World renowned London cigar store
The State of Play
The State of Play
The State of Play

The State of Play

THE cigar world is a very different place these days.

Just a few short years ago, we would never have imagined that things would change so completely. It’s tempting to look back to those times with a wistful sigh.

Our favourite Cuban cigars were plentiful, and while we moaned that they were too pricey, they now seem very cheap indeed. Even the big boys – your Trinidads and your Cohibas – were within the reach of the average mortal as a once-in-a-while or special occasion treat.

Fast forward to Spring of 2023 – and boy what a difference. Humidor shelves worldwide are bare of all but the most outrageously expensive Cuban cigars. Habanos SA, the company responsible for the marketing of the nation’s cigars, announces regular huge price hikes while at the same time being unable to supply distributors with enough stock to satisfy desperate retailers.

And the stock of New World cigars – both figuratively and literally – continues to rise.

Manufacturers from the other cigar-making countries have gained such territory during firstly the Covid years and subsequently during extended shortages of Cuba’s cigar stock, that one is tempted to speculate where it will all end. Is it an apocalyptic scenario, the beginning of the end for the country 90 miles south of Miami which has been synonymous with cigars for centuries? Or are Habanos working a very clever sleight of hand to position themselves in a new and unexplored category as one of the world’s great luxury items?

It’s tempting to view the current situation as a combination of bad luck, mismanagement, greed and incompetence in varying degrees. But that might be completely wrong. Perhaps after all, what is happening is a masterstroke which will result in the elevation of the finest Cuban cigars into something so unattainable to most, that they simply must be had by the few.

There are some shops in the world where people queue for hours outside in the cold and rain just for the opportunity to be able to go in and buy something. There are products that only the immensely wealthy get to play with. Want a Rolex watch? Then put your name down on our waiting list, Mister; we’ll get to you when your time comes.

If you were being charitable, and took the emotion out of the situation, you could envisage that this is exactly the sort of placement Cuba has been craving for years. One where the pool of customers is small – but massively lucrative. Habanos SA can write its own cheques. Only the very richest can get their greedy little hands on those piano-lacquered, covetous boxes. And what about the rest of us, who have used and enjoyed Cuban cigars for years, supported worldwide retailers, and embraced the romance, history and tradition of a people to whom tobacco-talking is an art form? Insert a raised hands, shrugging shoulder emoji here. Who cares? This is a business and it’s there to make money.

Time will show us which version is the truth. Incompetent. Unlucky. Greedy. Or pure genius?

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