Boisdale!

Greetings from my very sunny herfing garden which has become my office during the Lockdown and thankfully we have been enjoying some incredible Summer weather in London which seems to be going on for a while longer.

My friendship with Ranald from Boisdale restaurants (and delightful cigar terraces) goes back over 20 years. I have enjoyed countless lunches and dinners at all of the lovely Boisdale locations as well as many that went on so late, I had to leave my car parked outside till the next day.

Our vintage cigar auctions were held on the terrace of Boisdale Belgravia since 2009 and moved to Boisdale Canary Wharf when we outgrew Belgravia. We threw one of the amazing opening parties at Canary Wharf and are co-sponsors of ‘The cigar smoker of the year’ awards event that has become the biggest event on the cigar aficionado calendar every year.

For over 30 years Boisdale has worked closely with small specialist suppliers to bring their customers the very best produce from the British Isles and most delicious wines from our favourite vineyards. Now for the first time ever these exceptional products that were destined for the restaurants can be delivered to your door. Order here. I can vouch for the smoked salmon as well as the cheese. Try out their service, I highly recommend it.

As the effects of Covid 19 continue to be felt in the cigar industry I’m afraid out of stocks are growing every week. At the last count over 30 lines of Havanas and 50 lines of New World cigars were unavailable. Of course, there are always plenty of alternatives from our vast range and we are always happy to advise on which cigars to switch to. We are hoping that the supply situation will ease up by August.

No more stocks of Montecristo Supremos at this time but we are ever hopeful that we will have some more in June and what of the UK regional La Gloria Cubana Britanicas Extra? Well they were almost released just before the Lockdown and then the release was delayed so we hope that they may be on our shelves in June. I can’t wait for this cigar to come out as it was one of the best regionals I have ever tasted at the pre-release cigar specialist sampling.

I’m going through a bit of a robustos phase at this time, herfing my way through copious amounts of the usual D4’s, Epicure 2’s and J. Lo 2’s but I have also rediscovered the Saint Luis Rey Regios . Not a robusto but a hermosos measuring in at 5” length and 48 ring gauge.  I used to smoke a lot of these many years ago in fact it was my favourite brand in the 1990’s. The blending on our current stocks is quite superior.

Booze sales seem to be going rather crazy this Summer and we are now doing a monthly subscription box . Check it out on this link.We are also doing some rather splendid offers on some of my favourite drams :

Tullibardine 15yo at just £39.99

Balvenie 14yo Caribbean Cask at just £41.99

…both perfect with a premium cigar

And of course my very own Gold medal award winning Orchant selection cigar single malt.

Join us for our weekly virtual herfs, great fun, educational and a chance to put faces to names. Details on this link.

Have a smokey week.

Peaceful puffing.

Mitchell

Supremos :)

I’m not quite sure if we are still in Lockdown or not?!  From the increase in cigar sales it seems that we may well be or it could be the sunny weather we’re expecting over the next week? Either way here’s hoping the CV19 nightmare is receding and the Lockdown is easing so we can all enjoy the Summer even if our vacations are cancelled for the rest of the year.

Karyn and I should have been herfing with friends and clients in New York City this week but obviously and sadly that had to be cancelled. Goodness knows when we will get a refund as the travel industry seems to be in a bit of a mess to say the least. We have had the best of times in NYC as its very cigar friendly but hopefully we will be back next year when life gets back to normal.

We are actually so busy our site was offline overnight for ‘essential maintenance’ whatever that means but we are back and faster than ever now! We finally raced through the 100,000 customer target on our database last week, in fact we are now over 103,000 customers! Pretty amazing when I think back to 1997 and our first Excel database of 43 customers. But then I also remember our monthly sales ledger of 60 orders a month which Laura and I were very proud of! Now we do upwards of 2000 orders a day and have over 70 brilliant staff working 24/7 every day of the year. A nice success story…

The good news is that Montecristo Supremos are expected to arrive into our humidors any time now. Measuring in at 5 ¼ length and 55 ring gauge, this Montesco vitola cigar delivers huge volumes of typical sweet and tangy Montecristo flavours. Presented in rather snappy yellow cabinets of 25 cigars with very tight allocations this is sure to be a very popular smoke. No sign of any other new releases at this stage but we are ever hopeful.

