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The New Geneva

Hong Kong smokes Cuban Davidoffs, Dunhills and anything else great and rare
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Michael Jordan, July/August 2005

Reprinted from the August 2005 issue of Cigar Aficionado.

George Wong, perhaps the greatest cigar collector on earth, was handing out 30th Anniversary Cohibas to late-night revelers in his private club in Hong Kong like candy canes to children. No cigar lover could refuse this modern legend in Cuban cigar making -- a double robusto with a rat-tail end made especially for the 30th birthday of the famous brand.

The 30th Anniversary was launched in 1996 at a cigar festival in Havana. Only 45 humidors of the Cohiba with 50 cigars each were produced that year, and Wong owns 10 of them. A number of them are already empty.

"Nobody is leaving this room until we finish the entire box," Wong, 52, said to the group of about 15 people who were with him on this mid-April evening. About half of those in the room were taking turns at karaoke in between puffs of the glorious smoke and glasses of Lafleur 1983 from a magnum.

A full 30th Anniversary Cohiba Humidor goes for about $30,000, if you can find one in a shop or at auction. Single sticks are about $800 at retail, but I know only one shop in the world that sells them and it's in Hong Kong: Cigarro.

"What is better in life than a great cigar and a great glass of wine?" asked Wong, whose family, one of the biggest land developers in the world, is currently changing the Battersea Power Station in London into one of the biggest shopping and residential centers in Europe. He had a huge grin on his face as the red-amber ash glowed off the end of his Cohiba. "You smoke a great cigar and you have no troubles in the world."

Luckily, Wong didn't keep to his word that night and insist that we finish the box, which was still half full. The 30th Anniversary Cohiba was an amazing cigar by all accounts (See Connoisseur's Corner on page 186 for a full tasting note) and not for the fainthearted. It was a blockbuster of a smoke that delivered masses of flavor and character. I would say it still needed some age to mellow, but it was still a perfect smoke for me -- 100 points.

Wong and his son Alex, 26, are part of a small group of Hong Kong Chinese who are incredible cigar aficionados. Their collections, as well as knowledge, are second to none. Just consider the walk-in humidor of the Wong family: it's about 20 feet long by 10 feet wide with two levels, humidity- and temperature- controlled, and packed to the ceiling with boxes of Cuban Davidoffs, Cuban Dunhills, pre-Castro cigars and rare limited-edition humidors from the island. Hell, I don't think even the Davidoff or Dunhill shops in London had such a stock when their namesake Cuban cigars were freely available in the market at the beginning of the 1990s.

But the Wongs are not the only cigar connoisseurs in Hong Kong. I have also met a real estate and entertainment tycoon, Peter Lam, 47, whose nickname should be "Mr. Dunhill Cabinetta" or, better, "The 100-point smoker." He apparently has close to 100 boxes of Dunhill Cabinettas in his walk-in humidor -- not to mention hundreds of Davidoffs as well as 1492 Humidors and 30th Anniversary Humidors. He's seldom seen around town without a 100-point cigar smoldering in his fist.

I smoked a Dunhill Estupendo -- the rarest of all the aged cigars in this brand -- with Lam during a barbecue, and he said he just can't get enough of the smokes -- no matter the price. "What I like is the smoothness of these cigars from Dunhill," said Lam, one of the biggest film producers in China. "They are also very rich and powerful."


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