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.