Supply lines for many cigar products from all regions are now starting to feel the squeeze as many factories have closed down and are only starting to slowly get back to production now. Fortunately we carry huge stocks and are still running at around 98% availability overall. If you have favourites that are out of stock, shoot me an email and I’ll gladly suggest alternatives. We expect supply to normalise by late July with any luck. I’m afraid one of the supply casualties is our own brand of Inka Secret Blend. The popularity of this range of cigars is incredible and despite our usual stock levels being 3 months worth we have all but sold out of them in the last month. We hope to be able to take in new stocks as soon as possible.

I seem to be spending half my time on Zoom meetings these days. What a brilliant app! I even did my first Zoom herf this week (maybe it’s a ‘Verf’!) this was a Davidoff Late Hour tasting with Sam Reuter from Davidoff as guest of honour and very ably hosted by Roy from Davidoff and my colleague Paul from C.Gars Ltd. It was great to put some faces to names of clients I have ‘known’ for many years.  I must admit I do love Late Hour, probably my favourite regular range of Davidoff. Deeply complex and packed with a kaleidoscope of superb flavours.

Looks like garden herfing weather (a Gerf!) this weekend so I have the following in the baggie:

Davidoff Late Hour Churchill (I love these cigars)

Partagas SD No.5 (amazing quality currently)

Regius Connecticut Toro (for something a little different)

Plascencia Alma Fuerte (this cigar is an insane smoke!)

Alec Bradley Orchant Seleccion Pointy (no sweeter blend that we sell)

….and a bottle of our bestselling Cigar Malt whisky (Gold medal winner)

Have a smokey weekend

Peaceful puffing

Mitchell

Going up….

Greetings from sunniest London where we are still doing the ‘Lockdown Herf’, in my case the bar and humidor are open 24/7…nothing new there then. Between the weather and the Lockdown, cigar smoking is at an all-time high but what better way to stay safe, de-stress and relax from the crazy situation we find ourselves in?

I was asked for a photo for Smokers at Home website, check it out here, my pal Ranald from Boisdale is on it too. I’m on the last stretch of recovery from the post viral symptoms of Covid19 and working from home for another couple of weeks, then I should be fighting fit!

It’s odd not getting up in the morning and putting on a pin stripe suit to head to the office. It’s odd not being out most evenings to herf with friends and clients at some of the fabulous cigar terraces in London. It’s really odd not to be travelling up and down the country to our beautiful Turmeaus cigars and whisky stores and sampling lounges. I do miss it but I’m looking forward to getting back to normal whenever it’s safe to do so.

Zoom meetings have become the norm, Facetime and WhatsApp video calls great fun to see who on earth I’m speaking to but it does feel like an upside-down world for sure. I did my first Instagram interview ever (in fact I think it’s the first time I have used Instagram). Thanks to Abdullah for interviewing me, if you would like to follow him click here to get to his page. For latest photos of cigars, whisky and pipes follow C.Gars Ltd.

Per the subject line, I’m, afraid the time has finally come to increase prices. We were very lucky to have been able to keep prices the same for almost 2 years as last year’s Budget was cancelled but following this year’s Budget all cigar importers have increase prices and they are now being implemented in the marketplace. As ever, we do guarantee the lowest prices in the UK with our now legendary price match promise.

Occasionally I’m asked how on earth can a premium cigar be so expensive £10, £15, £20 or more for a cigar- madness?! ‘and I remember having the same conversation with a client 20 or so years ago and his reply went something like this: ‘are cigars really so expensive if you compare them say to a halfway decent bottle of wine? They usually last longer than it takes to drink a few glasses of wine and nothing can compare to the complete experience of relaxation from a fine cigar’.  certainly, makes sound sense to me. In fact, you can get some pretty decent premium cigars at less than a tenner still.

