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The Davidoff Legacy

The world-famous brand's former Cuban cigar remains a highly sought-after collectible
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Emeril Lagasse, Sept/Oct 2005

(continued from page 1)

"Go and look at them yourself," I said. "I know a fake when I see them, and the shop—Cigarro—is not selling fakes. I saw close to 100 boxes of Haut-Brion in the shop."

The fact is, a lot of the Davidoffs in Hong Kong came from cigar lovers who bought up the cigars in the early 1990s just after it was announced that the cigars would no longer be produced in Cuba. I know one guy who paid more than $100,000 in one order to the Davidoff shop in London in 1991—mostly No. 1s and No. 2s.

I still remember being in Havana in 1992 with Cigar Aficionado editor and publisher Marvin R. Shanken, and we heard that the cigar shop at the Havana Libre Hotel was discounting Davidoffs. Everything was being sold at $50 a box, including the Chateau series and Dom Perignons. Our jaws dropped when we walked into the poorly lit shop and saw walls full of boxes with the Davidoff's distinctive cursive script burned into their tops.

I remember saying to Shanken: "If I had a lot of money, I would buy all the cigars in this shop. They are going to be worth a fortune one day."

If only I had the money, and if only I could have legally bought them. (The U.S. government doesn't allow journalists in Cuba to buy Cuban products.) Most of the cigars are now worth a minimum of 20 times that price of $50 a box. Some are worth hundreds times more.

For example, Dom Perignons have sold in Christie's auctions in London for as much as $12,000 for a box of 25. The Chateau series reach as high as $4,000, although the rare Chateau d'Yquem, which was withdrawn from the original series in the early 1980s and replaced by Mouton-Rothschild, has fetched as much as $10,000 for a cabinet of 25. Even the cheaper No. 1s and No. 2s cost about $1,000 for a box of 25, although prices seem to fluctuate according to auctions, which are usually twice a year.

"They sell well because they are great smokes," says Brian Ebbesen of Christie's in London, who organizes the cigar sales. "Buyers know that they are no longer made and they know that the quality levels and consistency of the rolling was always top."

The best values are the No. 1s and No. 2s, even at $40 a stick. I have never had a bad one, and they deliver all the flavor and style of a Davidoff Cuban. The price is not that much more than you might pay for a box of current-production double coronas from Punch or Hoyo de Monterey in London.

The Anniversario 80, a mammoth smoke measuring nine inches long by 49 ring gauge, is the most expensive Cuban Davidoff. Produced for Zino Davidoff's 80th birthday, it sells at auction for about £12,000 for a box of 20, or about $1,000 per cigar.

Cigar collectors are also very fond of the Chateau series, which comprise the Latour, Lafite-Rothschild, Margaux, Haut-Brion and Mouton-Rothschild smokes. (The latter replaced the Chateau d'Yqem after the famed Sauternes wine estate asked to have its name removed from the series.) Davidoff told me that he never had a contract with the first-growth wine properties. He simply sent them boxes of cigars with their chateau's names on them and informed them of the project.


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