Yes…we are in sunny Tenerife!

Karyn and I recently arrived back from a week in sunny Tenerife, in fact our first flight in a long long time (due to bloody Covid restrictions/Lockdowns/ etc etc) I needed a bit of sunny herfing weather and this was the ideal destination.

I hadn’t been to Tenerife for around 35 years and I was very pleasantly surprised at how lovely it is especially with long days of blue skies and 25c temperatures. 😊

We opened our beautiful La Casa del Habano shop late last year but this was my first opportunity to check things out. The shop has a rather huge glass fronted walk in humidor with a very impressive range of singles and boxes stored in perfect condition of course.

The shop also sells a select range of premium spirits and splendid accessories such as lighters, cutters, ashtrays and humidors. Best of all we have a super comfortable cigar terrace for sampling cigars and sipping cocktails.

The shop is located in the very lovely Centro Commercial Duke Shops mall in Costa de Adeje. Our manager Antonio is from Havana originally and assures our customers a warm welcome.

I know Tenerife has always been popular with British holidaymakers but I was so pleasantly surprised to see so many of my clients in Tenerife and at the La casa store whilst I was there! Costa de Adeje is quite idyllic, easy to walk miles along the promenade by the beach lines with lovely bars and restaurants. I can’t wait to go back in the near future.

I’m delighted to announce that we have just launched the rather delicious Aladino range of cigars made by the legendary JRE tobacco farm in Honduras these cigars are truly premium smokes at value for money prices. Since they arrived a few days ago I just can’t stop smoking them! Check out the range here. The Cameroon Robusto and Corojo Robustos are my current faves, truly outstanding. Full sweet flavour, medium strength and crafted to perfection for an easy draw.

As has been well reported by the cigar press, Cuban cigar prices have increased substantially on brands such as Cohiba and Trinidad (where supply is very limited to say the least) Not such huge price increases on other brands thankfully but it’s still worth keeping stocked up as there will be a substantial UK duty increase later this year.

On a happy note, I can report that quality is up substantially and box codes of 2020/2021 are shaping up to be some of the best blended Havanas I have enjoyed in quite some years.

Some of my recent favourites that have impressed include:

Ramon Allones Specially Selected

Bolivar Belicosos

Hoyo Epicure Especial

Por Larranaga Petit Coronas

In terms of New World cigars I’m blasting my way through loads of:

Plasencia Dominique London Seleccion Lanceros (very elegant size, super sweet blend)

Plasencia Orchant Seleccion Toros (yep – I love Plasencia cigars!)

Davidoff Orchant Seleccion Toro (expensive but a bit of a treat)

Mitchellero Robustos (ridiculously good value)

Inka Secret Blend red robustos (always a good smoke)

Alec Bradley Chubby (a bit like me!)

I love to pair up my smokes with a good drink, usually Scotch or rum. This rum took me pleasantly by surprise but sold out ridiculously fast, Eminente Reserva 7 Year Old Rum, this should be available again next week. Our Stalla Dhu Glen Elgin is an outstanding dram with a good cigar (try it with a large ice cube)

Weather forecast looks good in London for the next few weeks so I’m looking forward to some garden herfing!

Have a smokey weekend

Peaceful puffing

Mitchell

C.Gars 25th Anniversary

Greetings from sunny London 😊 Hope you enjoyed a smoky Easter break and are stocked up for the May bank holiday fast approaching.

This October marks the 25th anniversary of C.Gars Ltd. A quarter of a century in a very tough and highly legislated industry is quite a milestone! To say it’s gone fast would be an understatement. It seems like yesterday that Laura and I set up the business with very little money but great determination to become the biggest and the best in the cigar business. Fair to say we achieved that dream though we are still super excited for the future growth of the mighty C.Gars! We hope to be announcing a new cigar store and terrace opening in the near future.

C.Gars started as a pure mail order business with what we believe was the first cigar website in the UK and in the early 2000’s expanded into retail cigar shops starting with the acquisition of the last Turmeaus Tobacconist (established in 1817) shop in Liverpool. The shop had been driven into the ground by its previous owners but we believed we could revive the brand and have indeed been doing so ever since.

