As those of us living in England find ourselves once more confined to our homes, we would do well to reflect on the little things that got us through the summer lockdown.
For me, two rituals maintained my focus and helped alleviate the boredom of being stuck in front of the laptop.
The first was the habit of dressing every day as if I were going out; not necessarily in the full suit and tie I would normally don for a business day, but at the very least, a shirt and trousers.
The temptation to stay in shorts all through the summer was strong; resisting helped me stay focused on the (perhaps misplaced) hope that this inconvenience, surely, would not last forever.
The second was that every lunchtime I would take an hour, prepare a pot of my favourite coffee, and head down into the sunshine for a cigar.
I have long found cigar smoking to be a meditative experience. Some of my best creative work is done when I am concentrating purely on enjoying the flavours of the day’s chosen stick, allowing my subconscious to concentrate on the tasks to come.
With retail premises closed, this could have been a difficult habit to keep up were it not for the proliferation of excellent online operations keeping my humidor stocked from afar.
Here are some of the best, along with some recommendations of sticks that will punctuate the day beautifully.
The site: CGars Ltd
The sheer volume of choice on CGars Ltd makes it an ideal choice for home delivery. All the cigar brands you know, as well as many you may not, are here along with the tools and toys to cut and light them. Their network of brick-and-mortar stores covers most of England and offer a click and collect service, though with shipping free when you order over £50 you only need to leave the comfort of home if you’re in a real hurry. Excellent customer service rounds off a terrific offering.
The stick: Vegueros Mananitas (4”/46RG)
The Manaitas from Cuban marca Vegueros is an ideal choice for a lunchtime cigar. Medium-to-full bodied and around 20 minutes to smoke, it will give you plenty of enjoyment and be done before the ends of your fingers go numb from the November chill. This often-overlooked brand is named to pay tribute to the farmers who grow the tobacco and intended to offer the best value for money in the Cuban portfolio.
The site: Sautter of Mayfair
This beautiful little shop on Mount Street in Mayfair is well-known amongst London smokers and, in normal times, a great place to sample a stick. Throughout November they are operating a pick-up service for those who can make it to the store and order one business day before and a delivery service for those a bit farther afield.
The stick: Partagas D6 (3.5”/50RG)
The Partagas Serie D range is a regarded as one of the finest in the world, with the robusto-size D4 being one of the best-selling cigars around. The D6 carries the same heavy ring gauge and full flavour as the rest of the line, but in a much shorter format that will keep you company for around 30 minutes. Pair it with a strong black coffee, and make sure you’ve had a good lunch first…
The site: Davidoff London
Davidoff may not be the oldest cigar shop on St James’ Street, but to my mind it’s the best. Edward Sahakian opened this iconic store in 1980 and still runs it today, ably assisted by his son Eddie. The welcome and service bestowed upon guests by these fine gentlemen and the team they have assembled is second to none. Boasting a fine selection of Cuban, New World Davidoff and some exceptional rare and vintage sticks, it’s a must-visit for aficionados in London. For now, a selection of their stock is available online.
The stick: Davidoff Signature 2000 (5”/43RG)
A classic corona, this Davidoff is fully constructed of tobacco from the Dominican Republic and boasts the wonderfully creamy flavours one would expect from this region. It is presented in a slender and elegant vitola, giving around 25 minutes of enjoyment. It will pair perfectly with a cappuccino.
The site: No. 6 Cavendish
No.6 Cavendish is a newcomer to the London cigar scene and was unfortunately forced to close even before lockdown due to damage sustained to the shop after a leak from the premises above. When available, the sampling lounge is beautiful; leather wingbacks and dark wood adorn one of the most comfortable indoor smoking spaces the capital has to offer. During the closure period, their website offers for sale some incredible treats from their simply astonishing collection of vintage cigars, painstakingly built over a lifetime by owner AJ Patel.
The stick: Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure De Luxe LCDH (4.5”/52RG)
The La Casa del Habano (LCDH) range consists of a few curated sticks only available in specialist stores granted the right to stock them by Habanos SA. This particular example is stronger in flavour than other Hoyo de Monterrey cigars found in most cigar shops around the world, with a bit more spice and pepper than one might expect. It will fill most of a one-hour lunch break and pairs best with a strong, black coffee.
The site: Boutique Smokes
Despite only launching the website in February of this year, Boutique Smokes has already become highly-regarded amongst UK cigar smokers for two reasons: the expert curation of lesser-known brands from the site’s founder, Mike Choi, and the frankly astonishing value for money presented by their pricing. Mike has an excellent pedigree in the cigar world, his illustrious career including a trip in 2015 to Cuba, representing Great Britain in the Cigar Sommelier World Championships at the annual Habanos festival. The only site on the list without a physical property, Mike and his team continued delivering all through the first lockdown and will do so in the second, including personal delivery by motorcycle if you live within TfL Zone 3.
The stick: El Viejo Continente Mare Nostrum (4.3”/50RG)
One expects power from a Nicaraguan cigar, and the Mare Nostrum does not disappoint. Spices, woody notes and delicious black tea flavours make this an exciting and surprising trip for the tastebuds. Keeping you company for around 40 minutes, it will pair with oolong tea, if brewed for a little longer than normal, or a powerful Americano coffee. As with the D6, best enjoyed on a full stomach.