Switzerland remains one of the most cigar friendly countries in the world, and the Michel Reybier Hospitality Group is one of the most smoker supportive brands in the hotel industry. The company’s five-star La Reserve properties in Zurich and Geneva both have elaborate smoking lounges, and while these two international gateway cities are popular business destinations, the third most visited place in Switzerland is a surprise, almost entirely based on leisure.
Zermatt is the original mountain town, the inspiration for everything from a Disney World ride to the most popular ski resort in the United States—Vail—as well as copycat alpine chalet architecture around the globe. One of the oldest hiking, climbing and skiing destinations in the world, Zermatt is an impossibly quaint, car-free village sitting in the shadow of the Matterhorn, the world’s most recognizable mountain. Reybier’s resort here, the Schweizerhof, is a little more laid back than its urban siblings, but still arguably the best luxury hotel in town, and certainly the best for cigar lovers.
Every guest room has a private balcony or patio with ashtrays and matches, and in summer the hotel operates a large outdoor tropical “beach bar” conjuring up tiki huts, but the real star is the simply named Le Fumoir, “The Smoking Room.” More lounge than room, it is large and divided into three sections, with semiprivate enclaves separated by bookshelves at one end, a more open sitting room area in the middle, and a pool table at the other end. It was completely redone as part of top-to-bottom hotel renovation in 2018, and management wanted an old-fashioned feel without losing the mountain town vibe. To do this it mixes a library aesthetic with funky cow skin seats, and a variety of other seating options from deep dark leather couches to chairs around marble tables. Each table or side table is adorned with a large ceramic ashtray and box of long wooden matches, and to keep the vintage theme going, the cigar and drinks menu is printed in the style of an old tabloid newspaper, including a “cover story” on the history of cigars. That tale begins with Christopher Columbus’ return from his famed 1492 voyage of discovery, which introduced tobacco to Europe, through the first Spanish cigar (1676), Napoleon’s launch of French production (1815), and right up to the U.S. embargo of Cuba.
Adding to the clubby feel, buttons at every table summon a waiter to order drinks, and the list includes a broad selection. From Caribbean rums to French Cognacs and Armagnacs and whiskies from all over the world, including a 17-year-old Nikka Taketsuru from Japan and Macallan Rare Cask 1824 Master Series. There are also plenty of high-end French wines with a focus on Bordeaux, including numerous Grand Crus, with first growths from Chateau Margaux and Mouton Rothschild, but the signature is the “house wines,” since Reybier also owns the lauded Chateau Cos d’Estournel, and the list includes both large format bottles and a vertical back to 1986. He also owns his own eponymous Champagne label, widely poured at the resort.
The five-tier, glass-fronted display humidor is built into the bookcase at one end of the large lounge, and features a rotating selection with a focus on a variety of shapes and price points, with entry level options for novices and high-end selection for connoisseurs. There is a partnership with Davidoff, but other brands are carried as well, including La Aurora. They normally try to always have Cubans on hand, but supply chain woes have made this difficult since the pandemic, so these are often available “off the menu,” upon request. On a recent visit, the printed list had 18 options, most of them from the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras. The detailed menu describes each selection in terms of strength, length, diameter, flavors (vegetal, spicy, earthy, woody) as well as the estimated minutes required to smoke one. Because many guests purchase cigars to take to the golf course, ski slopes or on mountain hikes, they always offer some options packaged in tubes, and stock special reusable humidification bags to protect cigars on the go.
The cigar lounge is extremely popular as an après ski spot in winter, and features a powerful custom downdraft ventilation system built into the flooring, so non-smoking companions do not smell anything, and staff will grant access to the humidor for purchases even when the lounge is closed.
The Schweizerhof has an excellent location on Zermatt’s main pedestrian street, and is the closest top hotel to both the train station where everyone arrives and to the Gornergrat Bahn, the most popular summer attraction and the main winter ski train. It has 95 rooms and suites, and two of the town’s best restaurants, the local ingredient focused fine dining Schweizerhof Kitchen and an upscale take on classic Swiss mountain fare such as fondue and raclette, the Cheese Factory.
Zermatt, Switzerland 3920
Open Sunday through Saturday: 7 a.m. to 12 a.m.