Did you know that cigars have a palate where you can savour different aromas and flavours, much like wine, malts and food. Cingari owner and cigar czar Chetan Seth demystifies some cigar etiquettes and offers a collection of finest cigars
By: LF Team
Posted on: June 10, 2010
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (1917 – 2007), a Pulitzer Prize recipient and American historian and social critic, was also an avid cigar smoker. Once, after having an excellent lunch at La Côte Basque in New York, he lit up a cigar. A man in the banquette next to him, however, objected to the cigar. But instead of extinguishing the offending item, Schlesinger, who was filled with “righteous indignation”, relates his next action: “I pointed out this was a fine Havana cigar - and he should be grateful being within smelling range!” Such is the love that people lay on cigars’ shrine, and more so for a Havana cigar.
Cuba is famous for dishing out cigars which are considered the best because of the unique blend of sun and soil in the region, as well as the skill of the people rolling a Havana. The cigar culture is relatively new in India with Chetan Seth at the helm of this revolution. He reminisces, “My love story with Cuban cigars started 10 years ago. Cuban cigars have long history. They were first rolled in 1842. My grandfather was an English banker and smoked them along with his numerous Maharaja friends. My father smoked them along with pipes. I think it was a matter of style since he never touched cigarettes. It was natural that when the opportunity came my way, due to a close friend being posted as our ambassador to Cuba, that I naturally accepted the agency and the obligation to bring back the cigar culture into India.”
Seth started a chain of exclusive Habanos (a denomination of origin for Cuban cigars) retail store called Cingari. It provides the flavours and aromas of the finest Habanos cigars, the elegance of handcrafted humidors (a kind of box or room with constant humidity, and often temperature as well, used to store cigars, cigarettes, or pipe tobacco) and other cigar accessories like cigar cutters, ashtrays, etc.
As the sole and exclusive distributors of Habanos Cigars in India, Cingari stores premium hand rolled Habanos brands which include Montecristo, Cohiba, Romeo Y Julieta, Partagas, H. Upmanns and Bolivar. In total, they have an astonishing more than 200 variants of Habanos in their portfolio. A Cohiba Magicos can cost around Rs 1,320 each. The Partagas comes in limited editions and starts from Rs 14,500 (25 cigars). High on the popularity scale are Romeo y Julieta. The Short Churchill Romeo y Julieta costs Rs 17,300 for 25 cigars while the longer Romeo y Julieta costs Rs 21,500 for 25 cigars.
The latest addition is the exclusive India edition cigar – Punch Platino. In recognition of India’s prominence in every aspect of today’s world, Habanos, in association with Cingari has developed a limited edition cigar exclusively for the Indian market, the Punch Platino. Everything about Punch Platino is elegant and luxurious, from the numbering on each box to the platinum wrapper covering half the cigar and, of course, a second band which proudly states ‘Exclusivo India’.
Platino is a magnificent Double Corona size (7 5/8” length and 49 ring gauge) having the Cigar factory name of “prominentes”. Its double corona length allows the flavours to change as you go through the cigar. Its medium flavour will cater to all tastes. Costing approximately Rs 40,000 for a pack of 25, Platino is much in demand by cigar admirers.
Seth, counts his personal favourites, “I am a RYJ Churchill fan and the Romeo Y Julieta Duke Limited Edition 2009 is great. Not to forget Montecristo Edmundos and almost all the limited editions. Of course the India Edition ‘Punch Platino’, only available in India, is also one of my favourites.”
For the love of it
Seth has also put together Habanos Smokers Clubs in all major Indian cities, where cigar connoisseurs meet once a month to exchange ideas, network and smoke a special Habanos for the evening. They also have annual events like the Habanos Black and White Ball and the Havana Cavalry Gold Cup (Polo Match) for their privileged customers only. They host intimate Habanos Cigars & Malt dinners for select few, where the emphasis is on enjoying the elements of good life which extends not just to Cuban cigars but to gourmet food, fine wines and single malt whiskies.
Like cigar making is a serious business, cigar smoking is also an art. Ensure that the cigar is in perfect condition prior to smoking. Make sure it is cut correctly, that is, place the cigar firmly between the blades of the cutter, and clip the head off with a decisive stroke. Refrain from removing the band as this can lead to ruining the wrapper leaf. Always light your cigar with an odourless flame. When lighting, never let the flame actually touch the cigar. Instead, rotate it slightly above the flame tip so that you light the entire foot of the cigar. Do not inhale the smoke. Taste the aromas on the palate and exhale. If the cigar goes out, clean the end in an ashtray and relight (within half an hour). Do not tap the ash continually. When deemed to be finished, lay it in an ashtray and let it go out itself. Do not stub. Allow it to die with dignity.
Cigars constitute a culture of great richness, good taste and fine living. Habanos has become synonymous with exceptional quality, exclusivity and luxury.