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TRIP TO ITALY (January 2003)

The Founders!

I sent our intrepid reporter Smokeymo to give a talk at the Zino Davidoff cigar dinner in Modena in Italy held by the Buenavida Cigar Club at the fabulous Buenevista Social Club Restaurant. The dinner was attended by more than 70 cigar connoisseurs and aficionados, including Salvatore Parisi who has one of the best collections of Davidoff Havana cigars in the world and is also incredibly knowledgeable as well as Marzia Bertacca, the editor of Smoker Magazine. A most wonderful Italian / English language magazine dedicated to the cigar smoker. The Buenavida Cigar Club kindly presented Smokeymo with a Ferrari Ashtray whilst Smoker Magazine kindly gifted him with a signed Davidoff Millennium cigar.
The Buenevista Restaurant is one of the most beautiful restaurants and very cigar friendly to say the least.  It is located on via Bellaria in Modena.  
C.GARS Ltd gifted some Davidoff cigars and a leather Humidor for the raffle and is proud to be associated with the Buenavida Cigar Club.

Extract from Smokeymos Speech on Zino Davidoff

Zino Davidoff was born in 1906 in Russia and it was in fact his father Henry who opened the first tobacco shop in Geneva in 1911.

In his youth, Zino travelled extensively to study the cigar business and in 1929 Zino returned to the family business in Geneva and introduced probably the first cellar style humidor to store cigars in perfect conditions of temperature and humidity. In 1946 the famous Chateau series of Davidoff was created after the Cubans found that their cigar sales were flat following the 2nd world war and they enlisted Davidoff to lend his name and reputation to a superb line of cigars which were in fact some of the best Havana cigars ever made. These were originally marketed as Hoyo de Monterrey specially selected by Zino Davidoff and distributed in Switzerland by the Zurich importer Durr.

Davidoffs were made in El Laguito from 1969, firstly the No. 1 and No. 2 as well as the Ambassadrice where production at El Laguito peaked to almost 1,000,000 Davidoff.   The largest amount of Davidoff made in any one year reached 3 million cigars.

Due to a quality control dispute between Davidoff and Cubatobacco production officially ceased of all Davidoff cigars in 1991 and thereafter the brand relocated to the Dominican Republic. Although there have been persistent rumours in the industry that Davidoff would one day return to Havana, this has never materialised. It goes without saying that the Dominican version of the cigar whilst an excellent non Cuban is completely different to the Cuban Davidoff. Yes, the Dominican Davidoff looks good, smells good and is constructed to perfection, but the blend does not have the same complexity and cannot be considered an alternative for the Cuban Davidoff. 

At the height of the dispute between Davidoff and Cubatobacco in 1987, Zino Davidoff appeared on French television and condemned the Cubans for their shoddy workmanship. Quite the Maverick Davidoff burned 130,000 cigars in a huge bonfire! to make a point about the unacceptable quality of the cigars that Cubatobacco was making under his name. The best vintages were said to be between 1980 and 1985. Throughout the 1970's and 1980's Davidoff were always concerned about the black market sales of their cigars as well as counterfeits in Switzerland.

One of the most famous Davidoff cigars and indeed the most expensive is the Chateau Y'Quem named after the French sweet wine estate in Sauternes. This rare cigar has sold for over £6,000 for a cabinet of 25 at auction in recent years.

The owners of the estate objected to their name being used and the cigar was subsequently renamed after another Bordeaux Estate, first growth Mouton Rothschild......... the value however of the Mouton Rothschild never reached the dizzy heights of the Y'Quem.

At around 1986 many Davidoff cigars were produced at the La Corona factory in Havana, but Zino was reported as saying 'he could not guarantee the quality' which angered Cubatobacco .

When production stopped and people became aware of the potential collectible value of the cigars, demand shot up and supply was depleted rapidly. Edward Shakian the owner of the Davidoff Shop in London St James's told me a story about one gentleman in 1991 purchasing 7000 Davidoff No. 1's and 2's for a staggering $115,000

In 1967 Zino Davidoff wrote his excellent book 'The Connoisseurs Book of the Cigar' which advises on many aspects of cigar smoking, including his recommendation that one should not smoke the last 3rd of the cigar but let it die a 'natural death'. I'm not certain that many cigar smokers would like to waste the last 3rd of a Davidoff at todays prices!

In Zinos words 'the pleasure of a cigar, you will remember, begins before you smoke it and lingers after it is finished'. 

In 1970 the Oettinger group in Switzerland took over the business of Zino Davidoff and Zino continued in the business almost up until his death in 1994. Whilst the Davidoff shops around the world still sell wonderful Havana cigars, the Davidoff cigars they sell are Dominican and not Cuban.

But, the Davidoff legacy lives on and collectors around the world buy, sell, trade, exchange vintage Davidoff cigars from the mild and flavourful, No. 1, No. 2 and Dom Perignon, to the 1000 series with its punchy caramel and chocolate flavour characteristics, through to the full flavoured rich tasting Chateau series.

The values go up and down according to the market but Davidoff will one day be completely unavailable as there are few around that can be found.

Whether it's the tiny Ambassadrice or the enormous 80th Anniversario, the Davidoff cigar has a unique flavour and a unique blend that in my humble opinion has never been bettered in the Havana cigar.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Zino Davidoff but my grandfather, a Havana cigar connoisseur, did meet Zino in his shop in Geneva on Rue de Rive and I remember him telling me what a gentleman Zino was to deal with, always taking time to chat about cigars and current affairs.  Its a shame that these two great men are no longer with us today. 

The old Davidoff shop has now been refurbished into a beautiful new and modern shop and humidor which is well worth a visit when in Geneva.

The Manager, Thomas Mathys is one of the most helpful and knowledgeable cigar store managers in the industry.  Zino's advice was to smoke softly, nobly and peacefully.........

Our thanks go out to Angelo and Alberto for the kind invitation and Angelo for his overwhelming generosity.

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Other Links

18-01-2003 Montale di Modena - Davidoff Day