If you’ve ever found yourself in Ho Chi Minh City, better known as Saigon, you know that this is a fascinating city with a lot to see and do. There is beautiful French colonial architecture and a great deal of history to explore. But you may find yourself feeling a little bit lost when it comes to cigars.
This is because (to my knowledge) there really is basically just one decent shop. Thankfully there are a few classy bars, most of them located on rooftops (you might be able to buy cigars in some of those bars, but at higher prices). Here is the rundown so that you know where to go if you are ever in Saigon!
Vienna is a beautiful and amazing city with a rich history and plenty of culture to explore and enjoy. It was the home of Mozart, Beethoven, and Freud. Speaking of Freud—where can you shop for the best cigars while you are on your trip?
For cigar smokers, Vienna is something of a mixed bag. Cigars there are cheaper than the ones you’ll find in the UK (not like that’s hard to do), but still more expensive than you’ll find in a lot of other European countries. So don’t expect to find an outstanding deal. On the bright side, though, smoking is quite popular among locals, so a lot of bars and restaurants throughout the city will let you enjoy your stogies. There are also a few shops and bars which are absolutely outstanding.
This post, first published in 2009, has been updated in 2015 with more parisian cigar shops and lounges.
Paris, France is a city that I know quite well, having lived there for several years. Surprisingly, despite the interdiction to smoke indoors that has been on for a few years now, there are quite a few quality cigar shops that deserve a visit. And there are many places where you can enjoy your freshly purchased stogie. Let's start with the cigar shops:
1. A la Civette
The very first place that I discovered many years ago is called A la Civette ("at a cigar shop") and is located right in the touristic center of the city, close to the Louvre museum. Don't expect to pay a premium for the location as cigar prices are exactly the same in ALL cigar shops in France.
The place has a strong tradition as it first opened its doors in 1716. A la Civette boasts a large walk-in humidor with a good selection of Cuban cigars (all of them are available by single) and it also has non-Cubans like CAO, Ashton VSG or Padron 1964 (most of them at prohibitive prices, of course). By the way, if you want to enjoy your cigars straight away, there is a nice café just opposite the cigar shop, where you can smoke outdoors.
Here's the address if you ever have a chance to visit it: 157, rue Saint-Honoré 75001 Paris (Google Maps link >>>)
2. Le Lotus Madeleine
This one was close to my office and I visited it many times. Less tourists (and customers) here, so if you're lucky you can have a long talk with the owners who know their products very well. The selection is arguably more narrow, but I always managed to find something nice. Located in a small street near Madeleine metro station (Google Maps link >>>),
3. Publicis Drugstore
Right on the world famous Champs Elysées (n° 138, Google Maps link >>>), the Publicis Drugstore is a decent choice if you need a quick fix. A lot of different cigars are available in the walk-in humidor, unfortunately the advice is nearly non-existent and the staff could have been friendlier. I've been there three times and always had the same experience.
Here are a few more locations that all have a decent range of Habanos (and sometimes non-Cubans):
Le Corona, 30 quai du Louvre, 75001 Paris.
La Boîte à Cigares, 23 rue de Rome, 75008 Paris.
Tabac du Châtelet, 8 rue Saint Denis, 75001 Paris.
Maison Lemaire, 59 avenue Victor Hugo, 75016 Paris.
Now that you purchased your Behike, you might want to give it a try immediately!
In France, it is forbidden to smoke indoors but there are places where you can still enjoy your cigar, even in winter. They are equipped with an electronic system that eliminates smoke and you have to fetch your drinks yourself (the waiters can't enter the area). The problem with these "fumoirs" (smoking rooms) is that a lot of them are located in 5-star hotels, which means there's a certain dress code and drinks can cost over 20 EUR. This is why most of the time I go to the Cubana Café, located 47, rue Vavin (Google Maps link >>>). Affordable drinks, a comfy smoking room, and some tex mex food if you're hungry - that's a good mix in my book.
If you prefer more upscale places though, here are a couple:
This year we're as usual a bit late with the 'best of' Cuban list, sorry about that. On the bright side, this delay gave us a chance to smoke all of these cigars again in the beginning of 2015, which confirmed the ratings.
Like last year, the list is composed of cigars that we smoked in 2014 (with mostly recent box codes). Without further ado, here's the list.
1. Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure de Luxe
Surprisingly, the Hoyo de Monterrey brand secures the #1 spot again! This time it's a LCDH-exclusive release called "Epicure de Luxe". It's definitely the best Cuban cigar I smoked in 2014 and I finished my first box in January 2015. Planning to open my second box this fall!
2. H. Upmann Connossieur A
The H. Upmann Connossieur A is another quite exclusive release which is available at La Casa del Habanos but also in Habanos Specialists shops around the world. Flavor-wise, this cigar is as good as it gets, if you like the delicate and balanced Cuban profile, you'll be in for a treat. Overall there were a few construction issues (mainly burn) in these cigars though, otherwise they could have easily made it to the very top of this list!