Our Dominique London Group now operates from 3 mail order warehouses 24 hours a day / every day of the year and 21 splendid cigars and premium spirits shops in 4 countries. I know we dreamt big when we started the business but the business has grown beyond our imagination.

We are planning to celebrate the 25th anniversary with a Summer party in London in August. If you would like to be put on the guest list, drop me an email we will be releasing 25 numbered and exclusive humidors together with 25 bottles of a very special Stalla Dhu single malt whisky to mark our milestone anniversary.

We also operate our fantastic Vintage Cigar Auction platform and have been conducting incredible auctions since 2009. The next sale will be held on the 21st of June and I have been very busy taking in some incredible vintage Havanas over the last few weeks. We will be offering 300 Lots of aged, rare and mature Havanas as well as Davidoff and pre embargo cigars and single malt whisky.

Havana cigar supply continues to be very patchy with Cohiba supply all but dried up. Many of our favourite size Havanas from across all brands remain unavailable but I have to say in comparison to other countries our brilliant UK importer Hunters & Frankau have generally kept us well supplied and if you can’t find your favourite Havana available there are always plenty of alternatives that are available.

We are still hopeful that the overdue UK regional edition Ramon Allones Private stock will be released this year but at this stage I think it will be very late this year.

Plenty of news in the press about the Cohiba 55th anniversary cigars being released but I’m afraid we don’t expect to see them in the UK any time soon (much as I would like to!)

Our New World range of cigars is quite huge and their popularity goes from strength to strength. I think the market has shifted to around 50/50 Havana cigars to New World cigars now.

We recently released 2 incredible exclusive and, limited edition cigars from Plasencia (one of my favourite brands) read all about the Plasencia – Orchant Seleccion and Plasencia – Dominique London Seleccion on this link I selected the blends for these premium cigars and am very proud of this co – branded project.

We have a huge range of exclusive cigars made for C.Gars and Turmeaus cigar shops  I have carefully selected these brands and blends and build the range over many years. A cigar for every smoker and every occasion. Super quality and great value.

Our range of Independent bottled single malt whisky Stalla Dhu continues to pick up multiple international awards. Read about the range here and if you’re looking for the perfect dram with a cigar look no further than our gold medal award winning Orchant Selection cigar malt.

If you’re looking for a great evening of cigars and whisky sampling check out our events page we have around 80 events planned for the rest of this year and I hope to see you at quite a few of them! If you want a really special evening visit Puffin Rooms, live jazz 7 nights a week, fabulous tapas menu and the largest whisky bar in the North.

I’m off to our beautiful La Casa del Habano store and cigar terrace in sunny Tenerife next week if you’re on the island come and join me for a cocktail 😊 and if not you can usually find me sampling and talking all things cigars at C.Gars – St James’s on a Wednesday.

Have a smoky weekend

Peaceful puffing

Mitchell

 

 

Merry Christmas

I’m not sure how merry this Christmas will be with the threat of another Lockdown looming but we are trying to stay as positive as possible and working hard at fulfilling a record amount of mail orders as well as serving record amounts of customers across our retail stores.

It has been a crazy fast year and a crazy good year for C.Gars Ltd. Although business has been a bit stop start due to the Pandemic we have still somehow managed to continue with our expansion plans having opened our super popular C.Gars – St James’s store at the beginning of the year and we have another specialist whisky and cigar store opening in the next few days (more details soon!)

C.Gars Ltd merged with our partners in Belgium back in March (La Casa del Tabaco) and formed a new super group called Dominique London. The Group has since opened La Casa del Habano stores in Basel Switzerland and Tenerife as well as Watou in Belgium. By my count and by the end of next week we will have some 21 specialist cigar and premium spirit stores in 4 countries. Needless to say we have some very exciting expansion plans for 2022.

