World greats like Britain’s post World war Prime Minister Winston Churchill and George Burns, one of America’s best-selling writers and award-winning comedians were cigar aficionados who both enjoyed a number of smokes daily.
Churchill’s s regard for the puff was so high that he only smoked privately labelled cigars from Cuba.
While Burns smoked 10 to 15 sticks of his favourite El Productos a day for 70 years, Winston smoked eight to 10 cigars every day for 79 years.
Churchill died aged 90 while Burns, passed on at 98 years ironically defying health officials’ warnings that cigars are 68 per cent more harmful than cigarettes. May be these gentlemen were just overly lucky.
Historic records suggest that cigars came into being long before cigarettes, having been in existence since the 10th century.
The distinctive character of cigars is in the packaging, concentration of tobacco and size. Cigars size normally ranges from five to seven inches.
Like in the medieval times, cigar smoking remains a luxurious pastime for a select few.
And although establishments like the Mercury Bar at the Junction are phasing off the product from their menu, others like Villa Rosa Kempinski Hotel and Serena Hotel are not about to bail out on their local and international guests who are keen on smoking cigars.
In a bid to promote the product into the Kenyan market, a select numbers of hotels and bars have gone to the extent of reserving a special area for cigar smoking only.
For instance, there is a cigar lounge at Kempinski Hotel which is exclusive to cigar smokers and displays an array of favourite brands from the Caribbean and North America.
At the lounge, visitors can smoke cigars while downing their favourite drinks. The most expensive brand on display is a Davidoff, which costs Sh5,000 apiece. Other brands on sale at the hotel start at Sh2,000 each.
According to Jaako Eskola, the Food and Beverage Manager at Kempinski, a majority of cigar lovers prefer to have their smoke alongside cognacs or single malt whiskies.
Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest days at the lounge’s cigar bay, where both male and female cigar-smoking clientele are entertained.
The air extractor system in the lounge keeps the air clean and ensures that visitors leave without their clothes bearing the musky smell of smoke.
Anne Murungi, director of sales and marketing at Kempinski says that Cohiba, a brand from Cuba is more familiar among their guests, who like smoking it alongside a Remy Martin X0 cognac.
Like Kempinski, at Serena Hotel’s Ethiopian-themed Aksum Bar, Cohiba cigars move faster than the Half Corona and Slim panatelas cigarillos that cost Sh250 apiece. Serena sells 16 different brands of cigars.
At the Aksum Bar, visitors have access to the expansive garden in case they need to have a quick smoke. Otherwise, there is a smoking zone that can host more than 20 individuals at the terrace.
Angela Machayo, the Head Bartender at Serena Hotel Nairobi, says; “individuals partaking in cigar smoking are mature, well-informed about them and love their cognacs to go with their cigars.”
To promote the cigar-smoking culture locally, Serena, in partnership with The Smoke Shop Afrika at the Junction which supplies Serena with the cigars, recently held a cigar-themed event at the hotel.
Normally cigars are kept in humidors with a constant humidity to help them stay fresh and protect them from drying out quickly.
However in case a cigar dries out, according to cigar world, it can be brought back to its original state as long as the seal is intact. For this purpose, the walls of the humidor are wiped with a wet cloth to restore moisture and the cigars are then kept in a small box in there for up to three weeks to restore its original state.
Like alcohol, cigars can be aged for years as long as they are kept at lower temperatures and humidity levels than normal. When aged normally, they are put back in the humidor when it is time to consume.
Wooden matches and not fancy lighters, remain the most popular method of lighting a cigar because it is believed that lighters contain oils that may be harmful to a person’s health.
Apart from a humidor, any cigar smoker worth his name ought to own a cigar case and a cutter, which especially comes in handy during travel.