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

Record breaking auction…

Another record-breaking auction last week with Cigar Aficionado Magazine reporting on the £1,100 paid for the sale’s show-stopping Cuban Dunhill Estupendos, with the price well over the expected £700. Other highlights from a monumental few days of bidding also feature in the summary just published here.

I’ve no doubt that, on the auction’s close, there were a lot of very happy and successful bidders, as well as sellers, from this sale, not to mention a few bargains bagged amid the incredible ‘unicorns‘ on offer, ultimately selling for eye-watering prices.

I’m often asked, how someone can smoke a cigar for £100 or even £200? I think the best answer is that it’s like treating yourself to a splendid bottle of wine or a meal out. In fact, the cigar may last as long, if not longer. It’s all relative, I suppose.

Our auctions are not only about the most expensive Havana cigars. We always offer a wide variety of aged, mature and interesting smokes, including singles and part-boxes, so there really are opportunities for most smokers’ budgets.

We did have a staggering number of registered bidders this time and the highest level of website visits – and visitors –  we have ever seen at auction. We certainly have come a long way since our first sale, now way back in 2009.

You can see all of the results of what was sold and for how much in this link.

Over and above the Cuban Dunhill Estupendos that featured in Cigar Aficionado Magazine, my personal highlights include:

box of 20 Davidoff 80th Aniversario including one cigar tube signed by Zino Davidoff that made £25,200.

A box of five Dunhill Havana Club that was sold for £3,880.

Cohiba Sublimes Extra Coleccion Habanos that made £15,300.

A cabinet of 50 H Upmann Dunhill Seleccion Suprema no.205, which went for £21,600.

I’m already putting together our next auction catalogue. We plan to hold the sale in late October.

In parallel with this, my – I am very glad to say – highly-popular Orchant Seleccion cigar range goes from strength to strength. I’m very proud to introduce the next in our Davidoff – Orchant Seleccion series.

Our first release was the Davidoff – Orchant Seleccion London Edition which was a Lancero. We have followed this up with the Davidoff – Orchant Seleccion Liverpool edition, which is a Toro.

Our new offering measures an extended 6” length and 54 ring gauge, so is one for the experienced cigar smoker. As well as offering a marvellous smoke for today, I’m also very proud to pay homage to our Liverpool roots  as the city is where Turmeaus Tobacconist started way back in 1817. Celebrating this history, we have what is a full-flavour, medium-strength cigar blended with filler from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, binder from Mexico and wrapper from Ecuador. In all, an exceptional smoke for now, and the blend will age very well over the next few years.

So you are fully aware, only 300 individually-numbered boxes of this exclusive Orchant Seleccion will ever be produced, so it’s likely to end up a collector’s item in the same way that the Davidoff – Orchant Seleccion Lancero became.

I enjoyed a herfette at  C.Gars – St James’s as usual this week and had my now-traditional Stalla Dhu Glen Elgin over ice – don’t knock it, until you try it! –  paired up with a couple of Cohiba Medio Siglo. This is perhaps not a cigar on my usual rotation but I just love this size, and the blend is right on at the moment. In all, huge volumes of flavour that complement the Scotch perfectly. I love herfing on the terrace at St James’s and watching the world go by. Right now, it’s like a never-ending “super cars” show!

Some more good news; Mitchellero  – are expect back in stock in the next week or so. The popularity of this super-value, best-selling range has taken us by surprise in the very best way.

I was interviewed by Cigar Journal Light ‘em Up on Wednesday, which was a lot of fun, especially as Jose Blanco and Joshua Meerapfel joined the Zoom. If you have an hour to kick back with a good cigar you can share the session. You can read the full interview here.

Whether you do or not, have a smokey weekend.

Peaceful puffing,

Mitchell

Cigar Auction… Cigar Shortage

Greetings from London, amid a heatwave. So perfect, cigar-herfing weather that we expect to continue all week, which I’m especially delighted to say as my new office is relaxing outside the C.Gars shop at 23a St James’s Street. With four shops, including us, now from Piccadilly down to Pall Mall, you might call this stretch Cigar Land. 

From the news of late, you have probably registered that the situation in Cuba is not good at all. I understand that there are quite a lot of fake updates, but also any number of accurate reports about demonstrations on the streets of various cities.

I believe the protests are largely driven by the chronic food shortages on the island as well as the slow vaccination programme.  The economy is facing horrendous difficulties for a multitude of reasons, including the ongoing US Embargo. I don’t recall ever seeing anti-government demonstrations of this nature while the Castro brothers were leading the country, so this is a very serious concern.  It’s a sorry situation for the people of Cuba,  who have my utmost sympathy.