After the craziness caused by the Pandemic in 2020 it almost felt like we were getting back to normal a couple of weeks ago at the Cigar Smoker of the Year Awards event at the fabulous Boisdale Canary Wharf having skipped it last year. Truly a night to remember with the best atmosphere I can remember at any of these events. Great food, wine and entertainment and of course enjoyed in the best of company.

                                                                                                    Awards as follows:
The Cigar Communicator of the Year – Sean Croley of Hunters and Frankau
The Cigar Sommelier of the Year – Slawomir Bielicki of Annabels
The Cigar Spirit of the Year – Flor de Caña 130th Anniversary Rum
The Robusto of the Year 2021 – Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2, Cuba
The Cigar of the Year 2021 – Oliva Serie V Melanio Figurado, Nicaragua
The Cigar Producer of the Year 2021 – Davidoff
The Lifetime Achievement Award 2021 – Scott Vines of Tor Imports
The Viña Carmen Cigar Smoker of the Year 2021 – Rafe Spall

Last week I enjoyed one of the highest points of my career in the cigar industry having been awarded the coveted Davidoff Golden Band Award. We were treated to a magnificent dinner at the private dining room of Fortnum and Mason. Truly a night to remember.

The Davidoff brand goes from strength to strength in the UK (and world-wide) An incredible range with blends for all palates, sizes for all occasions and legendary blend consistency and construction. We were so proud to be able to release our second Orchant Seleccion edition from Davidoff earlier this year. The Liverpool edition Toro is a serious smoke for the connoisseur with an incredible blend. It follows the success of the Davidoff Orchant Seleccion Lancero that was one of our fastest selling cigars in history.

Our exclusive Orchant Seleccion cigars are our most successful range and I have been privileged to work with so many great manufacturers of such wonderful brands. My next release will be an Orchant Seleccion Plasencia Lancero early next year.

We have managed to make a fairly full range of Havanas available throughout the year due to our brilliant UK importer Hunters & Frankau keeping us well supplied, though it has become tough as the year comes to an end. A combination of reduction in supply from Cuba and a substantial increase in demand has seen many lines go out of stock, the worse affected brand regrettably is Cohiba.

We don’t think the situation will improve any time soon sadly but we always have alternatives from our huge range of Cuban and New World cigars (the largest range in the UK without a doubt!)

The new range of Romeo y Julieta cigars have started to appear in Europe so we are hopeful that they may be in the UK early next year. The Dianas, Hidalgos and Nobles are part of the Linea Oro / Gold line and having smoked them at the 2019 Festival I can tell you they are something very special in both appearance and blend.  Something to look forward to…

The big success story of the year was the Mitchellero brand that I created. The popularity of this brand has taken me and the sales team by surprise. We simply can’t make and import them fast enough. We expect to have the full range available again in early January.  I blended them to be a super sweet flavour Nicaraguan cigar at an incredible value for money price.

Our Stalla Dhu range of single cask / single malt Scotch whisky continues to win international awards and we have more stunning cask releases planned over the coming months.

Puffin Rooms reopened after the last Lockdown and clearly, people were ready to enjoy going out again as we have been jam-packed with bookings. In fact the booking backlog was running at around 3 weeks recently. I hope we don’t have to close it due to the current Covid situation. This really is the finest experience of live jazz music, dining and signature cocktails, 7 nights a week. Sumptuous surroundings and 5 star service.

The vintage cigar division had a very busy year and the 5th auction of the year concludes on the 20th December. Some great Christmas cigars for the lucky winning bidders!

With over 130 employees in our group I am not sure where to start my thank you! We really do have the hardest working, most skilled, loyal and devoted Directors, Managers and Staff – I thank you all for making C.Gars Ltd, La Casa del Tabaco and Dominique London one of the most successful cigar and spirit merchants in Europe.

My thanks to all of our wonderful customers all over the world, I look forward to serving you and hopefully herfing with you in 2022

Stay safe…keep it smokey and peaceful puffing

Mitchell

Charatan

Today, I will talk about a brand that set new standards for the market many times and is now re-emerging from the shadow: Charatan.