3. Hoyo de Monterrey Petit Robusto
Unfortunately, overall in 2014 I had way less time to dedicate to smoking than I wished, due to work and health issues. In this context, small cigars like Hoyo de Monterrey Petit Robusto really shine and I'm fairly sure that this was my most smoked cigar in 2014. If properly aged, it packs everything Cuba has to offer in a rather small format.
4. Cohiba BHK 52
Reliable, consistent, posh: the Cohiba BHK 52 is just as good as last year, and is a perfect special occasion smoke all-around. This is my first choice for informal meetings with business partners.
5. Vegas Robaina Famosos
Not really a mainstream cigar, the Vegas Robaina Famosos box that I kept in my humidor since 2012 gave me some very pleasant moments on the rare occasions I could enjoy a cigar indoors in winter.
What were the best Cuban cigars that you smoked recently?
During any given year I try a lot of cigars. Some of them are awful, many are mediocre, and quite a few are downright forgettable. Many are outstanding, however, and at the end of the year a few emerge in my mind as the best of the best. So now that the year is at its end, I want to share with you my very favorite cigars of 2014. This list is completely subjective, and please keep in mind it is in no particular order.
1. The Crowned Heads – Jericho Hill
Jericho Hill is a release that The Crowned Heads made in conjunction with My Father. The binder and filler are both Nicaraguan, but the wrapper is Mexican San Andreas tobacco. Strength is medium to full. At first I remember worrying about this one because of how densely packed it was, but the draw was just fine. Flavors are awesome, especially if you like wood and natural tobacco. This cigar produces a ton of thick white smoke. It’s very flavorful, and not too expensive either.
2. Padron Family Reserve 50 Years Maduro
This is a cigar often seen on best-of lists for this year. It’s a Nicaraguan puro with a Maduro wrapper and strength I’d rate as either medium or full. The blend was created to honor Jose Padron and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Padron family’s brand. It doesn’t come cheap; you literally will pay around $25 for one of these. That said, if you get the chance to try it, do it. The flavors are exceptional and the construction is perfect. Check out this review for an idea of what you can expect in this cigar. I love the perfect draw and the sweet, spicy flavors, which are mostly in the cedar-and-chocolate area. While the flavors are nothing unusual, they are incredibly well balanced. This is an excellent commemorative cigar. I only wish I could afford another one!
3. Illusione Fume d'Amour
Last year I became a huge fan of the Illusione Rothchildes. This year, an Illusione cigar was also one of the first I thought of for this list. The name translates to “smoke of love.” And I definitely love this cigar! It’s very complex, featuring Nicaraguan viso and seco filler leaves. It’s a puro: the binder and wrapper are also from Nicaragua. Notes include wood, chocolate, nuts, and a minty coolness balancing out the rest. Construction on this stogie is excellent. You can read my review of the Illusione Fume d'Amour Viejos for more details. If you are an Illusione fan, you definitely have to try this one!
4. Joya Red
This puro has made a lot of best-of lists this year, and is yet another great offering from Nicaragua. You can purchase it for around $6, so it is a great deal, and perfect for everyday. It’s a medium-bodied smoke with flawless construction and delicious flavors of earth, nuts, and leather. There’s a hint of citrus and plum rounding it all out and balancing the other notes. A superb cigar at a superb price!
5. Camacho Ecuador
This cigar includes an Ecuadorian Habano wrapper, a Brazilian binder, and Dominican and Honduran filler leaves. The draw and burn are perfect, and it hits you with a ton of intense, bold flavor right off the bat. I got mostly leather and spice with dark fruit and something sweet in the backdrop. There are wood flavors later on and some espresso; I expect the sweetness is from either the wood or the fruit. Either way, it’s a great smoke. You can go right down to the nub with zero harshness. Around $6 / stick.
Thanks for reading my list of the top cigars of 2014! What were your favorite stogies this year? Let us know in the comments below!
Update (Aug 2014): Following my second trip to the Belgian capital I added two more places to the list of cigar shops in Brussels. During my stay I met Robert, a beer fanatic and cigar aficionado, so stay tuned for some beer-related content in the coming weeks and months.
Brussels is another European capital that is definitely worth visiting (in fact, I think all of them are!), especially if you like good food. Indeed, whereas Amsterdam doesn't have much to offer in this field, Belgian cuisine is one that I really enjoy. A lot of dishes contain beer and cream, thus being rather heavy but delicious. They are especially good in winter. Oh, and I almost forgot Belgian ales, which are simply the best in Europe the world.