The cigar industry has inevitably been affected by Covid and related issues – logistics and transportation – as well as slowdowns at the factories. We have had to manage stock carefully for the last 18 months. These supply problems are now getting worse by the day. As a benchmark, Montecristo No.4’s are out of stock with our importer.

Tubed cigars are in short supply and the available Cohiba range is pitiful with Siglo IV being the latest casualty of a shortfall. The Cohiba Lanceros, Esplendidos and Coronas Especiales became scarce ages ago, and all sizes of BHK’s and Siglo VI are rarely available at present. The entire Cohiba Maduro range is also incredibly thin on the ground. Last week’s casualties in supply included El Rey del Mundo Demi Tasse and Choix Supreme so I am very sorry to say that there is practically nothing available from the El Rey de Mundo house for now.

There is an excellent article on the Cuban cigar shortage here by Laurent Mimouni. I am very apprehensive about how bad the situation could become with supplies likely to worsen further over the weeks and months ahead. We will, of course, be doing everything we can to ensure that we have the widest possible range for you. At the same time, be assured this is not an effort to bolster sales by suggesting a shortage.  I strongly advise you to top up with your favourites while they are available as we cannot guarantee that stocks will hold up.

The issues we are trying our best to manage are not limited to Cuba. We also face supply concerns of various sizes in brands of cigars from Nicaragua. Honduras and the Dominican Republic, too. Padron cigars are a good example of the struggle we have faced with New World stocks for 18 months, now.

I am glad that we can at least offer you a chance to secure some cigars that would otherwise be in only the shallowest of volumes. By this, I mean our Summer cigar auction, which will be live to bid on our designated auction website hopefully by Tuesday evening and at the latest by Wednesday. For this sale, we have almost 600 lots of aged, rare, mature and unusual cigars as well as single-malt whisky on offer. In all, I hope a welcome opportunity to pick up some of the cigars that are currently unavailable.

The auction will conclude on July 27. Bidders have to register to bid and confirm their credit limit before the sale. My helpful auction team are always available to advise every day, around the clock, at  sales@onlinecigarauctions.com

Some of the Havana highlights include:

–       The rarest of Davidoff 80th anniversary presentation boxes, with 20 cigars and a cigar tube signed by Zino Davidoff.

–       A Davidoff Dom Perignon box of  25 cigars of impeccable condition and appearance.

–       A Cohiba Majestuosos 1966 humidors.

–       An H. Upmann 160th anniversary humidor.

–       A cabinet of 50 Dunhill H. Upmann No.205 that are pre-embargo and in pristine condition.

On Wednesday evening, by which time the auction should, as said, be up and running, I am looking forward to our next virtual tasting event featuring Bolivar Belicosos and Glenfiddich single-malt whisky. The brand ambassadors will take us through the event and share their considerable and compelling knowledge with us.

Bolivar Belicoso Finos has long been one of my favourite Havana cigars and we have selected certain vintages of merit over the years to brand ‘ Orchant Seleccion’  that have been terribly popular. It will be interesting how well current-production BBF’s compare.  Please do join me for what is sure to be a memorable tasting. If you, unfortunately, cannot be part of this, please email me and let me know if you are enjoying the blend on the current production cigars.

As well as virtual offerings, I am delighted to say that we have opened all of our sampling lounges at our choice shop locations. With the news about the Covid infection rates, can we, respectfully, please ask all of our valued customers to continue wearing masks when entering our shops and maintain social distancing with a view to everyone staying as safe as possible. Our staff will continue to wear masks, regardless of changes to national guidelines.

Have a sunny, smokey and above all safe week. My personal highlight is a visit to Boisdale Belgravia on Thursday. I have a table outside booked at a place that has long been one of my favourite, cigar-friendly venues and the menu looks better than ever. I dare say I will pop into C.Gars – St James’s for a pre-lunch cocktail before heading across the park to Eccleston Street.

Wherever you are, peaceful puffing…

Mitchell

Summer herfing!

I can hardly believe it is July. That is half the year gone already. What a crazy six months. I do sense that we are returning to something like normality with the lifting of Lockdown, in three weeks.

I hope you have made the best of 2021 to date. Personally, I am settling into a nice routine of herfing with friends at C.Gars – St James’s during the week. With some of the recent, good weather, the outside-seating area has been a delight and will continue to be so in the weeks ahead when the sun hopefully shines on us.