We have pushed back our Summer vintage cigar auction to late July and will put the date on the auction website early May. We are accepting entries from May 4th onwards.

London – Mayfair, Liverpool, Chester and Knutsford cigar and whisky stores remain open albeit on slightly reduced opening times. Norfolk and London mail order warehouses and offices remain in operation 24 hours a day – 7 days a week to cope with the increased demand which it has to be said is quite staggering. If you have any query about your order please do email Customer Services as they are online 24 hours a day but please do include your full name and order number!

Okay, time to head to my office in the garden, I’ve got a good selection for this week (I need it as I’m back up to 5 a day!)

Partagas Serie D no. 4, 5 and 6 (yep …I love Partagas)

Alec Bradley Orchant Seleccion Twisty (for something a little different and an oh so sweet blend)

Davidoff Winston Churchill Late Hour Robustos

Fuente Eye of the Shark …bit of a treat

Cohiba Talisman … a lot of a treat

Have a smokey week

Peaceful puffing

Mitchell

Lockdown…

So it looks like another 3 weeks of total lockdown and therafter who knows how much longer or if the restrictions will slowly and no doubt very thoughtfully be reduced. How long it will take to get back to any semblence of normality is anyone’s guess at this stage.

My recovery is going well, I’ve put back on the 10 Pounds in weight that I lost in hospital thanks to Karyn’s cooking! I’m taking good walks every day though nothing like I did pre Covid… that will take some time to build up to. I’m back to enjoying 3-4 good cigars a day and an occasional dram of Orchant Selection Cigar Malt (for medicinal purposes!) I’m lucky as I’m able to work from home with my study being a mirror image of my office, surrounded by some of my favourite very old Cuban photographs and with super fast WiFi its business as usual for me minus the herfing with friends and clients and the crazy travel schedule.

I miss visiting the retail stores, our HQ and sampling lounges but look forward to a better and safer day for everyone when we can all enjoy a dram and a herf together again. So the good news is that our retail stores are open with the exception of Norfolk at this time but obviously our sampling lounges remain closed. Our mail order division is still cracking away at 100% efficiency 24 hours a day. I’m very proud of our Team who are handling a huge uplift in order volumes as our customers stay at home. I think we hit the record of all time last week with over 2000 packages a day being shipped.

Shipping is slower than usual but 95% of orders are arriving on time. Has to be said that Royal Mail are doing an amazing job. The bad news is that Havana cigars prices will increase substantially at the beginning of May. We were fortunate that there was no increase last year and this one is pretty late but its going to be a fairly hefty increase this time round. We have good stocks and will try to hold prices for a week or two but invenitably they will be going up. At least you have a little pre warning to top up your humidors at pre increase prices.

No update on the release date for the well overdue UK regional edition , La Gloria Cubana Britanicas Extra. Its delayed I understand as so many cigar specialist are closed during the lockdown so it would not be fair to the UK cigar trade generally to release them now which makes sense to me.

The weather forecast is looking great this week, should be sunny and warm so its perfect garden herifng weather which I hope is some consolation if you’re stuck at home.

My rotation for the coming week includes:

Partagas Serie D no.5 – smoking so well now and a perfect 40 minute smoke for me

Davidoff Lancero Orchant Seleccion – what a treat.

Alec Bradley Orchie – the sweetest blended cigar I know of.

Inka Secret Blend Robustos (red) – always a good smoke

Montecristo Dantes – these are now smoking very well with 4 years box age

Regius Orchant Seleccion Hermosos – great ‘Nic Kick’

Trinidad Esmeralda – I love this new cigar

Trinidad Topes – I adore this new cigar!

…and a bottle of Stalla Dhu Speyside  😉

Stay safe and have a smokey week

Peaceful puffing

Mitchell

I’m Back

Long-time no blog and not without good reason ….

