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As Cigar Journal's Asia-Pacific Editor, I write features and report on cigar news, issues, and events from the Asia-Pacific region.  Click on a title to read the .pdf.

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Kempinski Hotel Cigar Lounges
Kempinski Hotel Cigar Lounges

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Kempinski Hotel Cigar Lounges
Kempinski Hotel Cigar Lounges

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Kempinski Hotel Cigar Lounges
Kempinski Hotel Cigar Lounges

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Kempinski Hotel Cigar Lounges
Kempinski Hotel Cigar Lounges

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Kempinski Hotel Cigar Lounges

A glass of Champagne or a Negroni on arrival? Will it be a Padron, Fuente, or Cohiba? A seat near the window, at the bar, or closer to the fireplace?

Cigar lovers around the world know that the enjoyment of one’s cigar is heavily influenced by the setting. So, when you enter one of the decadent cigar lounges on the premises of a Kempinski Hotel, these questions are to be seriously considered. 

Cigar Journal 3/2021.

Cigars and Negronis
Cigars and Negronis

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Cigars and Negronis
Cigars and Negronis

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Cigars and Negronis
Cigars and Negronis

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Cigars and Negronis
Cigars and Negronis

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Cigars and Negronis

The Negroni has captured the attention of many cigar lovers around the world. Unlike rum, whisky, and Cognac cigar-pairings which exude a traditional aesthetic of the cigar experience, a Negroni and cigar pairing brings a taste of Italy to cigar culture. Indeed the Negroni personifies La Dolce Vita; cruising Lake Como, weaving through the canals of Venice, appreciating Turin’s Palazzo Madama; these are activities warranting a Negroni with cigar in hand. 

Cigar Journal 2/2021.

Didier Houvenaghel
Didier Houvenaghel

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The Cigar From Soil to Soul Vol.2
The Cigar From Soil to Soul Vol.2

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The Cigar From Soil to Soul Vol.2
The Cigar From Soil to Soul Vol.2

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Didier Houvenaghel
Didier Houvenaghel

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The Cigar From Soil To Soul Vol.2

Didier Houvenaghel counts the Covid-19 air travel stoppage as a breathing point. It has given him time away from a normally very busy schedule that includes managing his cigar brands, hectic international travel, and the demands of a young family, to put the finishing touches on the second edition of The Cigar From Soil To Soul.

Cigar Journal 2/2021.

Padrino Cigars
Padrino Cigars

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Padrino Cigars
Padrino Cigars

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Padrino Cigars
Padrino Cigars

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Padrino Cigars
Padrino Cigars

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Padrino Cigars Powering Ahead in Cambodia

Five years in the making, Padrino Cigars, made in Cambodia with international financial, technical, and raw material input, will debut their first cigar the Padrino Maduro Serie 1 in mid-2021.

Cigar Journal 2/2021.

Vietnam's Habanos Specialists

Three new Habanos Specialist stores are the latest addition to Vietnam’s cigar scene. Operated by Avanti Group, they include a flagship opened in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1 in November 2019, a second in Hanoi opened at the beginning of 2020, and the newest opened recently in Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City.

Cigar Journal 4/2020.

 

 

Cigar Smoking Laws Across Asia

The extent of smoking bans and anti-tobacco legislation across Asia is a patchwork.  Countries with strict laws which ensure smoking is a quasi-criminal act often share borders with countries offering a more favourable environment to cigar enthusiasts.

Cigar Journal 4/2020.

 

 

The Duke Cigars Celebrates One Year

Technical and construction issues delayed the opening of Afzan and Nurul’s venture The Duke Cigars. Overcoming these hurdles instilled patience in the husband and wife team and this virtue was called upon again when Covid-19 lockdowns arrived just months after welcoming their first guests to The Duke Cigars.

Cigar Journal 4/2020.

Canteros New Zealand

Grant Ovenden’s cigar retail operation Canteros New Zealand has not only survived but thrived over the course of its 20 years. This success comes in the face of renaming the business numerous times due to anti-tobacco legislation since he first sold cigars to Lord Of The Rings production crew escaping the Middle Earth set.