The story begins in London (1863), more precisely in Masell Street, where Frederick Charatan, a Russian immigrant, opened his shop in which he sold his own Meerschaum pipes. The business quickly bloomed, and the artisan relocated to a more extensive facility in Prescot Street. Around the same time Charatan changed location, the news about the discovery of briar’s quality started to spread. The crafter quickly embraced the new material and started to carve briar pipes. Charatan is known to be the first brand to have pipes completely handmade, mouthpiece included. “Charatan‘s Make,” a new term, was coined to distinguish the brand’s creation from the rest. “The rest” were pipes that were assembled from already made mouthpieces and pre-drilled bowls.

Charatan rapidly became the standard to match. Dunhill (if you remember in my previous post) based his entire brand on high-quality products and wanted to have Charatan‘s creations in his shop. For 2 years, Dunhill paid high prices just to sell the best of Charatan‘s products. As we know, Dunhill was a brilliant businessman and lured away Joel Sasieni ( one of Charatan‘s best carvers) and opened his own workshop in Duke Street.
The business kept growing, and in 1910 Reuben Charatan succeeded his father. In the early 50s, Herman G.Lane tried to expand his business in Great Britain and approached Charatan. He became the sole distributor in the US in 1955 and pushed Charatan popularity to new heights. A new milestone was reached by Charatan in 1960; they were the first to sell pipes over $100. Sadly 2 years later, Reuben Charatan passed away, and his widow sold the company to Lane.
The end of the 70s marks the end of Charatan‘s success; the brand’s fame and renewed quality declined when in 1978, the company was sold to Dunhill, and in 1982 Prescot street factory was closed.


The brand’s success was long gone and Dunhill decided to sell the brand to James B. Russuel Inc. in 1988. The pipes were now made in Saint-Claude, allegedly by Butz-Choquin. Even though the new Charatan was good, their pipes were mere copies of what they used to be. Sadly, the market did not welcome the recent Charatan reiteration, and the business failed.
In 2002 J.B. Russel went out of business, and Dunhill re-acquired Charatan. Colin Fromm was appointed to produce pipes now to re-establish the old glory.
Tor acquired the right from Dunhill to produce tobacco products under the Charatan label and reintroduced the timeless pipe tobacco line once made by Dunhill to the market.
Charatan’s pipes are once again beautifully crafted, with classic shapes and refined finishes. If you are looking for an elegant and reliable companion to accompany you on your next adventure this winter, you might want to check our online selection. It will not disappoint you.
While you are there, also check the Charatan’s pipe tobacco line.

Alla prossima volta!

Chris.

The Caminetto Story: Ascorti, Radice and their more business-like partner…

When passion guides your hands, you are bound to create something incredible. Such is the story of Caminetto/Ascorti.

If you have followed these posts of late, you will know already that Italy is one of the most famous countries for pipe making. This is further proof. Get ready; we are going back to the Sixties.

Just before the decade began, Giuseppe Ascorti started his path to pipe-maker supreme in 1959 when he joined Castello. At the time, Carlo Scotti was the owner. Perseverance and talent immediately meant Ascorti stood out as an impressive, prospective pipe maker. A year later, Giuseppe’s wife acquired the family-owned business, which allowed him to invest in his own workshop.

Ascorti then met Luigi Radice while working at Castello and they decided to open a business together. It was now 1968. In the early days, one of the first to support “Ascorti & Radice” was Gianni Davoli, owner of a tobacco shop in Milan. Davoli understood the value of the duo’s pipes and decided to send some samples to his connections in the United States. The pipes were a success, and Davoli asked to be the sole international distributor. And so Caminetto was born.

Incidentally, you might wonder about the origins of the name. As always, there is a  mythical story behind it. According to legend, Ascorti, Radice and Davoli were sitting by the fireplace one evening and enjoying their pipes and some wine. During this quality time, Davoli had the idea of associating the pipes with the fireplace’s chimney, the word for which in Italian is “caminetto”.

