Hollywood movies are filled with the uptown trope of a man puffing a stogie, who immediately becomes the sexy, alpha male (read: Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator); or a virile gentleman who is often found sitting in the middle of a poker game or an underhand deal (read: Al Pacino in The Godfather).
If we ever imagine ourselves wealthy and successful, these scenes pop up unwittingly to mind, complete with a cigar and its glowing tip. Outside of our imaginings, where do the real rich shop for their glow sticks?
Schwarzenegger loves his tobacco from Gurkha Cigars — an American-based company owned by Kaizad Hansotia, a Parsi from Mumbai. (Hansotia recently resigned from the chairmanship of the company, following a controversy.) Known as the only luxury brand in the global cigar market, Gurkha’s costliest hand-rolled cigar, the Royal Courtesan, can cost as much as Rs. 70 million per piece. The roll is filled with rare Himalayan tobacco watered with Fiji water.
Other cigars sold by the brand are the Gurkha Maharaja, which sells for Rs.142,000 per piece, and the Gurkha Grand Reserve at around Rs.50,000 per piece, which is Bill Clinton’s personal favourite. The cigar is made from sweet tobacco from the Dominican Republic and Connecticut, and is infused with Remy XO and Louis XIII French cognac. Each roll is then packaged in a wax-sealed glass tube that acts as a mini humidor. “Sweet tobacco infused with a sweet French cognac, a Gurkha Grand Reserve cigar makes for the perfect after-dinner smoke paired with your favourite cognac,” recommends Daniel Carroll, co-founder, Cigar Club of India.
Carroll started the club 15 years ago when he would meet two of his friends to smoke a cigar. Today, he hosts over 100-150 people, coming from Delhi, Bengaluru, and even Dubai, Bangkok and the UK, during his monthly club meetings. If you ever get an invite to one of these meetings, you’d be rubbing shoulders with foreign diplomats, fund managers, MNC directors and successful entrepreneurs.
“The cigar culture in India is at an early stage of development. Until 2010, the only cigars available were the cheap Cuban ones made from non-aged and harsh tobacco. The brand that stepped up the market in 2016 was the Rolls Royce of cigars — the Gurkha Cigars,” says Carroll.
However, cigar aficionados have a wide variety to choose from today, especially when there are many five-star cigar lounges in Mumbai and Delhi to cater to this premium lifestyle. “You just need the right lounge and community to enjoy smoking a cigar in a leisurely manner. This makes cigar lounges a desired part of luxury hotels,” says Nikhil Bhanot, assistant food & beverage manager, The Leela Ambience Gurugram Hotel & Residences. The Rubicon Bar and Cigar Lounge at the hotel offers exclusive range of Cuban cigars from Cohiba, Romeo Y Julieta and Montecristo.
According to Carroll, the most expensive cigar available in India is the Gurkha Triad, which costs Rs. 20,000 per stick and is sold at Luna cigar lounge at St Regis Hotel, Mumbai. Made from a proprietary blend of antique tobacco, its ingredients come from several countries — wrapper leaf from Ecuador, binder from Dominican Republic, and filler from Honduras and Nicaragua. Only 300 boxes of these cigars were manufactured. “For those lucky enough to smoke the Triad, it will be the best cigar that they’d ever smoke,” comments Carroll.
If you’d like to treasure your Gurkha Cigars for extremely special occasions, you can also try Dubai-based Meluha’s premium cigars, which can cost up to Rs.3,200 per piece. “An average cigar will take two to three years to make, while a Meluha takes seven to nine years, from the initial planting of the tobacco seed to the finished blend. The result is a bolder taste that stays on your memory long after the last puff,” says Yogesh Deshpande, CEO and brand owner, Meluha Cigars.
Experienced or novice, one must choose his cigar wisely, as any cigar connoisseur will tell you. “Choosing a cigar is a sensual experience, and its consumption is a very priced affair, making it an extension and expression of an individual,” suggests Deshpande.