Trust the skill of the Cubans
Ageing is the hottest thing to hit the cigar market. Chris Carter looks at how investors are cashing in.
Ageing is the hottest new thing in cigars, says Nick Foulkes in the Financial Times's How To Spend It magazine. "In essence, ageing is a gentle continuation of the fermentation of the tobacco that began after harvesting and curing There are few cigars that will not benefit from a year or two of climate-controlled rest: the ammoniac tang dissipates; harsh flavours mellow", woody notes are accentuated, and the various flavours harmonise.
Customers from Russia, China and the Middle East jostle with one another to get their hands on the finest specimens. Connoisseurs "want to acquire a mature collection and will pay a good price for a well-stored box of cigars with provenance", Eddie Sahakian son of Edward Sahakian, the renowned purveyor of fine cigars in London tells Foulkes.
Originally from Iran, the elder Sahakian opened the Davidoff of London cigar shop in 1980, while waiting for the revolution in his home country to blow over. Thirty-six years later, he's still waiting. But in that time he has been putting away fine cigars in his vault and has "accumulated some real treasures".
Cigar-ageing is undergoing a revival, with even Cuba, the spiritual home of cigar-making, getting in on the act. Cuba had "no culture of ageing", explains Simon Chase of importers Hunters & Frankau. "Laying down cigars was a West End ritual for a wealthy few, who would send their sons to their cigar merchant when they came of age." But the prospect of collecting and researching long-gone brands has "captured the imagination of a new generation of cigar smokers, most of whom were not brought up with a paternally transmitted tradition of the art", says Foulkes.
Careful storage is all important, so you need a humidor, which keeps the cigars in optimal conditions. The Cigar lounge at The Wellesley in Knightsbridge claims to have the largest hotel humidor in Europe. "It's certainly impressive," says Nick Passmore on Forbes.com. "There's a map of Cuba laser-etched into the marble floor and £1.5m-worth of cigars." You can sample some of the best cigars in the world, while sipping a prohibition-era cocktail on one of two of the hotel's heated outside terraces.
"If you are looking for something to invest in, then you could do a lot worse than directing your spending on cigars," says Tom Chamberlin in The Spectator. Romeo Y Julieta Wide Churchill Gran Reserva is a good place to start. The Churchill is, as the name suggests, a "chunky" cigar that still offers a "refined taste". "But trust in the skill of the Cubans," says Chamberlin. "Buy two boxes, smoke one and enjoy one of the great smoking experiences, then stash the second away for several years under lock and key. This will appreciate better than London property."