Where to Smoke: The Ritz London Cigar Sampling Lounge
The 1920's Orient Express inspired Rivoli Bar - an intimate cocktail lounge
UNIQUE SERVICE AND DECOR. FAMOUS CIGAR SMOKING GUESTS. RENOWNED WORLDWIDE
We are pleased to present this fifth edition in our spotlight series Where to Smoke. A detailed guide showcasing luxurious lounges, terraces and rooms to enjoy Cuban Cigars. We went inside one of London's most well-known hotel's The Ritz, opened by Cesar Ritz on 24th may 1906. Here are our most recent establishments from the series:
There are many things to expect at The Ritz London. A concierge service, elegant style, a Michelin-starred restaurant, the city's most booked-up afternoon tea. If you appreciate a romantic touch of luxury and have stumbled upon the rushing footfall of London, you know quite well the opulent red serenading the floors beneath the hand-crafted chandeliers in the hotel's lobby. But The Ritz London has a new Cigar Sampling Lounge which may represent the hotel’s ritziest offering yet.
The stunning Ritz Sampling Lounge was originally a jewellery shop. In the lounge you will find a choice of reading material, beverages and of course a magnificent cigar selection.
"famous cigar smoking guests paint the walls"
LOUNGE INTERIOR - 1920’s art deco meets quintessential British refinement, layered with modern charm. Once passing through the doors to step inside the lounge, the atmosphere adapts to leisure – the point where a cigar smoker is two-thirds finished and feeling as tranquil as a yogi on a weekend retreat. Cigar sommelier Alex Sumerauer played perfect host and conversed besides Assistant Food & Beverage Manager Koula Michaelides, who overseas the project. We needed a moment to adjust to our settings, for the place has taken splendour above 5* glory.
FAMOUS SMOKING GUESTS - From the jazz and classical instrumental music, to the plush, yellow leather chairs – there’s such a warmth to the room, you can’t help but instantaneously feel connected. Air purifiers spread inside to retain a lovely, fresh scent with no the linger of someone else's smoke. Images of The Ritz’s famous cigar smoking guests paint the walls; Winston Churchill as one of the most remembered hotel devotee’s is prioritised. As a hotel centrepiece, a commissioned painting of him sits middle of the room, with the painting’s background adorned in tobacco leaf. That alone is a worthy vision.
Winston Churchill use to regularly smoke at The Ritz London and is considered one of the hotel's best customers.
"an all-round complete experience"
EXPERIENCE - “We’ve had so many cigar lovers over the years, we’ve had Sir Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, Sir Roger Moore – we’re now 112 years old and counting, so we thought, why not have an all-round complete experience for our guests and create this cigar lounge where people can smoke inside, away from the cold, away from the chaos of Piccadilly, and just enjoy themselves”, says Koula. Cigar lounges today are a necessity for any leading establishment, and The Ritz understands how to address its smoking clientele.
SAMPLING LOUNGE LOCATION - Not hidden away in a basement or outside in cold British weather, The Ritz Cigar Sampling Lounge proudly positions itself at the hotel’s front entrance, on a street (the unofficial cigar mile) with one of the oldest cigar merchants. “The Ritz is beautiful and lovely, but it’s quite daunting to go through those big, big doors”, says Alex. An extra entrance is there on the street for curious cigar enthusiasts to waltz in, without worrying about formal attire (trainers and sportswear however are not permitted). Aware that cigar smokers tend to dress relaxed and casual to match the pastime, the in-house team has worked hard to create a space convivial for each visitor to admire.
The lounge is typically busiest between 4:30pm to 7-8pm, and after 9pm. With a distinguished team, you can be sure you will always be looked after.
"very different to other cigar lounges"
UNQUE SETTING - “We’ve made it very different to other cigar lounges – you can see it’s very bright colours – we have the plush leather, the beautiful yellow. We purposely did the frosted glass to make sure we have natural light coming through, because we felt that a lot of cigar lounges, which also beautiful and relaxing, are quite dark. We thought, let’s do something different. Let’s keep it very light, very neutral colours”, says Koula. Though unique in service and décor, the lounge is still situated at The Ritz which as Alex said, ensures the formality and Ritz service is present “in a very nice, relaxed, calm way”.
BESPOKE HUMIDOR - Together, Alex and Koula showcased remarkable knowledge and honourable delight at their fulfilling positions. Everyone's smile beamed in sincerity, including Mario Ledda and Luca Ragusini who make up the rest of the team. After unwinding in the lounge, we marvelled inside the walk-in humidor. Never have we seen a humidity-controlled setting so perfectly aligned and organised with a varying assortment of Cuban Cigars.