My St James’s premises showcases the finest of our cigar and spirits range. The fabulous team on hand there (Sam, Dante and Viktoria) mix some very tasty cocktails. You are assured the warmest of welcomes, as well as helpful, friendly advice.

Not far from St. James’s in Shepherd’s Market, Turmeaus – Mayfair is, finally, fully open again for cigar and whisky sampling. You do have to book a slot as this ever-popular location is jammed full, morning till night. Christian, the store manager and our resident pipe expert, is delighted at the return to normal, and being fully open again.

I’m happy to report from the north west that the Puffin Rooms there and Late Hour Turmeaus – Liverpool have finally re-opened, as well. Like Mayfair, bookings are essential as both the cigar-sampling lounge and the jazz/tapas venue are jam-packed, booked-out, every night of the week. There is no experience quite like the Puffin Rooms. The widest whisky range in that part of the country, delicious, tapas-style food, signature cocktails, and the best of live jazz music, seven nights a week. We refurbished the venue during Lockdown to maintain the Five-Star standards. I am very pleased with the results and look forward to you enjoying some of the comforts we have added.

Now it feels safe to do so, our other sampling lounges, in Liverpool, Chester and Knutsford, are slowly re-opening. We look forward to welcoming back friends at all our venues.

As always, we are striving to ensure that all your favourites are to hand when you do join us. Guaranteeing this is currently a challenge. Maintaining Havana stocks of the most popular lines remains a test, not least the Cohiba range. To offset this, as needs be in the weeks and months ahead, we will be releasing our reserve holdings. Please be aware that we have just released small quantities of:

Ramon Alones No.2 Limited Edition 2019

Montecristo Supremos Limited Edition 2019 

H Upmann Sir Winston

Cohiba Esplendidos

Juan Lopez Seleccion Superba UK Regional Edition 2016

Supplies of the Mitchellero brand of Nicaraguan cigars should be in abundance by the middle of this month. The success of this release took us by surprise. A great range of value smokes that have proved popular beyond belief. If all goes to plan, we have a huge shipment of another 100,000 cigars arriving around the middle of July.

If you are seeking something with added heritage, our Summer Vintage cigar auction will be held on July 27th. The catalogue will be online a week before then (July 20th) after which we will be taking bids. The sale is HUGE!  Around 500 Lots of cigars and 100 Lots of rare whisky and spirits. Sections include Vintage, Pre Embargo, Mature, Limited Edition, and Davidoff, as well as Limited-Edition Humidors. Please be aware, you have to register to bid. My Auction Team are online, round the clock, to assist and advise.

As for our whiskies, the Stalla Dhu single malt whisky continues to collect International awards. We recently bottled a stunning cask of Glen Elgin Port Wood that is a sublime tasting experience, especially with a good, premium cigar. My partner, Ron, suggested trying the Glen Elgin with a large block of ice, which changes the flavour characteristic diametrically. I highly recommended that you give this a go.

If you enjoy a rum with your cigar you simply have to try Aged Key West Raw and Key West Bad Bitch.  This is a small-batch production of the highest quality that pairs to perfection.

Looking a little further ahead, this quarter we are planning to release the new UK regional edition Havana as well as the next Davidoff – Orchant Seleccion, which is a Toro. All this is exciting stuff.

At the same time, a last call for my splendid Plasencia – Orchant Seleccion Telica.  This incredible blend from Nestor Plasencia that provides volumes of sweet flavour, balanced with medium strength is almost sold out now. If you do sadly miss out, I’m looking forward to introducing our next Plasencia-Orchant Seleccion – a Lanceros – later this year.

Though we are inching back to normality, we are still running our virtual-tasting events. That will be the case until we can switch back to all our sampling lounges. Do please join me for some memorable evenings ahead with some of the best brand ambassadors there are.

My current favourite smokes include:

Hoyo de Monterrey Escogidos (exclusive La Casa del Habano line)

Hoyo de Monterrey Elegantes (exclusive La Casa del Habano line)

Alec Bradley – Orchant Seleccion Shorty

Regius Gran Toro

Inca – Secret Blend Reserva D’Oro robusto

For you, different flavours and sizes for all occasions.

Have a smokey weekend.

Peaceful puffing

Mitchell

Mitchellero cigars are in…and out!

I’ve been on a mission to give quality, service and value since I started in the cigar trade in the early 1990s. I think that ethos came from my previous experience as a petrol retailer and C. Store operator.