This being said, I also made sure to find a couple of cigar shops so that you don't have to waste time locating your favorite cigars when you're in town. The first one (pictured above) is called Le Roi du Cigare (Cigar King) and it has the Habanos Specialist label. It's located in the East of the City Center (the center being the Grand Place, probably the most beautiful place in Europe) at 25, Rue Royale (Google Maps >). It features a nice walk-in humidor with a wide choice of Cubans and non-Cubans. I noticed that the non-Cubans are mostly the same in those European shops - some Ashtons, some Davidoffs, as well as Macanudos. You won't find many boutique cigars in these shops. You're not here for non-Cubans anyway, am I right? Le Roi du Cigare lists all of their prices online (the page is in French, click on a brand to see all vitolas, prix unitaire means unit price), this is pretty useful. As far as I know cigar prices are regulated in Belgium, so you'll find the same rates across other shops.
Chances are you’ll hang around the Grand Place quite a lot. In this case, you simply have to stop by Tête d’Or (golden head) and have a look at their offerings (Google Maps >). The walk-in humidor stocks quite a wide selection of Cuban cigars as well as some surprisingly interesting non-Cuban sticks, including Tatuajes. The owner is friendly and obviously knows his stuff about cigars. In fact he was smoking one when I came in.
Another shop that I missed during my previous visit is the Davidoff B&M, located on the Place du Grand Sablon (Google Maps >). Plenty of expensive cigar accessories and a walk-in humidor (pictured above) that showcases cigars from the Davidoff group (Davidoff, Avo, Griffin’s, Camacho...) and also features a moderately large selection of Cuban cigars. The place is really classy. If you’re in the area, make sure you discover the Marolles district for an authentic Bruxelles experience.
The last shop is called Walter B and, as far as I remember, the man that you can see in the picture above is the owner. The place is smaller, but you will still be able to find the Cuban references you are looking for. Walter B is located West of the Grand Place (82, Quai aux Briques, Google Maps >). Plenty of nice sea food restaurants near this shop.
As usual, if you live in Bruxelles and/or know some other good places to buy/enjoy a cigar, please share them in the comments below.
It's true, we're seriously late with this year's lists. In the beginning, when we realized we missed the schedule, we were planning to just skip 2013 best of's and start afresh in 2014. But given the number of emails we received asking us to publish the top 5, we had to reconsider our position. So here it is, our selection of best Cuban cigars of 2013.
The list is composed of cigars that we smoked in 2013 (the box codes are mostly recent, 2012-2013, with one exception). Most of them are not recent releases and we picked the cigars that showed the highest consistency throughout the year. The Montecristo No. 4, for example, didn't make it to the list because it seriously lacked consistency both in terms of flavor and construction.
1. Hoyo de Monterrey Grand Epicure 2013 Limited Edition
This Hoyo de Monterrey seems to be a very successful edicion limitada. 2013 was a good vintage for LE's, as I hear the Punch Serie d'Oro No. 2 also smokes very good at the moment (review coming soon). This is how DrFever describes the Hoyo Grand Epicure LE 2013:
It is a lush, rich, creamy and extremely flavorful smoke. Every puff offered something different. It was extremely complex and had incredible depth to the flavors. The blend was always changing featuring chocolate, coffee, sweet cedar, leather, caramel, vanilla and mild pepper with hints of orange peel and dried fruit.
I've smoked 6 of Trinidad Robusto T's throughout 2013 and they have been very good: perfect balance, great complexity and no harshness at all. I still can't understand why in the world would Habanos SA discontinue such a wonderful smoke. I also noticed that, surprisingly, the ones that I smoked this summer seemed somewhat less complex to me, perhaps there's no use to age them further? I'm afraid it's the last time they make it to the top 5.
4. Bolivar Coronas Gigantes
I've had multiple opportunities in 2013 to dedicate 100 minutes to this impressive churchill. A friend gifted me a box of these in 2009 and thankfully there were no construction issues so far. It's a very special cigar to me because it was the very first cigar review on this blog, back in 2007. I guess it's time to update it, stay tuned.
5. Ramon Allones Specially Selected
Well, I'm really sorry for being somewhat predictable but the RASS remains (at least for us) the most consistent regular production cigar. It's the cigar I turn to, for the past 7 years, when I need something good and reliable.
What were the best Cuban cigars that you smoked in 2013? It's probably not that easy to answer this question in July 2014, but still, give it a try in the comments area below.
Looking for a great way to save money on cigars? The next time you’re traveling, head over to a duty-free cigar shop while you’re waiting at the airport. At duty-free shops, you can purchase cigars which are tax-exempt, and you can also access a selection that you might not be able to at home. This is also a chance to browse through regional and limited cigar releases. Not all duty-free cigar shops are on par with one another though; some are excellent, while others are not. Here are 5 of the best duty-free shops. Know another duty free shop with a great selection? Tell us about it in the comments area!