London's Wellesley Knightsbridge Hotel has the largest hotel humidor in Europe
London's Wellesley Knightsbridge Hotel has the largest hotel humidor in Europe
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On my first evening in Geneva a few years ago, a colleague recommended a cigar-friendly restaurant across the road from the Lake Geneva promenade. After 45 minutes of walking in circles and not finding it, I stopped at an Irish pub — yes, in French-speaking Geneva — and asked if I could light up a cigar in their outside seating area, where people were smoking cigarettes.

They sat me off to the side because they were concerned that the excess smoke from the cigar would bother others, but I wasn’t complaining. A burger, a cigar and a couple of beers later and I strolled back to my hotel, content.

Whenever I travel, while not as frequent as it used to be, I make it a point of researching cigar lounges, bars and tobacconists where I can smoke and make sure that I have enough cigars to cover the trip, just in case I struggle to find it in the specific country. Sometimes, I will take shorter cigars such as the Rocky Patel Junior or 1502’s Cachitos in case I don’t find spaces I can chill in to enjoy my cigar.

It wasn’t difficult in Geneva. I found the city to be smoke friendly and often just lit up outside a bar while hanging with colleagues. Also, visiting El Septimo or a tobacconist, there is a space, albeit small in some instances, to actually enjoy a cigar. And I find the pricing of cigars, particularly in Geneva, modest, without the taxes and duties placed on cigars imported into SA. It is the one place that I don’t have at least two cigars for every day I am there.

Chatting to fellow cigar enthusiast, Tumi “Stogie T” Molekane about the struggle of finding places to smoke, he has also found Europe to be fairly smoke friendly and says, in particular about France, “you can smoke at most cafes (outside), you just have to be considerate to other [cigarette] smokers.”

One of his favourite places to smoke in Paris is the Hotel Peninsula. “It is open till late, and has great cocktails too,” he says. Le Rooftop has great views of Paris and is a nice space to sit back and enjoy a cigar.

Extensive collection

There are some lounges that make me want to actually visit the city. Top of the list is London’s The Wellesley Knightsbridge, a boutique hotel that is said to have the largest humidor in Europe, overseen by Executive F&B director and cigar sommelier Guiseppe Ruo. Ruo and his team will guide you through the cigars, whether novice or seasoned, taking into consideration your tastes.

Club Macanudo cigars
Club Macanudo cigars
Image: Supplied

With an extensive collection of Cuban cigars, current and vintage, they also have New World cigars, ensuring that there is something for everyone. It has two cigar terraces where you can enjoy a cigar and, considering London’s often inclement weather, it is heated. They also host private cigar and cognac experiences, an ideal way to get a few hours of down time when travelling.

On New York’s Upper East Side is Club Macanudo, which has an indoor-outdoor terrace. In addition to their own brand of cigar, they carry cigars from Cao, Plasencia, Rocky Patel, Alec Bradley, Padron, Partagas, La Gloria Cubana, and Arturo Fuente, to name a few.

Club Macanudo has since expanded globally and has lounges in Kuala Lumpur, Copenhagen, Jakarta, Taipei and another location in the US, Bossier City. Different locations have different cigar lists.

Every country has different rules and regulations about cigar smoking, which can make it uncomfortable when travelling, but there are always cigar oases in most cities. The work is just in finding them.

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