Written by Puff Staff

Friday, 19 August 2011

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cities in sounddavidoff
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cigarwalk1Think you’ve covered London’s tourist hotspots? Well, perhaps you should don a pair of headphones and take a second look. With the Cities in Sound audio cigar walk, you can explore the city through a veil of smoke, discovering the sights, smells and flavours of London’s long affair with the Cuban cigar... London might be about yellow taxis, royal families and beafeaters, but it’s also got a rich cigar history tied up between the aristocracy’s love of stogies and the iconic images of the pipe-smoking Winston Churchill. The first place to set up trade links with Havana, London’s St James district was a thriving hub for cigar lovers, attracting enthusiasts from the Prince of Wales to King Edward VII. The area is still a haven for smokers, with cigar merchants nestled between gentleman’s hatters, gunsmiths and wine traders. The magical, smoke-filled streets of St James bridge the past and present of London’s intimate affair with Cuban cigars, and you can unearth this history entirely at your own leisure with the Cities in Sound audio guide. With the aid of just a pair of headphones and suitable gentleman’s attire, you can explore the lesser-known world of London’s cigar shops, museums and smoking terraces, with plenty of time to smoke a few stogies along the way.

Walking the Cuban Way

Once you’ve popped your headphones in, you’ll be assisted by the gravelled tones of Professor Maxwell Hutchinson - an English writer, broadcaster and architect who will guide you round the hottest cigar spots in London. The audio guide begins at the bronze statue of Sir Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt in Mayfair. The statue, called Allies, is an appropriate starting place for a cigar walk, and also provides a great photo opportunity. There’s just enough room to squeeze onto the bench between the cigar-smoking Prime Minister and the President who once distributed his own branded campaign cigars. You might need to bring a cigar along to complete the scene though, as the PM’s brass stogie has mysteriously vanished over the years.


From the statue the tour takes you round four of London’s best cigar boutiques, starting with Sautter’s of Mayfair. Established 50 years ago, the store stocks a wide range of cigars and accessories, as well as a special selection of aged stogies. This year, Sautter discovered an almost complete cabinet of H Upmann cigars believed to date back to the late 1800s. Cigar consultant Simon Chase is conducting research into the vintage cigars, so it’s worth popping in to the store for a chat about their extraordinary discovery. They’ve also just started stocking the brand new Romeo y Julieta Wide Churchill - an hour-and-a-half’s worth of stogie that is the perfect symbolic souvenier of a London-based Cuban cigar walk.

Next stop is the historic JJ Fox, which has been supplying Brits with smokes for over 200 years. They’ve sold cigars to everyone from commoners to kings, including writer Oscar Wilde and the PM Sir Winston Churchill himself. Originally an Irish tobacconist, the first London shop was opened in 1947 and the company now run the cigar departments at luxury stores Harrods and Selfridges. Their cigar boutique on St James’s Street is run by Mrs Jean Clark, who in 1999 was the very first recipient of the Cuban cigar industry’s prestigious annunal Silver Chaveta award, which bagged them the title of “UK’s top specialist in Havanas”. JJ Fox is one of the only places in the entire country where you can still smoke inside, so you can try out a few smokes indoors before taking your new finds with you.

The third cigar shop on the tour is the suave, sophisticated Davidoff of St James. The glittering, glass-filled store is packed with neatly arranged humidors, lighters, cutters, cases. At the back of the store is the Humidor Room, with an enormous selection of individually-boxed cigars, which is an excellent place to find an exciting new smoke. Charming proprietor Edward Sahakian is often on-hand to help out cigar hunters at Davidoff, and is a dream to talk to when it comes to stogies. Usually decked out in an immaculate suit, the Armenian cigar lover is nothing short of a true conoisseaur. Either ask Edward to point you towards a new experience, or pick up one of the Limited Edition 100th birthday cigars launched to celebrate the Swiss brand’s latest benchmark.

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