THE annual cigar shindig in the industrial town of Dortmund is finished.
The booths are dismantled, the ashtrays are emptied. Vape companies pack away their gaudy, Disney-coloured show posters; attractive young models put away their lycra hotpants for another year.
InterTabac has grown into a massive money-making tradeshow, with some eight monstrous halls packed with enough tobacco and smoking-related paraphernalia to load a fleetful of monster trucks.
For the uninitiated, it is a bewildering place to navigate. I’ve been going for about a decade and I still get lost. It’s a great opportunity for cigarmakers from the US, Nica, Dom Rep, Honduras, Mexico, and more to get to Europe and meet distributors and retailers. And all I spoke to last week reported that business is booming like never before.
“We’ve never been busier,” was a stock reply from many whom I interviewed over a manic, whirlwind four days of dashing from booth to booth, grabbing a cigar with old friends and new, evening dinners, dances, and dates, and a lot of taxis, trains, planes – and walking.
Your Commandant in Chief, Laurence Davis, was in attendance this year with young Mr. Sroka, purchasing goodies left right and centre for his shops and gracing the cigar world with his considerable presence. He spent around 60% of his time at InterTabac posing for selfies with lovers of Sautter videos. The rest of the time, he patrolled the halls, stopping at various booths for an hour or so, a smoke, and to put the world to rights.
The overall feel, then, of this year, was that we are riding the crest of a wave. Ironic, really, for when Covid hit, the industry as a whole braced for the worst; during the most uncertain period in modern history, how could people possibly think about cigars?
The truth soon emerged; locked down at home, with an uncertain future and with more time on their hands than ever before – and, in the UK particularly, an unseasonal spell of good weather – people actually used their cigar hobby as a crutch. It calmed them, gave them a sense of perspective, allowed them time off from worrying about what the future held and whether or not they’d have a job this time next month, let alone next year.
Cigar sales rocketed, and have continued to do so ever since. While rejoicing in this ‘golden period’ for the industry, I would sound a note of caution. Where there is boom, there will be bust; we must make sure we make the most of this moment, seize every opportunity, leave no stone unturned, and make preparations for the forthcoming hard times.
The situation with Cuba and its takeover from China has further muddied the waters. It is as far away from its ‘old’ position in the market – just a few short years ago – as it is possible to describe. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the old Cuban cigar industry as we knew and loved it, is now dead.
The world is a very different place now. I for one can’t see how we can simply turn back the clock and reverse the damage that has been done to this once all-powerful cigar-making nation.
Good Cuban cigars are still good Cuban cigars; they are just harder to find and more expensive to buy. The New World boys and girls continue to make ground and to innovate, experiment and improve.
Never fear – you still have great cigars to enjoy.