Maybe the Partagás Serie E No. 2 was too much cigar for after lunch, but Prague's La Casa del Habano was just a 15-minute stroll from the restaurant, and the opportunity was not to be missed. The store can be easy to overlook unless you're familiar with the famous LCDH logo used to designate a cigar shop that's part of the official retail chain of Habanos S.A. On a lazy holiday afternoon, with the humidity high and rain threatening, ducking into the Prague LCDH felt like finding a sanctuary.
Prague, like almost every city in the European Union, is proving more and more of a challenge when it comes to finding a comfortable, indoor place to smoke. At the Prague LCDH, though, all you have to do to be able to enjoy a cigar in the store's lounge is buy one there.
This LCDH has whitewashed walls and many cigar accessories filling shelves on the walls and the counter in the front of the store. Walk past the counter and humidor into the lounge where there is a TV and 20 or so overstuffed leather chairs, with another 15 seats in the front (but no smoking there). Asian sculptures and photos of the store's owners, including one with the late Cuban tobacco master Alejandro Robaina, adorn the walls. A painting of a Cuban farmer with tobacco plants is front and center.
The store's cigar selection is extraordinary, with more than 25 brands available. Choose from the relatively light Quai d'Orsay to the fuller Ramon Allones, with the superstar brands of Montecristo, Hoyo de Monterrey, Partagás, Romeo y Julieta and Bolivar, not to mention Cohiba, in between.
Fortunately, an associate named Dayamin, a Cuban woman now living in Prague, is there to help. We speak in Spanish and she picks out the Serie E No. 2 (about $17). She doesn't like the first one, though, rolling it between her thumb and middle finger, declaring it a bit too soft. She returns that one and picks another more to her liking and hands it over.
"It seems a little soft," I say in Spanish. Dayamin says if it doesn't smoke well, she'll replace it.
The next task is to select a beverage. It will be rum, but the selection is nearly as daunting as the cigars. I see one old friend, Santiago de Cuba 12 year old Extra Añejo, and a new friend, the Havana Club Selección de Maestros. I start with the Santiago, confident that there will be enough cigar left to require a second pouring. Were it after dinner instead of lunch, one could have added the remarkable Havana Club Unión to the mix.
If your taste runs towards Scotch, the LCDH's selection of 15 single malts will take care of you. The Glenlivet Founder's Reserve is a rare find, while The Glenlivet 15- and 18-year-olds are also available, as are a 16-year Aberlour and Longmorn. And there's some Jack Daniel's if you're wanting some Bourbon.
The level of cheer and hospitality at LCDH in Prague is high. There's a lot of laughing as we say goodbye with promises to see each other once again, perhaps in the United States, maybe in Cuba, probably in Prague. There is a promise that you'll continue to be able to smoke inside, with your cigar in one hand and a drink in the other, even as the Czech Republic adopts the EU strictures on smoking. Perhaps a small membership fee is in the offing, but assurances are given that, whatever has to be done, aficionados will be able to enjoy another cigar at La Casa del Habano in Prague.
La Casa del Habano - Prague
Praha 1, Dlouhá 35/730
11000 Prague 1
+420 222 312 305
Open Monday through Saturday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sundays: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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