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Cigar Diary: Mexico's Cigar King

Max Gutmann is one of the world's great collectors of Cuban cigars as well as Mexico's official Cuban cigar agent.
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Armand Assante, Mar/Apr 2008

(continued from page 8)

Gutmann: Of course, it all depends on your budget. You can just start with one box. And you don't smoke all the cigars and you see how they develop with age. And then buy another box once in a while and keep them. Increase your pleasure little by little. You need to know what year they were boxed and then you go from there. It is like collecting wine. There are good years and bad years. It is less of a problem now with Cuban cigars, but in the past there have been years when hurricanes have affected the crop, or blue mold. But it hasn't been like that for a while.

CA: Is storage important for collecting?

Gutmann: Yes. They have to be in the proper humidification. You can have the best cigar in the world, but if it is dry, it is going to taste horrible.

CA: What is the humidity you recommend?

Gutmann: I keep them at 74 percent humidity. But Mexico City is at a very high altitude. Otherwise, I would keep them at 70 percent. I keep the temperature at 57 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

CA: That is really cold.

Gutmann: Yes. But you will never have any problems with bugs. The bugs appear when it gets too hot. You have one beetle and it can ruin all of your cigars. So I keep it cold. I have to wear a sweater when I go into my humidor.

CA: You also collect a lot of accessories ...cutters, bands, boxes, furniture...everything.

Gutmann: Yes. I have been collecting things like that for many, many years. When I am in Europe, like London or Paris, I always go to the antique markets to look for things. Unfortunately, the prices for these things have really gone up. Years ago they didn't cost anything. These pieces became expensive after the cigar boom and everybody wanted them. Some of the prices are really ridiculous now. Most of [the pieces] are from the 1800s.

It's interesting how all the cutters and the humidors from that period are relatively small because the cigars smoked were very small. They were like the Cuabas.

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