I set out originally in the trade with a very different perspective to the existing and established cigar merchants, as I tried to look at everything from the customer’s perspective. With that in mind, I have been trying for some years to create and introduce value brands of mid-range cigars to the market. I have been quite successful in doing so –  especially with our own brand of Peruvian cigars, Inka – Secret Blend as well as co-branded Orchant Seleccion cigars such as Alec Bradley and Drew Estate which have been tremendously popular and successful since launch.

However, we were always missing a range in our brand portfolio which I have finally filled with the launch of Mitchellero cigars from Nicaragua. These single estate 100% Nicaraguan handmade, long-filler cigars are really something special. The prices are unbeatable in the UK market. The blend is medium-full sweet and spicy flavour and medium strength. A truly a well-balanced blend constructed to perfection and dressed in a beautiful smooth Colorado Maduro wrapper colour.


Available in a range of the most popular sizes – it is now our fastest selling New World cigar since it was launched a week ago. I think it’s fair to say we have created another winner for our clients. My initial order from the factory was pretty huge and I thought it would be enough to last 6 months but forecasts show it won’t likely last 2 months, so we have already made a follow-up order of double the size so we can assure continuity of supply.

Ordering the right quantity of cigars from all regions is proving to be quite the challenge. The industry is still suffering from a host of problems from lack of raw materials, decreased production, and logistical slowdowns due to the pandemic. Certain brands are just not available  anymore.

We have around 10,000 products on our website, which is probably 10 times more than our competitors, so we have quite a task keeping the products in the right quantities in our warehouses to meet the demand. Since the global pandemic and Brexit, demand has gone ballistic and it seems that it’s more or less impossible to order from outside of the UK without being stung with hefty duty, tax, and vat bill from Customs that negate any cost-benefit for the consumer.

We’re still managing to keep around 95% availability on Havanas generally but we do expect out-of-stock lines to get worse this year. We have a dramatically reduced range of Cohiba with no availability on Lanceros, Coronas Especiales, Piramides Extra, and Behike still. If you’re a Cohiba smoker, stock up on your favourite size while you can.

The La Casa del Habanos exclusive range is also not without issues with the highly popular Bolivar Libertador the latest on the out-of-stock casualty list although I am happy to report that Partagas Salomones and Trinidad La Trova have come back into stock in reasonable quantity.

A lot of beautiful new and limited edition Havanas were introduced at the recent virtual Habanos Festival but realistically I would not be expecting to see any of these actually arrive any time soon. Late 2022 would probably be more likely.

It’s good to be finally getting out of lockdown and have life returning to something resembling normal. I’m popping into our flagship C.Gars – St James’s store every week for a few hours and have been enjoying sampling outside the shop when the weather has allowed  – though I’m looking forward to indoor sampling starting again this Friday.

We are planning to re-open our amazing Puffin Rooms in early June all being well. The premises has been spruced up and are in fact plusher than ever. The best of live jazz, dining, cocktails, and the largest whisky bar on the North West.

We are finally doing our refurb at our super popular and busy Mayfair store this month so it will be closed for a week from the May 24th . I’m looking forward to reopening the comfortable sampling room thereafter though I understand booking will be essential as our regulars have missed the sampling room and will be happy to get back in there.

Sampling events will restart in the shops next month but we are still enjoying the Virtual Herfs every other week. Great value sampler packs, educational, and a lot of fun.  Join us this Thursday when I will be hosting Ricardo Carioni, the deputy ambassador to the UK from Nicaragua, and featuring Oliva cigars.

Last week’s virtual tasting event featured Flor de Cana rum (I love it!) and Plasencia cigars (I’m a huge fan!). I’m down to my last few boxes of Plasencia – Orchant Seleccion Telico, a splendid Toro-sized cigar that has been super popular. I’m looking forward to the release of the Plasencia – Orchant Seleccion Lancero in a couple of months’ time. It will be interesting to contrast the blends of the Toro and Lancero. The Toro gives volumes of flavour due to the larger format and the Lancero more intensity due to the slender format.

The last few boxes of Davidoff Intenso ( 2020 Limited edition) are now released. Great size, great smoke, Davidoff continues to release the finest quality premium cigars, they really can’t do a thing wrong these days!

I’m starting work on our Summer auction catalogue which takes place on July 27th  – lots of interesting vintage Havanas are coming in already. The April auction yielded some incredible results once again driven by insatiable bidder interest from the Far East.

 

Have a smokey week.

Peaceful puffing,

Mitchell