As ever I attended the Havana Festival and had a wonderful time with the usual incredible gala event being the highlight of the trip.

Sitting at the Hunters and Frankau table with a great crowd of industry pals and laughing at how loud the entertainment was as usual making it more or less impossible to hold a conversation but enjoying some great cigars and drinks ( let’s not even talk about the food !)

Our table was right behind the major auction bidder of the night who made the charity auction the most successful ever.

Simon Chase’s Ramon 225 humidor was donated by his wife and sold for an astonishing 380,000 Euros. The Lot included a box of Ramon Petit Coronas that he had bought from one of the early C.Gars auctions. I remember how I always sat next to Simon for so many of the Festivals over the last 20 odd years and felt terribly sad. I think about Simon a lot and still refer to so many of our email exchanges. He really was a walking talking encyclopaedia of Havana cigar knowledge as well as a Gentleman without parallel in our industry.

After a few cigars in the lounge at Jose Marti airport I headed to Upper and was sitting next to Jemma Freeman, great excuse to catch up on a business chat which is always interesting for us even after all of these years.

I didn’t feel too good when I got back to the UK but in my usual way decided it was just a bit of jet lag and ploughed on with a relentless business schedule including visiting just about all of our locations including our Norfolk HQ, La Casa del Habano and Turmeaus shops and finishing with a lovely evening with friends at Puffin Rooms.

Heading back to London the next morning I really did not feel well and headed straight to a walk in Doctors surgery and was immediately admitted to St John and Elizabeth’s hospital with pneumonia which was no fun at all I can tell you.

From there it really just got worse as 5 days later I was diagnosed with Covid 19 and transferred by ambulance to the Intensive Care Unit at the Royal Free hospital as I was to put it mildly very seriously unwell. High temperatures and flaked out beyond belief in ICU was a pretty scary experience as I wondered if I would ever make it out of there, happily a week later I was moved to isolation for a further 5 days before all the symptoms subsided and I had beaten the virus.

I’ve been home for the last 2 weeks resting and recuperating and getting over the post viral symptoms but I am making a full recovery and after a no cigar smoking month I’m finally enjoying a good smoke again every day.

I have never used the NHS before and am so impressed with the Doctors and nurses that looked after me and the incredible care they gave me to help me recover from this horrendous virus. I really can’t thank them enough. They are incredible and deserve all of our respect and support.

The effects of the virus on the country (and the world) are almost surreal to be living through and I honestly don’t think the world will ever be the same again once we hopefully come through this nightmare.  The Government seems to be doing everything they can to support employees and businesses at this unprecedented time in history.

In the middle of all of this we held our March vintage cigar auction which was a resounding success with all but 5 Lots selling at very high prices (possibly due to the weakness of Sterling). Shipping of auction Lots I understand will be slower than usual due to the weight of work our mail order teams are dealing with at this time.

Our business has been dramatically affected with the temporary closure of Puffin Rooms and the closure of our retail Turmeaus store in Norfolk as our retail staff are unable to work because they have to look after their children during the lockdown.

Our other retail stores in London, Liverpool, Chester and Knutsford remain open on reduced hours, with reduced staff as some are in isolation and of course our sampling lounges are closed, tasting events are all cancelled and new product launches are all delayed.

C.Gars Mail order division remains 100% open and operating at 100% efficiency at both our Norfolk and London warehouses. My thanks to my Teams coping admirably during these crazy times.

I can only hope that everyone is following the Government’s advice to stay safely at home. This virus is very real, very frightening and very dangerous – don’t take it lightly. I lost March but thankfully I didn’t lose my life which at one stage it looked like I might do.

If you can, treat it like an enforced holiday. Enjoy a dram or two of whisky and a good cigar and celebrate every minute of every day that you are healthy and hopefully stay healthy and virus free.

 

Peaceful puffing and stay safe

 

Mitchell