Let’s start with, what are New World cigars? It’s a very broad and generic term which I call, any cigar brand not made in Cuba. They have been known as “non-Cubans” but, it is a term that I found quite negative and that using this term (subconsciously) made you think of these cigars as a lesser quality product.
New World cigars are just different and I strongly believe you should not compare them to Cubans. Cuban cigars are single origin (or puros) whilst New World cigars are puros and mixed blends. The clever little tobacco seed does not grow the same anywhere. Like wine grapes, tobacco plants grown in similar locations but separated by a road or a stream or slightly different exposure to the sun will produce slightly different tobacco. If this is known to be true in one country, then it is only logical that the same seed will be different when grown in a different country, even if the geographical and climate conditions are similar. If you’re a new/ inexperienced/ infrequent/ experienced/ aficionado smoker, hopefully you will approach cigars with an open mind and palate. The world of cigars can offer you so many different flavours, aromas and strengths, why restrict yourself to just one country? I truly believe that anyone who claims to know cigars and only smokes one type of cigar does not know cigars.
Speaking from personal experience, smoking nearly exclusively Cuban cigars for the first 15 years, it was incredibly difficult making the transition to enjoying New World cigars. I had been taught all these things about Cuban tobacco and cigars, it was very difficult changing these opinions and training my palate. Difficult but not impossible.
My good friend Didi Hoffman, was the man behind my New World cigar education. I met Didi by chance in Berlin in a cigar shop. We met for dinner, then a cigar and a lot of talking. Didi has a fantastic palate and already smoked Cuban and New World cigars. He convinced me to attend Intertabac in 2013. Together we smoked as much as we could at the three-day event. It was about 8 cigars a day at the event and another 2-3 in the evening. That’s roughly 30 cigars in 3 days. That first show was exhausting. My taste buds didn’t really have much idea what I was doing to it. What did I get out of it? Honestly? Not much. I struggled to enjoy most of them, as my “Cuban brain” was doing its natural thing of telling me that the cigars didn’t taste like Cubans, didn’t have the same flavours and didn’t develop like a Cuban cigar. And that folks, is where I was going wrong. I made the most common mistake of trying to compare the cigars to Cuban.
I knew my palate was decent but, I didn’t understand how I wasn’t able to enjoy these New World cigars, some of which were highly recommended. The Eureka Moment! I can’t remember if it was something I realised on my own or someone told me but, when I learnt to disengage my “Cuban brain” and told myself just to smoke the cigar and do none of the Cuban comparisons, things really changed for me and my enjoyment of New World cigars. Didi and returned to Intertabac in 2014 and pretty much did the same thing but this time, things were a little different. With this new mindset, I went in with a much more open mind and palate. This time I think I actually enjoyed 2-3 cigars a day. I call it my Eureka moment. After that show, I definitely wanted to learn more about New World cigars and of course smoke more.
As you will know by now (if you read my profile), I was firmly rooted in Cuban cigars in the beginning and whilst it didn’t surprise many people that I smoked the occasional New World cigar, it did come as a bit of a shock when I announced I would be launching a New World cigar company.
Having run an award-winning cigar lounge and shop in Central London for 5 years, I decided I wanted to do something different. I didn’t want to open a shop or run another lounge, I wanted to do something that would make New World cigars more accessible and affordable. UK cigar prices are notorious around the world (although parts of Asia are definitely more expensive than the UK now), so it’s not cheap being a cigar lover here. I wanted to import these cigars and sell them directly to you, the consumer, via an online platform and try to give you some interesting cigars at good prices. It’s been a labour of love and has taken me over 18 months to finally launch Boutique Smokes.