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James Suckling

Lost in Translation

Posted: Mar 21, 2007 4:01pm ET
I am back in Italy at the moment and I started to think about a funny incident last week while I was in Hong Kong for some wine tastings. I was hanging out with my friend Alex Wong, who has to be one of the biggest cigar collectors as well as wine collectors in the world. We were smoking some cigars in the evening, and an Italian friend came by to see Alex’s cigar collection, which could number as many as 4,000 boxes.

Anyway, my Italian friend came into Alex’s cigar room and began looking around. And he was really impressed. After looking at an amazing selection of smokes on the grand floor, I took him upstairs to a room full of hundreds of cabinets of Hoyo and Punch Double Coronas as will as various Churchills.

My friend said in Italian: “Those are nice, the 50s of Punch Double Coronas.”

“Si,” I said. “Multo buono.”

“How much do they cost?” he said to me.

I thought that was sort of a strange thing to say. But I told him that they were probably $400 or $500 a box since they were aged. They were from 1997.

“I take two boxes then,” he said with a big smile.

He was serious! Alex’s cigar collection was so fricking big that my friend thought he was in a cigar shop!

I had to explain to him that it was a private collection of cigars and that they were not for sale.

“OH MY GOD!” he said, shaking his head. “I had no idea.”
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Si Edmundo...

Posted: Mar 16, 2007 12:32am ET

I received an e-mail this morning from a friend who said he was disappointed with the quality of the latest production of Montecristo Edmundo. I was sort of miffed after I sent him two cigars to try, but you know stuff happens that we can’t explain, especially with Cuban cigars.

The two smokes had come from complete boxes from a friend’s stash in Havana. I chose the cigars myself. So they couldn’t have been fake. And, honestly, I have not seen fake Edmundos. Cohiba Esplendidos, yes, but not Edmundos. At least not yet…

Maybe they were damaged in the post? I don’t know. He said it tasted weird and was underfilled. I don’t remember the cigars being like that when they were posted. Maybe he over humidified them? Or put them next to something unclean or funky in his humidor for a few days before smoking. Cigars are very absorbent.

Anyway, I am a great fan of Edmundo. Granted, the cigar was good but nothing special when it first came out a couple of years ago, but now I think it is one of the most satisfying that the Cubans produce. I think that changing most of the production to the new Upmann factory in Vedado has really helped. That factory is now one of the best on the island.

What are your thoughts about Edmundo?
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Smoking in the World's Sin City

Posted: Mar 14, 2007 8:59am ET
I was watching CNBC this morning while I was in Hong Kong and there was a report on how Macau, a tiny administrative region of China, generated more revenues in gambling last year than Las Vegas – $6.87 million compared to $6.7 million.

Incredible. I was smoking a Montecristo Petit Edmundo in Macau on Tuesday following a dinner at Wynn at the Il Teatro restaurant and I had no idea about the money involved! Wynn is one of a number of new casinos in the 10.9 square mile city. It’s an hour’s jetfoil from Hong Kong. The Venetian is expected to open in a month or two as well as Melbourne’s Crown. The former looks about the same as the Las Vegas operation but the 350 retail stores around the hotel and casino look a lot larger. A massive underwater hotel is being built across the street. Numerous other casinos are under construction or on the planning board.

I am not sure if the Chinese gamblers in Macau are going to be interested buying anything other than chips. They are ferocious gamblers. I toured the Sands with food and beverage manager, and it is the biggest casino in the world, with 230,000 square feet filled with close to 800 gaming tables and more than 12,000 slots. There are only 52 rooms and all are comped to high rollers. Very few gamblers come for sleeping in Macau. In fact, it is common for players to fall asleep on the tables.

I am not sure if I remember correctly but the average stay for a gambler in Macau is something like 23 hours, and I think 20 hours are spent gambling and the rest eating bowls of noodles and getting messages. Apparently, the 747 hanger sized facility of the Sands can be so packed that you can’t walk through the gaming floor. And many players will spend hours sitting in the same spot playing. Most only drink tea or milk as they play.

Macau is a hardcore gamblers venue. I played a few hands of blackjack and walked away a winner. But I couldn’t help but feel out of place. I guess I don’t take gambling that seriously. And I miss all the creature comforts of Vegas, including the excellent restaurants and shopping.
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