Cigar Aficionado

Smoking in Paradise—St. Barth's

I spent last week on the island of Saint Barth’s, which is also known as Saint Bart’s and officially called Saint Barthélemy. Whatever name you use, it’s a gorgeous, hilly eight-square mile island in the French West Indies with superb beaches, wonderful cuisine, balmy weather and Cuban cigars.

My wife, Manuela, and I went on the trip with two other couples, great friends of ours from home. Within an hour of landing at the tiny airport, we drove into the town of St. Jean for lunch at the Eden Rock Hotel. After filling our bellies with fresh seafood and quenching our thirst with two magnums of Rosé, the girls headed back to the villa for some pool time while the guys went for a quick dip in the ocean before walking down the street to the Casa del Habano to load up on smokes.

It’s a well-stocked shop, with just about every Cohiba and Montecristo in stock (even the rare Monte No. 4 Reserva), Vegas Robaina, Romeo y Julieta and many more. I shot a little video to give you an idea of the selection—take a look.

The Diplomaticos looked gorgeous, but there were only a few left in the box. I knew we would be smoking quite a bit, so I asked Sandrine, who runs the shop, if she had anything with a little age on it. She smiled and reached for a full box of H. Upmann No. 2s from August 2006. Perfect.

I grabbed the Upmanns, took out my cutter, and me and my buddies lit up. We walked out into the sun and enjoyed the leathery pyramids, which were medium to full bodied with a touch of black pepper, wood and a nice blast of cedar. The wrappers weren't as exquisite as you tend to see on the finest Monte 2s, but the cigars made up for their looks with tons of taste. I'll take flavor over appearance any day.

The Upmanns were great company on the trip. We spent our days sleeping in (did I mention we all left our kids at home?) then sat down to breakfasts of fresh bread and pastries, rich cheese and strong coffee. Then it was time to bask on the deck, take a few dips in the pool, play a little cards or read a book, then we would head to a restaurant for lunch, always paired with magnums of rose. (We soon jokingly dubbed 750 ml bottles half bottles.) Then it was time to hit one of the island’s great beaches.

My friends and I smoked everywhere on Saint Barths: on the beaches, on the deck, in the cars and in the restaurants after most lunches. St. Barth’s is a French island, so our cigars weren’t frowned upon as they are in the states. (I did catch what I think was one angry glance on a beach from an American athlete, but he quickly walked to the water and didn’t say anything, so I’ll keep him anonymous.) We drank wine during the day, but at night, back at the house, we paired the cigars with spirits. I brought along a bottle of Henessey XO Cognac, and a bottle of Ron Zacapa 23 year old. Both paired perfectly with the cigars.

One of my buddies took to the cigars with particular vigor, even popping one in his mouth at dawn. (Manuela shot a photo of him scrambling eggs while puffing on an Upmann, which I found quite impressive.) So soon it was time to restock. On the one rainy day, we made our way into the biggest city on the island, Gustavia, which has another superb cigar shop, Le Comptoir du Cigare.

Le Comptoir is a slightly fancier shop than La Casa, with a great selection of Elie Bleu products and a smaller but well-appointed humidor. There were most Cohibas and Montecristos, some Romeos and other cigars, along with a few non-Cubans, such as Arturo Fuentes, Davidoffs, and one lonely box of Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series cigars. We grabbed some Monte 4s (we were in dire need of small smokes) and headed back out to the shops of Gustavia.

Saint Barth’s had great food, perfect weather and two great cigar shops. Can someone please tell me why we came home?

"Fausto, I can tell you it isn't St. Barth's, because the only thing lacking on that island is a golf course. You could be headed to La Romana, Dominican Republic. I'm sure you'll have a great time wherever it is." —March 26, 2008 14:13 PM
"David: What a trip! My birtday is coming up next week on April 5, and my girlfriend is taking me on a surprise vacation trip. I just e-mailed her after reading your story if it is possibly going to St. Barth's. The only clues I have where I am headed is that there is golf, beach and cigars; so, I am excited to see where I land next week. Hope I can have a story to tell as great as this trip you took." —March 26, 2008 12:46 PM
"David, Glad you enjoyed your time in st barts. I've just finished a Trinidad Robusto Extra which is a real pleasure. Very gentle draw, smooth start with light smoke developing into a rich creamy smoke with delicious chocolate coffee overtones. Right down to the end it has a very gentle draw which exaggerates the pleasure. Ideal early evening with a bottle of cold Bourgogne Blanc 2002 from P. Morey.All fine in the tropics! best wishes Robert." —April 4, 2008 16:54 PM