London as a Cuban Cigars Mecca
Outside Corinthia Hotel London
LAW ADAPTATIONS. ICONIC SMOKERS. LUXURY LOUNGES
If Cuba is a sunny cigar mecca, London is its cold cousin. Though the immediate freshness is missing and farmers are fictional – true Cuban Cigars must be created entirely in the country of origin, Britain’s capital is a cigar sanctuary for those looking to smoke the finest, in an assortment of opulent establishments.
Exploring Behind London’s Traditional Gentlemen’s Clubs in one of our most thought-provoking posts, we noted how “cigar shops were set-up to specifically cater” to the gentlemen club clientele. St James’s Square situates White’s, Boodle’s and the Garrick Club, and is home to one of the oldest cigar merchants JJ Fox. Since king Edward VII came to power and said his famous “Gentlemen, you may smoke” statement, London has brimmed with the lingering essence of a cigar.
Top Left: The Lanesborough Garden Room, Top Right: Annabel's cigar room, Bottom Left: La Habana cocktail at Corinthia Hotel London, Halloween special cocktail and Seventh Heaven
"2007 ban somewhat emphasised cigars as a luxury"
Edward played a role in creating the Marlborough Club, a place where one could smoke freely. The concept of London as a ‘cigar mecca’ reigned with glory – home to arguably the world’s greatest Cuban cigar connoisseur, Winston Churchill. The city was known as a prime location for sourcing habanos; American’s took pleasure in flying to London and savouring their forbidden fruit. And then in 2007, the smoking ban was implemented. A ban on smoking in indoor public places. Initially, both cigar and cigarette smokers were hanging with their tails down and lighting up in a shameful, uncomfortable manner.
To disperse the freedom of cigars in London, is to deny a quantity of history. That the law understood. Cigar shops won permission to light cigars on the basis of sampling, allowing a person the opportunity to smoke inside. This agreement has paved a “disparity between cigarettes and cigars”, as written on The Rake. Cigarette smokers are often out in the rain or huddled near a train station, crowded under an umbrella. Cigar smokers are sat in plush chairs, beautiful settings, and drinking a glass of whiskey or port. The 2007 ban somewhat emphasised cigars as a luxury. Cuban cigar sales are soaring and London is once again the hub of it all.
Many hotels have added cigar rooms, terraces and lounges. Private members’ clubs have made a cigar section paramount. The world’s best known, Annabel’s, is home to 2018 World Habanosommelier Darius Namdar (director of Mark’s Club but looks after cigar procurement for all Birley Clubs). He smoked an elegant Por Larrangna Montecarlo Cigar when we interviewed him about Annabel’s cigar room.
Top Left: The Hari Bar & Garden Terrace, Top Right: The Wellesley Cigar Lounge, Bottom: Garden Lounge at Corinthia Hotel London
"London cigar scene is promptly rising"
Namdar remarked, “the 50th anniversary humidor that came out from Cohiba, they only made 50 of those. And I think within something like a one-mile radius, there are 7 or 8 – it shows the strength of the market here”. He believes London as a Cuban Cigar treasure, is largely due to the work of Hunters & Frankau, particularly head of communications Jimmy McGhee, who created the Master of Havana Cigars certification in London.
From The Wellesley, to The Ritz, Cuban Cigar smokers appreciate their artisan pieces and are not willing to feel embarrassed, heading to an out-the-way area to enjoy. Our editorial series Where to Smoke, showcases some of the great London smoking lounges. Corinthia Hotel London, has a stunning Garden Lounge which features a bar containing 4 specially curated cocktail pairings, with a walk-in humidor and experienced cigar sommelier Adam Lajca. Guests are surrounded by beauty and are encouraged to pick from a wide range of Cuban cigars, though one is welcome to bring their own. The Hari Bar and Garden Terrace has al fresco dining and an extractable roof with heaters. While The Lanesborough features one of the rarest Cuban cigar collections in the world.
The London Cigar scene is promptly rising. Business’s are turning alert to the need for an area dedicated to cigar smokers. While many luxury markets are dwindling, cigars are in the midst of a renaissance. We at EGM Cigars couldn’t be more thrilled to know our favourite Cuban Cigars online, are being stocked in many a London street.