Whisky Magazine Issue 11
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Nothing befits a dram more than a fine smoke. James Leavey advises where to buy the best cigars.
On 9 March 2000 at Christie's in London, the hammer fell on 416 lots of ‘vintage cigars', which ranged in age from 1930s to a box barely three years old. By the end of the day, the pre-sale estimates for Christie's first auction devoted exclusively to cigars were exceeded by some £150,000 in a total take of just over £500,000. Christie's also set a new world record price paid for one cigar at a public auction: £726 for a 9.5” x 60 ring gauge Hoyo Particulares.
One enthusiastic collector sold 198 boxes (over 4,500 cigars) from the 1980s, whose original purchase price in London was estimated at £25,000. Christie's hammer price a decade or so later was £176,000.
Simon Chase, the marketing director of Hunters & Frankau, the UK's main importer of Havanas, believes the current growing interest in vintage cigars can be traced back to 1995 when the US cigar boom was in full swing.
“Ironically, although America's cigar enthusiasts could read about Havanas in the pages of Cigar Aficionado magazine, they could not buy or smoke them, at least not legally. Then they realised that the American Embargo on Cuba did not extend to pre-Castro cigars (ie pre-1959).”
As a result, the world's cigar lovers found a lucrative market for those old boxes of Havanas they had been clinging on to all these years. This in turn spurred interest in more recent cigars, especially the larger Havanas, of which there has been a shortage for several years due to crop failures and Cuba's econo...