Orchant may be engulfed in cigar smoke daily as managing director of London’s C.Gars Ltd, the UK’s largest purveyor of Cuban cigars, but he has a clear bead on the industry, from new and vintage stogies to the best places to smoke them. On June 23 he’ll host C.Gars’ next auction of Cubans, including rare vitolas and pre-embargo Havanas.
Which cigars are your personal picks?
I still enjoy classic sizes and shapes and am not a fan of the gob-stopping 58-ring-gauge cigars that have become de rigueur. My favorites are the Bolivar Belicosos finos and the Montecristo No. 2. I’m fortunate to have a deep collection of mature and vintage Belicosos and have been a devotee of the Montecristo No. 2 since my father introduced them to me long ago—we still enjoy them together.
Where in London do you go to savor them?
My haunt is the Garden Room at the Lanesborough. The vibe is laid back and comfortable, the cigar selection is comprehensive, and the service is truly the best in the business. The cigar sommeliers’ knowledge of both regular and vintage cigars is impressive. I also enjoy the Sahakian Cigar Shop and Sampling Lounge at the Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge.
Do you ever come across counterfeit Cuban cigars?
The only counterfeits we see are from people who come back from vacations in Cuba and have been duped into buying cigars on the street or the beach. They think they will come back and sell them to pay for their vacation! They have wasted their money.
How can you spot a fake?
Not necessarily by the band alone, as printing runs vary from batch to batch in Cuba. Color variations, minor design and embossing variations and anomalies are commonplace.
We look at box codes, warranty seals, bands, the foot and cap construction of the cigar, the serial number on the warranty seal and most important, where they were bought and if there is an original purchase receipt. Anything purchased from a La Casa del Habano or other authorized distributors, there is never a cause for concern. In the UK all Havanas are imported through the sole distributor, Hunters & Frankau, and are stamped English Market Selection as a mark of authenticity and quality.
What are the holy-grail cigars?
That would have to be a vintage Cuban Davidoff or Dunhill. They were great cigars (and expensive) in the ’70s and ’80s, and they are even better now. They are in very short supply. Demand is insatiable and most have been smoked by collectors. Bidders are always looking for hard-to-get cigars such as Cubatabaco 1492 humidors, Habanos 1994 humidors, La Flor de Cano short Churchills and diademas.