Imagine sitting in an aged-leather armchair, a large glass of single malt in one hand, a delicately hand-rolled cigar in the other and a group of your closest friends to while away the night with. Sounds pretty perfect, if I do say so myself. Smoking cigars has long been the social pursuit of gentlemen. A staple of the gentrified circles of old, they hold a certain vintage charm, and a charm that one experiences every time one smokes. Perhaps personified by our old British hero, Winston Churchill, who is known to have smoked cigars everyday, they simply epitomise luxury. Nowadays, cigars are seeing a marked resurgence, with many hotspots popping up around London, and with them a wealth of cigar-based knowledge. A luxury indeed, but one that is suitably affordable and something all modern gentlemen should enjoy. So for those needing a nudge in the right direction, here is the gentleman’s guide to cigars, and some of the best spots to smoke them.
What to smoke:
Generally speaking, the best cigars are hand-rolled in either Cuba, Honduras, The Dominican Republic or Nicaragua. Of course, when starting out, you must find a cigar that is right for you. As the entire process of cigar smoking is for taste, it’s often easy to ruin an experience by smoking a cigar that is a tad too heavy. Equally, cigars can also be very expensive purchases – when starting out, bear all this in mind and try one of these:
One of the most famous Cuban cigar manufacturers in the world, Cohiba’s very inception was at the hands of Fidel Castro – if that’s not a provenance for Cuban cigars, I don’t know what is. The Rubusto is a great, well-rounded cigar with a lighter taste and a truly easy smoke – perfect to start out on.
Another world famous cigar manufacturer, Montecristo also hails from Cuba. Named after Alex Dumas’ infamous novel The Count of Monte Cristo, the cigars produced are equally as infamous. To start out, try the No. 4. Its ease of smoking, light, full-bodied taste and mellow aroma is ideal for beginners and aficionados alike.
Oliva Serie V Belicosos
A brand of Nicaraguan origins, Oliva has become one of the most praised cigar manufacturers in the world, winning numerous awards across the board. The dense, powerful tobacco is often suited to the proficient cigar smoker, but the Belicosos harnesses this flavour into a soft, smooth tasting cigar, and one that is sure to become an immediate favourite.
Where to buy:
If you want the true cigar buying experience, and to be advised by renowned experts, try visiting one of these London-based cigar shops:
Sautter of Mayfair
James J. Fox, St James’s
Davidoff of London, St James’s
How to smoke it:
After selecting your cigar, you’re going to need a cutter and a flame. The most common cutter to prepare your cigar for smoking is the double guillotine – simply place the end (the part nearest the label) into the hole and slice (approximately 1 cm) in one quick motion. Try one of these:
Next, you’re going to need a flame. It is widely considered that the best flame produced to light a cigar is that of a match or a butane lighter. Place the cigar in your mouth, bring the flame to the end, and puff hard (make sure not to inhale) until the tip begins to glow red. Once reasonably lit, you can blow on the tip to distribute the burn for an easy smoking experience.
Where to smoke:
If you want to smoke in company, with experts to support you, you can try one of these hotspots in London:
Boisdale, Canary Wharf
The Hippodrome Casino, Leicester Square
The Garden Room at The Lanesborough Hotel, Knightsbridge