Approximately, 7,000 sticks. Whilst they stock New World, our eyes gazed only at the countless Cubans. Starting with the lightest, peppery flavours found in brands such as Hoyo de Monterrey Cigars, the shelves gradually feature stronger and more robust aromas clockwise round. One of our favourites, Cohiba Behike 56 Cigar was spotted, and the Romeo Y Julieta Tacos Cigar 2018 Limited Edition is now on the menu.
Left: The handmade walk-in humidor is extremely well-organised and uses a horsehair sensor at the back to check temperature. Right: Cigar sommelier Alex Sumerauer who has been with The Ritz London for half a decade.
"Crafted with Lebanese cedar wood"
PERSONALISATION - The humidor comprises many Limited Edition Cigars – most popular currently is the Cohiba Robustos Supremos. Designed by The Ritz in-house team – a gentleman called Graham who has the “magical touch”, built the humidor to perfection by utilising all space. Crafted with Lebanese cedar wood, Alex explained that they prefer to invite guests inside the humidor to make a cigar choice, to compose a more personalised service. A perfect opportunity to introduce smokers to less-known, yet equally exquisite brands like San Cristóbal de La Habana Cigars. With guests continually walking in and out, the temperature is risen during the day to about 75 - 76, and then dropped to 70 overnight to assure optimum humidity.
Quite rare and individual, inside the humidor there is a selection of lockers which you can purchase to store cigars and drink bottles bought at the hotel. One locker costs £800 for a year (renewed annually), and the cost can go towards purchasing cigars. You are able to give your name to a client or friend, if you wish to gift them with cigars from your personal locker.
The Ritz London Cigars collection features two lines - 1906 Laguito and the Churchill. Hand rolled and packaged in stunning box presentations.
"huge choice in cigar preference"
RITZ LONDON CIGARS - In addition to the great variety of Cuban Cigars, The Ritz have created their own collection of exclusively hand rolled Ritz London Cigars, encompassing two lines – Churchill and 1906 Laguito. We savoured the latter, a light, peppery taste which elegantly develops in strength. Blended with a mix of Dominican and Cuban tobacco, the 1906 range contains Medio Tiempo leaf for a spicy, walnut finish. The Churchill line meanwhile, mixes four different tobacco’s – Dominican, Nicaraguan, Honduran and Cuban, and starts off slightly ‘grassy’, ending on a rich, spicy note.
The talented in-house team design everything from the lounge’s ashtrays, to the Ritz London Cigars stunning cigar bands and box presentation. Their 1906 Laguito line is presented in humidified boxes. With a huge choice in cigar preference, pleasant furnishings and skilful staff, the completion as one of the most luxurious cigar lounges, is within the drink pairings. And as a reader, if you know of The Ritz, you probably know their beverages are second to none.
The Ritz London's in-house team have designed a range of cigar accessories, including the cigar ashtray. Though there is a cigar menu, many guests enjoy choosing their cigar in the humidor.
"a truly special experience"
DRINKING PAIRINGS - Next door to the lounge is the Rivoli Bar – themed after The Orient Express and in similar art deco style. Exhibiting his wealth of experience, besides traditional whiskey, Alex suggested gin and tonic to cleanse a palette, champagne, and for non-alcoholic drinks, a cup of Pu-erh tea – “because the fermentation is the same as the tobacco leaves, they work quite together – you can always pair the Partagas No. 1 with the Pu-erh”.
Another pairing example is “the Quai d’ Orsay No. 50 with a nice Calvados – the apple flavours really enhance the nuttiness, the creaminess and slight touch of vanilla that go in the Quai d Orsay", says Alex. If you are looking for a truly special experience, The Ritz London houses Louis Tres cognac and works with Lheraud, making their own blend of 1906 cognac. At the time of meeting, just three bottles remained.
Left: Assistant Food and Beverage Manager Koula Michaelides who overseas the cigar sampling lounge. The dress code is smart casual attire, with no trainers or sportswear.
Open every single day of the week from 10am to 11pm, and with no minimum spend, The Ritz Cigar Sampling Lounge is a leading example of how to combine heritage with modernity, luxury with serenity, and characteristic décor with graceful sophistication. The excuse to smoke our favourite Cuban Cigars online in a captivating lounge, is one at EGM Cigars we highly recommend you do not ignore.
Why not follow the Ritz London Cigars on Instagram and stay tuned to our blog to see Part 2, where we reveal many secrets behind The Ritz London Hotel and share some excellent Cuban cigar wisdom.