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(Indeed, there is more to the name than just where the founders rested up. Davoli made a more profound connection. In Italian, the bottom part of the pipe bowl is called “Fornello” or “Focolare”. A “Focolare” is, like caminetto, also a word that Italians use to describe the fireplace. Perhaps Davoli made that connection or maybe he simply compared the bowl of the pipe to a chimney. Whatever the truth, the trio became famous and called themselves “I Tre Camini”, which means “the three chimneys”. The company’s logo is a moustache, and legend maintains that this is a homage to the company founders, as Ascorti and Radice sported a large moustache. In time, naturally enough with the competitive natures involved as you will read ahead, Davoli followed suit).

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To promote the company, Davoli started focussing on his strengths: namely marketing. Castello pipes were extremely popular at that time, but they were difficult to find and expensive because of the production scale. Davoli started to promote Caminetto pipes as an alternative to Castello pipes, offering the same quality and care, and attention to detail, but at around half the price. The primary seller in America was The Tinder Box International (TTBI), which was highly successful at distributing and promoting the Caminetto pipes, which would ultimately become the Ascorti. (They remain listed on the Tinder Box website). Thanks to the excellent work of Ascorti and Radice, and the collaboration between Davoli and TTBI, Caminetto became hugely popular, worldwide.

At the same time as this welcome success, popularity brought high demand. The artisans soon reached what to them were the absolute production limits. The whole family got involved, and, from almost childhood, Roberto Ascorti (the current owner) started to help in the workshop. To maintain the company at the top, a recent zacks review points out that Davoli invested a large sum of money in machinery (and on the back of this became a co-owner). In 1973,  Davoli became the major shareholder of the company, and continued success saw demand grow from 3,000 pipes a year to 7,000 with Davoli celebrated as the “Master pipe maker, designer and sole creator of the Caminetto”.

Ultimately, the seventies proved a peak for Caminetto. The increase in production forced the brand to move toward a streamlined manufacturing process, which meant that Radice had to give up his artistic approach to pipe making. As can happen, the increase in output threatened quality standards, and Radice was concerned about this. Ascorti shared his concern, not least as they had based their whole lives on producing high-quality art pieces. Undeterred, Davoli allegedly insisted on focusing on the production volumes.

The end was nigh. After attending art school and his military service, Roberto Ascorti wanted to start his own pipe-making path and his father, Giuseppe, wanted him to join the company. Davoli apparently fought against it because with Roberto in the company he feared losing his grip amid a new Ascorti alliance. By 1979, the rift was irreparable when foreseen quality issues arose in America. Moreover, Castello threatened legal action on the grounds of copyright infringements.

For the artisans, it was the breaking point. Radice was a mere employee in the company, and Ascorti had little power, with Davoli maintaining complete control over Caminetto. The founders departed and, with “I tre Camini” disbanded at the end of the year, Radice was without prospects and Ascorti had a workshop but no company.

We have a happy ending of sorts. Loyalty and good manners paid off in the end as the crew that Ascorti trained through the years followed him to join a new establishment. Giuseppe and Roberto Ascorti founded their own company, “Ascorti.” At the same time, Radice managed to establish himself in 1980 as an independent pipe maker. In the following years, he prospered, and to this day, his pipes can be found worldwide and praised for the quality and care for details.

And Davoli? Not only did he lose the main backbone of the company he also lost the workshop from a fire which reduced the building to ashes. With no artisans, no workshop, and no designs, as well as quality issues, the golden era of Caminetto came to an end, consumed by the flames.

The Ascorti family kept working on their new venture. This included reviving the Caminetto name in 1986. In all, new pipes with improved design but with the same care for details and standards of quality on which his father always insisted.

To this day, Ascorti still follows the founders’ principles; in short, fine briar, incredible detail, and astonishing designs. With a Caminetto/Ascorti pipe, it doesn’t matter where you are in your pipe smoking life. You will immediately appreciate them and enjoy beautiful smokes. Keep an eye on our catalogue because you might join the small group of lucky collectors to own a pipe that is not only a beautifully crafted art piece but also a statement of talent and perseverance.

As the Italians say, and I have also said of late, la prosima volta. Meaning, until next time.

Christian