Cigar Journal 3/2020.

 

 

Singapore Enacts Plain Packaging

Singapore has enacted stringent plain packaging regulations following similar legislation in Australia and Ireland amongst others. From July 1, Singapore’s legislation dictates that plain packaging must occur before cigars arrive in the country.

Cigar Journal 3/2020.

Eyes On The Eastern Hemisphere: Jose Blanco

In March, Arturo Fuente announced Jose Blanco was their new Director Of Sales for the Eastern Hemisphere. The role would see Blanco hitting the road from his base in Macedonia to parts of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. That was until Covid-19 struck. With a glimmer of hope that travel bans are soon eased, Blanco shares his thoughts on the Asia-Pacific region.

Cigar Journal 3/2020.

 

 

Gaby Kafie: From Doctor to Cigar-Maker

Dr Gaby Kafie’s entrance to cigar making was very indirect, much like the one his grandfather took to reach Honduras from Bethlehem at the turn of the 20th century. Don Chukri Kafie left Bethlehem to pursue textile business interests in England, which then brought him to La Union, El Salvador via New York in 1901 before establishing the family in Honduras.

Cigar Journal 1/2020.

 

 

Casdagli Cigars: Brand Portrait

Usually rebranding is done for strategic reasons such as marking a change in a business strategy, to sharpen the image, to drive sales, or to appeal to a new customer audience.  For Jeremy Casdagli, it was a forced decision due to trademark patent dispute in the United States.

Cigar Journal 1/2020.

 

First Habanos Specialist Stores Open in Vietnam

A new era of Cuban cigar culture commenced in Vietnam in November 2019 with the grand opening of the first official Habanos Specialist store in the center of District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Less than two months later a second Habanos Specialist opened in Hanoi.

Cigar Journal 1/2020.

International Cigar Expo Debuts in Shenzhen

The gleaming city of Shenzhen hosted the inaugural International Cigar Expo 2019 (ICE) from 21-22 November 2019. Over 5000 members of China’s cigar industry, from executives to retailers and cigar lounge owners attended the non-trading event.

Cigar Journal 1/2020.

New & Old World Opulence In Hong Kong

Creating an opulent, yet approachable destination in Hong Kong, where Cuban and New World cigars are celebrated was a long-time vision of Eric Piras and earlier this year Bertie Cigars opened its doors.

Cigar Journal 4/2019.

 

 

New Asian Cigar Lounges Showcase Cigar Culture

A plethora of cigar lounge openings across the Asia-Pacific region are showcasing the depth and breadth of the cigar industry in the region. Lounges and terraces in Perth and Sydney demonstrate true grit in the face of strict tobacco legislation, while venues in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi, and Japan display a positive interest growing cigar culture.

Cigar Journal 2/2019.

 

 

Cigar Smoking World Championship Growing in Asia

Marko Bilic’s Cigar Smoking World Championship goes from strength to strength in Asia. This year, events were held in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Hanoi.

Cigar Journal 2/2019.

 

Eiling Lim: Malaysia's Whisky Woman

Asia’s first female independent whisky bottler Eiling Lim knows a thing or two about whisky. She’s also a Cuban cigar connoisseur who introduced her husband to the pleasures of cigars.

Cigar Journal 4/2018.

 

 

Young Cigar Culture in Old Saigon

Tropical heat and an incessant flood of motorbikes engulf you upon arriving in Ho Chi Minh City. I’m here for the Saigon qualifier of Marko Bilic’s Cigar Smoking World Championship and with only two days up my sleeve, I start weaving my way through the two-wheeled throng to visit some cigar hotspots.

Cigar Journal 3/2018.

 

 

Divine Smoke In The City of Angels

You’ll need more than one night in Bangkok to discover the City of Angel’s tourist and cigar spots. Light a cigar, jump in a tuk tuk, and explore the city’s world-class cigar venues.

Cigar Journal 2/2018.

From West to East: Roberto Duran Cigars

Roberto Pelayo Duran’s career in the cigar industry has taken many a twisting turn since commencing with Habanos S.A. after completing an Economics degree in Havana.

Cigar Journal 1/2018.

