Well, here I am, 30 years old and writing my first blog. The subject area more of a shock, than the time its taken me to put fingers to keyboard.

Cuban Cigars

October last year and I am sat across the table from a lively, warm spirited and inspirational character. It was our first meet and took place at his high rise office building in Mayfair. One of the first things that I noticed as a non-smoker and a fan of the smoking ban, was the incredible smell that permeated his whole floor; a rich, heady, luxury haze that I was soon to come to love. Un-phased by his blatant disregard for the recent ruling, we began our introductions. I started up my computer, ready to take notes on the website I had come to speak about. Before I could get the first words out of my mouth, this behemoth of a man interrupted me and insisted that before any work should commence on that job that we discuss his new business. He had recently acquired a very old cigar shop in Mount Street. The plan we formulated was to create a platform focused on the rich heritage of Havana cigars and the lifestyle that came with the true appreciation of this age old craft. He was not concerned with creating a straight forward – “stack em high, sell em cheap” e-commerce site, moreover building on a brand that had stood strong over the last 60 years, growing it into a luxury brand akin to Dunhill, Davidoff or Hermes. This new reincarnation of Sautter is in its infancy, but has sturdy roots, a powerful framework and a dedicated, focused team to guide it into the future. With the support of its members, we look forward to taking Churchill's favourite cigar shop and steering it to its justified place.

As you might expect, countless meetings with Hunters and Frankau (The UK's official Habanos distributor), the Mount Street shop and the owner have meant that I have been surrounded by aficionados, being a person who thrives on professionalism and quality, I had to see what it was all about. There were the first sticks, where I had to be shown how to cut, light and smoke and was paranoid about the “green” nausea that so many people talk about – well, I can comfortably say, my experience of Havanas is far from this, they have been warm, forgiving, relaxing and friendly to me. The days of uncertainty have long subsided and now I look forward to a meeting with these people and which cigar I will be lucky enough to sample this time.

Fast Forward to the present and my first trip abroad as a newbie cigar smoker, a trip to Dubai with my wonderful girlfriend to celebrate my 30th birthday. As we fly through the West end on our way to Heathrow, she mentions that we will soon be passing Sautter and I should get a few cigars to enjoy whilst we are on holiday. What a remarkable idea, I could visualise myself sitting on a balcony, in my shorts and t-shirt, the sun setting, with my lady by my side – wonderful! With this vision vivid in my mind, I hesitated slightly as I figured Dubai to be just the place to find good cigars and perhaps a bulging hand-luggage holdall was not the best place for a couple of loose sticks taken from the store... but then again... better safe than sorry!! Well, Dannielle agreed to carry the cigars in her handbag and we would put the cutter in the suitcase. Johnny suggested the Bolivar – Royal Coronas, he assured me it was a magnificent and strong cigar and one to be enjoyed slowly – my paradise thought bubble reformed, I thanked him and agreed to let him know the best I could how I got on with it.

After 10 hours or so of travelling, I could hardly believe my eyes as we read through the hotels facilities “XO whisky and cigar bar”. Needless to say, a fair quota of our break was spent there, the staff were attentive and showed a keen interest in Cuban cigars. They had a fair selection and were happy to cut, light and prepare your cigar, leaving it on a beautifully crafted porcelain personal cigar ashtray. Dannielle drank “Chocolate Bananas” whilst we played the “Buzz” quiz game on the PSP, sprawled out in pure comfort, left to totally “chillax”! The Humidor included such highlights as the Partagas Serie D no. 4, Cohiba Siglo II, Montecristo Sublime Ltd.

Towards the end of our trip, whilst undertaking our trek of the massive Dubai Mall (12.7 million square feet!), we found a great tobacco store – with a wonderful, large, climate controlled humidor... I have to say their accessories and other tobacco products were more impressive than their Cuban selection, that being said, I was able to purchase a Partagas Serie D no.5 to enjoy later that evening.

The airport was another surprise, with 3 separate large walk-in humidors and even a Casa del Habanos, fully stocked with the most amazing selection I have seen in a non-specialist environment.

My first holiday as a cigar lover has come and gone, the days of struggling to get through a cigar have passed and I look forward to my next stick amongst good friends in familiar surroundings.

P.S. Big apologies for not including more photos, but I was too busy enjoying myself!