smokes. He was believed to be attending on behalf of a Malaysian client.

"The Ramon Allones box was a beautiful Lot," reflected Mitchell Orchant afterwards. He's the Managing Director of C.Gars Ltd, which runs the London auctions. "But it wasn't the biggest surprise of the afternoon. That, for me, was the box of 25 Dunhill Tubos from the 1980s which went for £7,100 - considerably more than its original estimate of £2,000 - £2,500. In fact, it set a new world record for the cigar." This auction - held in the sleek, dark and sexy cinema in Knightsbridge Bulgari Hotel - was the 15th Orchant has masterminded since 2009.

"They continue to attract bidders from around the world," he says. "We offer up Lots from the world's biggest collections of mature, vintage, pre-embargo and rare Havana cigars. And that gets people flying to London." Cigar investors are a secretive, as well, as canny bunch. It's a small world, and there are only so many desirable Lots to go around. That can force up the price on selected Lots.

"Generally the cigar investor and collector want Cuban Davidoffs and Dunhills and limited edition runs of special cigars in special humidors," one investor told me, off the record. "It's not something we tend to talk about much to outsiders; some of these collections run into hundreds of thousands of pounds and investors like to keep themselves to themselves." He spoke of hidden walk-in humidors, thumbprint

reader security access and clandestine meetings in the dead of night. It's all very James Bond. The "after party" was a much less serious affair - with Lots won and lost and the whole business done and dusted until the next bidding war begins in December - those cigar cognoscenti who didn't have to jet back across the globe, settled into the Edward Sahakian Cigar Lounge in the depths of the hotel

and enjoyed excellent cigars and Scotch courtesy of C.Gars Ltd. Talk about your money going up in smoke.

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