 

 

Cigar Art From Singapore

If you're one of Nuzli Hakiim's 34,000 Instagram followers, you'll know of his eye-catching, cigar-themed artwork.

Cigar Journal 1/2018.

Tokyo: Cigar Oases in a Bustling Metropolis

Those visiting Tokyo for business or pleasure have an array of opportunities to indulge in cigars. With a myriad of cigar locations to explore, there are plenty of occasions for lei-surely escape from the bustling metropolis.

Cigar Journal 4/2017.

 

 

Essence of Havana Cocktail Competition

There was a flurry of pouring, mixing, and shaking when five Japanese bartenders showcased their skills at the inaugural Essence of Havana Cocktail Competition at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo’s Maduro jazz lounge.

Cigar Journal 4/2017.

 

Jas Sum Kral

There’s nothing new about a long-time cigar fan deciding to throw his hat in the ring and produce his own blend. However, Riste Ristevski’s Jas Sum Kral cigars, branded by Ristevski as “Boutique as f*ck,” have garnered plenty of online attention since debuting in late 2015.

Cigar Journal 4/2017.

 

Great Wall Cigars - Creating a Cigar Dynasty

Rich in history, China’s Great Wall Cigars will be celebrating 100 years of operation in 2018. Over four days, Samuel Spurr was immersed in the company’s production facility and met with a passionate team, which has its sights set on introducing its cigars to the international market.

Cigar Journal 3/2017.

 

 

Kuala Lumpur - A City of Cigar Confluence

After checking into the Mandarin Oriental, which offers front row views of the iconic Petronas Towers, I don’t have to travel far to visit my first destination.

Cigar Journal 3/2017.

 

 

Kinlonz 1492

The façade of a nondescript building undergoing a renovation makes it easy to walk past the cigar lover’s delight I’m searching for, as I did on one February afternoon walking up D’Aguilar Street in Hong Kong.

Cigar Journal 3/2017.

 

 

Hong Kong City Portrait

Astute local connoisseurs and mainland Chinese buyers keep this global cigar city buzzing.

Cigar Journal 2/2017.

 

 

Spotlight on Hong Kong Cigar Exchange

Set over two floors of Henry House and with fantastic views over Causeway Bay below, Hong Kong Cigar Exchange is the perfect place for members to enjoy the cigars they have secured at auction and those bought on-site

Cigar Journal 2/2017.

Creating a Private Blend

Cigar lovers often dream of working with a master blender to create a unique, personal cigar. Those who have pursued a custom cigar, and the people in factories who bring private blends to life, share their experiences and highlight the considerations of such a project.

Cigar Journal 1/2017.

Maya Selva supports Asian Venture

Maya Selva, manufac-turer of the brands Flor de Selva, Villa Zamorano, and Cumpay, supported her brand’s move into Asian markets with a visit to Hong Kong and Japan in mid October..

Cigar Journal 4/2016.

 

 

The Global Grip of the Nanny State

The grip of the Nanny State’s gnarled hands constantly wrings the cigar industry’s neck. Suffocating intervention impacts manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and the cigar loving public all too regularly, so much so that it seems there is an almost daily constriction of this grasp occurring somewhere on the planet.

Cigar Journal 3/2016.

 

 

A cigar with Australian Senator David Leyonhjelm

It’s not every day that a politician films themselves enjoying a cigar and shares it on social media. The following Friday I found myself sitting in his Sydney office discussing libertarian philosophy, the nanny state, and cigars.

Cigar Journal 2/2016.

Brewing a perfect pairing: Cigars & Coffee

When the time of day or occasion rules out an alcoholic beverage, cigar lovers around the world enjoy pairing their cigar with coffee. But what makes a good pairing?

Cigar Journal 2/2016.

Drew Estate: The rebirth of Ideation

“The Rebirth of Cigars” truly encapsulates what Drew Estate has brought to the industry for over twenty years. Willy Herrera’s appointment as master blender brought a more traditional expression to some lines, but it is the sale to Swisher International that provides Jonathan Drew with plenty of opportunities. 

Cigar Journal 4/2015.

