A Great Collector
A 30-year-old Hong Kong businessman could have the greatest cigar collection in the world
From the Print Edition:
Richard Branson, Sept/Oct 2007
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Wong: You were there.
CA: I know.
Wong: Cuba is an amazing place. That is the first [place that] I have been where at 7:30 in the morning, everyone is smoking a double corona. I thought it was great. And in the afternoon, everyone is sitting on the terrace at the Nacional and smoking a cigar and drinking Mojitos.
CA: What do you think of non-Cuban cigars?
Wong: I like non-Cuban cigars too! Padróns are some of my favorites.
CA: Do you like the light wrapper or the dark wrapper?
Wong: I like the dark wrapper. And sometimes when you smoke these non-Cuban cigars, you realize how well they are constructed, how well they are made. The ash always burns through well. And I smoke Ashton VSGs as well.
CA: Where do you buy most of your cigars now? Here in Hong Kong?
Wong: Well, the new cigars, definitely Hong Kong.
CA: You can get everything and the prices are not too high anymore?
Wong: Yeah. Pretty much. We have never really had a problem with tobacco and duty before. Prices are normal. And the quality is very good now. As far as young cigars, you don't really need to buy them anywhere else but here.
CA: So when you see new releases, you like to try them and see what they are like?
Wong: I try them first.
CA: Is there anything that you have smoked recently and thought, "Wow!"?
Wong: You mean new cigars? I was saying before that Montecristo Edmundos are great. Montecisto C's are smoking very well now. And recently I have been smoking a lot of Hoyo Petit Robustos. I like the size. I also like the new Montecristo Petit Edmundo. It's strong. I just remembered what one of my favorite cigars was. I have been smoking the Cohiba Lanceros from 1991. They are amazing. I have them in cabinets of 50 with the old label.
CA: In the past, you had problems with the draw with Lanceros.
Wong: With our old ones you never had a problem.
CA: So do you think Cohiba is worth the extra money?
Wong: Some of them I do. I'm not too sure about Siglo I or II or something like that, but the VI, IV, Lanceros, Robustos, Espléndidos and Corona Especials are very good.
CA: Any other smokes you are impressed with at the moment?
Wong: Recently, I found that cigars from 1998 are smoking fabulous now. Really good. I didn't buy anything after that until recently. There were too many problems with construction. They didn't draw.
CA: Do you buy cigars on the Internet or from merchants you know?
Wong: I only buy from merchants I know. It just so happens that some of the merchants sell on the Internet. But I don't buy on the Internet. You have to buy from somebody you definitely trust. There are so many fake cigars around.
CA: Have you had any problems with fakes?
Wong: Well, I have had a couple of boxes. Cohiba Espléndidos mainly. Ah, but you know, actually they are not hard to spot. As soon as you smoke one, you know.
CA: Do you keep all your cigars in your walk-in humidor or do you also use small humidors that hold a few hundred cigars?
Wong: I keep most of the cigars, almost 95 percent of the cigars, in [the walk-in]. I keep some at home. Some in the office for everyday smoking. I like the condition to be constant so I can see how they are developing. I think you can get a lot of fulfillment aging your own cigars, if you age them properly.
CA: What do you think of pre-revolution cigars? Is the hype over cigars from the 1950s and older true?
Wong: I think in general you can find some good pre-revolution cigars. Sometimes it is about picking the right box. I mean, it is hard because the cigar has been around for so long. For me, pre-revolution cigars are more of a collector's item. Sometimes you do get a lot of enjoyment smoking them. But it is just something to have.
CA: Why are the Chinese some of the biggest cigar collectors today? Is it something unique to the Chinese mentality for finer things in life?
Wong: I wouldn't say it is the Chinese mentality. In Hong Kong, we enjoy the finer things in life. Cigars are one of them. Cigars, wine, watches…they are all part of the lifestyle. I don't think necessarily it is the Chinese, but I guess in a way the Chinese people are more thorough. They are very keen to learn and enjoy.
CA: Do you think there is anything else you need to learn about cigars?
Wong: Of course! [He laughs.] I am learning. I am learning all the time!
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