A Great Collector
A 30-year-old Hong Kong businessman could have the greatest cigar collection in the world
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The cigars are stored in a walk-in humidor in their office that resembles a fine cigar shop more than a storage room. The Wongs also have a cigar-smoking room in the building that features part of their vast cigar collection as well as an impressive array of art and wine. Many of the cigars featured in Cigar Aficionado's Connoisseur's Corner have been drawn from smoking sessions with the Wongs, including the 100-point Grisel Bolivar Chatelet featured in the August issue.
Earlier this year, I sat down with Alex Wong in Hong Kong and discussed his passion for the leaf and his amazing cigar collection. Alex and his father run a family business, The Hong Kong Parkview Group Ltd., that develops major residential and commercial complexes in Hong Kong, Beijing, Taipei, Singapore and London. They also have a financial interest in Pacific Cigar Company Ltd., the key agent for Cuban cigars in the Far East.
Cigar Aficionado: Do you remember the first time you smoked a cigar?
Alex Wong: Well, I can't really remember the first time, but I remember the first great cigar that I smoked was a Dunhill Malecon, and this is when my father came to London and took me to Dunhill. It was when they were selling some of the stock from the lockers of some of their customers.
CA: So you smoked some of the pre-Castro stuff then?
Wong: No. They were mostly Dunhills from the 1970s. That is when I thought, "Wow, this stuff is amazing."
It is easy to start in London. Back then there was so much access to old cigars. Everywhere, [there were] old cigars. And talking to Desmond Sautter, you learned a lot. I also went a lot to Davidoff and spoke to the owner, Edward Sahakian. And then Christie's started to have auctions of cigars as well.
CA: What is it that you like so much about cigars, then?
Wong: I enjoy the complexity and the different tastes that you get from different cigars, and also the experience of letting yourself go and relaxing with friends. It's great!
CA: You have a great wine collection as well. Is cigar smoking a different experience from drinking fine wines?
Wong: Yes. It is very different. I find when I smoke cigars I am more relaxed.
CA: If you had to give up wine or cigars, which would you give up?
Wong: I would give up wine. I know I shouldn't say that, but…I got to know a lot of people [through wine], and a lot of people know me more for wine than cigars, but I always think of myself as a cigar guy. You know, I always enjoy cigars more. But it is hard to compare the two and luckily I don't have to make the choice.
CA: Are there a lot of guys your age and in their late 20s and 30s who smoke fine cigars in Hong Kong?
Wong: I think cigars have really picked up in the last few years. A lot more cigar bars are open now. More and more people my age are trying to understand cigars. They don't want to go to the shop and simply buy Montecristos. They want to know what they are smoking and they want to pick out the good stuff.
CA: How did you amass your collection? You seem to have just about everything.
Wong: Buying in auction, buying in Europe, mostly London. But I think how the collection started was when my father was part of the purchase of a big parcel of cigars from a famous collector in the United States.
CA: I think I know who that was, but I shouldn't say.
Wong: He was from Chicago or somewhere like that. We bought the cigars from Gerard in Geneva. That is how it all started and we sort of built around it. We buy cigars from Pacific Cigar as well.
CA: Your family has an interest in Pacific.
CA: What are some of your favorite cigars?
Wong: I think with cigars, it is the occasion and the time of day that are important when you smoke. But some of the greatest cigars that I have smoked are things like the Dunhill Cabinetta, Cohiba 30th Annivesary, Dunhill Estupendos, 1492 and Partagas 150.
CA: Wow. Man. Those are all 100-point cigars or very close to that and they are super expensive. Anything for mere mortals?
Wong: I am finding that the quality of the cigars has recently picked up from Cuba. So I think that the Cohiba Siglo VI is a great cigar. The new Montecristo Edmundo and Petit Edmundo are great cigars as well.
CA: I am with you.
Wong: I like Hoyo de Monterrey Petit Robustos. And I have been trying some of the regional releases, and they are pretty good.
CA: How about Limitadas?
Wong: Limitadas? I am not convinced of them all of the time. Some of them are good. Montecristo Robustos are great. I also like the Partagas Serie D No. 3.
CA: I thought you were a big fan of Davidoff Cubans as well?
Wong: Of course. I enjoy Davidoff cigars as well. 5000. Dom Perignon is good during the day. Very refined. Well, I like to try all kinds of cigars. Recently, I have had Romeo & Julieta Cazadores from the late 1980s. But nowadays, it gets harder and harder to find these old cigars. It is almost impossible now. And you have to really be careful of the quality now.
CA: You mean you have to be careful how these old cigars have been stored?
Wong: Yes, in terms of how it has been stored. Sometimes in auction you have to be careful. Now that I am not in Europe as often [as I used to be], I can't really go and check out the cigars all the time before they are sold at auction. Every once in a while you find some interesting boxes. But it is not like before when you could find 15 boxes of Dunhill here and 30 boxes of Davidoff there. Now, it is one box here and one box there.
CA: If you had a friend who was thinking of starting to collect cigars, what advice would you give? Would you tell him to buy young cigars and store them like bottles of fine wine?
Wong: Oh definitely. I think that is the way to go…to buy the cigars young and to taste the difference with age. If you have a box of cigars, you can try one now, then you can try one in a year's time, then try one in two years' time, and so on. Then you know when it is the best time to smoke your cigars. Then you can smoke the whole box! It's fabulous. You get such enjoyment out of that.