Paradox of Smoking in UK : Finely Aged Cubans
Aged to perfection: the cigars worth waiting for
IF the UK government- itself on the verge of implosion and unable to deal with anything from the credit crunch to crime - decides that obesity and binge drinking are too tough to fix, it can always go after the smoker, writes Pieter Tesch.
The news that a self-employed painter and decorator taking a break in his own van and sharing a fag with his mate had the dubious honour of being the first to be fined for smoking at his workplace made for a good silly season story.
But it is the more worrying because he was unsuccessful in arguing that the van is not his workplace but his means of getting to work.
Meanwhile, up north, a bunch of no doubt worthy Greater Manchester councillors want to use their powers under local government legislation to impose local age restrictions in local cinemas to classify any film that "glamorises smoking" as over 18, regardless of other content that might be glamorising gratuitous sex and violence.
But not much of this is new to Simon Chase, marketing director at Habanos UK agent Hunters & Frankau, from when he learned the trade.
A recent summer cigar party at Carlton House Terrace Gardens found him in a ruminating mood. "Taken on a tour of our main clients like JJ Fox in St James and Alfred Dunhill on Jermyn Street, I learned that their clients, literally a Who's Who of multi-millionaires, politicians, actors and film directors kept their cigars in innumerable sizes from countless different, virtually all Cuban brands in boxes with dates stretching back five, 10 some times 20 years or more," he says.
Like fine wines, Cuban cigars improve with age and Chase was told that at these merchants no Havana was offered to a customer until at least two years after it had been imported. "Before the Second World War, the period could have been five to six years, but modern demands on cashflow had put a stop to that."
Much more has changed in the meantime, from the overhaul of the Cuban cigar industry after the revolution and its near collapse, certainly as far as exports were concerned, during the 1990s when the new regime in Moscow pulled the plug on the subsidies that kept the cigar and sugar industries going.
Hunters & Frankau had to finance the imports to the UK while production volumes decreased.
Challenging times, but the importer survived and helped Habanos to modernise the industry by introducing increasingly popular limited and special editions.
Hunters & Frankau will release just over 21,000 cigars in 930 boxes in 16 different sizes from seven Cuban brands including Romeo Y Julieta Prince of Wales, a medium flavoured Churchill size (7" by 47 ring gauge) and the Partagas Tres Petit Corona (5.6" by 40 ring), full flavoured, rich and spicy.