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James Suckling

The Allure of A Fine Old Cuban Cigar

Posted: Jun 23, 2010 12:16pm ET
Cigar auctions are a cool thing. You sip Champagne, smoke a Cuban cigar and bid on rare and not-so-rare smokes. At least that’s what happened on Monday night at the C. Gars Ltd. Boisdale of Belgravia in London.

Owner Mitchell Orchant put together an impressive selection of more than 170 different lots of cigars from current production to century-old smokes, with plenty of Cuban Davidoffs, Cuban Dunhills, pre-embargo sticks and rare humidors in between. Almost all the cigars were Cuban. The sale totaled close to $318,000 including the 12.5 percent buyer’s and seller’s premium.

About 50 people sat on the small third floor open-air terrace of Boisdale restaurant. It was warm and fresh with the aromas of Cuban cigar smoke intermixing with flowers and the smell of a warm summer’s day in London. About 138 bidders registered for the sale. Most came from the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Australia and North America.

The Cuban Davidoff and Dunhill cigars were some of the most sought-after lots, with such boxes as Château Latour and Château Margaux selling for about $2,500 and $1,850 respectively. An almost empty box of six of the legendary Dunhill Cabinetta Robustos from the early 1980s (a cigar I scored 100 points many times for Connoisseur’s Corner) went for about $2,200.  A range of Dunhilll Selección cigars from the 1960s were equally expensive with a cabinet of 50 Suprema No. 169 Hoyo de Monterreys 1966 selling for about $6,400.

Pre-Castro, or pre-embargo, smokes from the 1950s, and back were mixed in prices—some high and some low. I thought that prices were much higher 10 years ago, but may be I am wrong. For instance, a cabinet of pre-embargo torpedos from Romeo y Julieta called Piramidos No. 1 sold for more than $10,000 to someone in the room.  That’s expensive. (I wouldn’t be surprised to see them for sale in the cigar lounge of the Lanesborough Hotel in London.) But a box of 25 Juan Lopez Coronas for about $1,000 and a seven pack of Romeo y Julieta Half-a-Corona Selección Superfinas at around $300 seemed like a steal.

I had a friend who scored a cabinet of 50 Bolivar Petit Coronas from 1990 for just above $900. That’s $18 a cigar for something that should be amazing to smoke. He also bought some 1998 Trinidad Fundadores for less the current prices for new smokes. A number of other cigars sold for less than U.K. retail.

“High-end, top-quality cigars achieved staggering prices which is indicative of the strength at the top end of the collectors market,” said Orchant, whose English cigar company is now the world’s largest trader in old cigars. He hopes to do a similar sale in December. Christie’s dropped cigar auctions last year.

I think that there is a whole new generation of cigar collectors who are enjoying aged smokes, which suggests that the category is growing and the auction market will be strong in the future. Of course, it depends how individual boxes have been stored over the years. Old smokes can easily dry out and lose their flavor. But when you get a good one, nothing compares to a fine, aged cigar—especially Cuban. And that’s why bidders were buying on Monday.


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