The birth of the Xi: Xikar to mark 20th Anniversary

Over 20 years ago Kurt Van Keppel, CEO and Co-Founder of XIKAR, bought a cigar cutter that made him think about a better design. On January 6, 1996 XIKAR was created and the Xi cutter would go on to revolutionise the cigar accoutrement category.

Cigar Journal 4/2015.

 

A lighter for every occasion

Soft flame vs torch lighters, single vs multiple flame lighters, table top vs pocket lighters -  Samuel Spurr discusses lighters with XIKAR’s CEO and Co-Founder Kurt Van Keppel and discovers there’s more to lighters than just a flame when it comes to enjoying premium cigars.

Cigar Journal 3/2015.

 

 

A Sweet Match

Much is made of pairing cigars with various libations. Rum, Cognac, port, and whisky are some of the more classic pairings. Desserts offer a wide range of flavors and textures which can complement or contrast with a cigar’s flavor and aroma to create an excellent pairing. 

Cigar Journal 2/2015.

Humidor Set-Up

Every chef knows of the importance of seasoning. It can mean the difference between a stellar meal and a bland one. The same applies to setting-up a new humidor. Season it well and your humidor will work as it should and deliver cigars as they‘re intended to taste.

Cigar Journal 1/2015.

Australia's Gourmet Destination

Globally renowned for its Shiraz wine, South Australia’s Barossa Valley is a wine and food lover’s paradise.

Cigar Journal 4/2014.

 

 

Resurgence

Despite some of the world’s toughest tobacco legislation being in place for close to two years, newcomers are doing their best to ensure the culture of the classic pastime endures.  

Cigar Journal 4/2014.

 

A Cigar With Pierrick Boyer

With a passion for pastry, Pierrick Boyer also has time for cigars. Samuel Spurr spent time with the celebrity chef while photographer André Elhay captured the moment.

Cigar Journal 4/2013.

 

 

Behind Enemy Lines

Writing my first piece for European Cigar Cult Journal in 2006, I reported on the small but thriving cigar scene Down Under. Despite high tobacco import duties, Australian cigar retailers were content with the state of the market and the relative freedom their customers enjoyed. How times have changed.

Cigar Journal 1/2013.

 

 

The Perdomo Experience

Nick Perdomo has come a long way in 20 years. His production facility is the envy of the cigar world and his cigars can be found across the globe.

Cigar Journal  2/2012.

 

 

Asian Expansion

The far-east is a veritable cigar hub, soon set to rival the other great cigar regions of the world.

Cigar Journal 4/2010

 

Sydney's Tobacconist Extraordinaire

Emigrating from what is modern day Poland to Australia in the late 1800s, Sol Levy established his tobacconist in a burgeoning economy on the other side of the world. Spending time with Levy’s great grand-niece, Samuel Spurr retells some of this family business’ 120 year history.

Cigar Journal4/2010.

Update: Sol Levi, the most recent owner, whose daughter Evelyn was interviewed for this story, passed away in September 2014 and the business closed in October 2014. The end of a true piece of Australian cigar history. RIP.

 

 

A Gift to the Cigar World

Within a few short years, Cuban Cigar Website has become a well-respected source of information on Cuban cigars. Although proudly 'Made in Australia', the website's continually updated content relies on international input.

Cigar Journal 1/2010.

 

 

Hong Kong City Portrait

Brash and bold, Hong Kong possesses relentless energy, which has allowed it to create a stiking personality of its own since the departure of the British in 1997. Samuel Spurr encounters one of the busiest cigar cities in the world.

Cigar Journal 1/2009.

 

Charutos “Feito a Mão”: Menendez Amerino cigars

Brazil’s Recôncavo region of Bahia produces the country’s finest Mata Fina and Mata Norte tobacco. Samuel Spurr discusses the merits of Brazilian tobacco and hand-made “feito a mão” Brazilian puros with a man who should know: Felix Menendez.

Cigar Journal 3/2008

Across the Tobacco Veld

The fusion of Africa with India, Asia and Europe is evident in the new South Africa. Samuel Spurr discovers a growing cigar culture uniting the members of the rainbow nation.

Cigar Journal 2/2007