Swellboy on… cigars and China

China is waking up to the pleasures of the Cohiba

Image: Brijesh Patel

It is one of the truisms of modern life that China is snaffling all the things that have helped us in the west take the edge off the harsher moments of life. In fact I have heard that some Chinese connoisseurs are so zealous in their pursuit of fine classed-growth claret that they have been able to find bottles of Petrus that pre-date the foundation of this most famous of Pomerol châteaux.

As with wine, so it is becoming with cigars. The other day I was in Davidoff sampling a cigar, as is my wont, when a Chinese customer came in and young Eddie Sahakian, son of founder Edward Sahakian, staggered up from the humidity-controlled vaults almost invisible under a tottering pile of Cohiba 1966. As with Château Petrus, the foundation date of Cohiba has proved to be something of moveable feast, depending on the prevailing history in vogue at the time. I have lived through a number of different variations on the Cohiba foundation myth, none of which has interfered with the pleasure with which I enjoy the cigars bearing the yellow, black and white bands.


But there are Cohibas and Cohibas; and among the highlights of the current millennium are the Cohiba Sublimes, issued as a limited edition in 2004 and now changing hands for three and even four figures a stick. It may be a little early to say, but I think that with the 1966, Cohiba might have another Sublime on its hands, and in an effort to halt the inevitable drain of this fine cigar eastwards I have taken the precaution of laying down a few boxes myself.

Meanwhile the fondness for cigars in China continues to affect the cigar market over here in the strangest of ways. Simon Chase, one-time recipient of the Havana Man of the Year award and for many years a director of Havana cigar importer Hunters & Frankau, is feted as a visiting rock star when he travels to Hong Kong and he would appear to be deluged with speaking invitations and first-class airline tickets by cigar-crazy plutocrats. At this point I would like to point out that I too am a recipient of the Havana Man of the Year award and while I may not know as much about cigars as Simon Chase, I am quite happy to consider any lucrative speaking engagements that he does not have the time to fulfil.


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