It’s testament to Hong Kong’s fantastic public transport system that my plane can land at 11:30am and, an express train, taxi, and MTR subway journey later, I can be checked into my hotel and still make my lunch appointment with Laurent de Rougemont, CEO of Davidoff of Geneva Asia. “The Hong Kong cigar market is very strong and there’s no doubt it has benefitted from Mainland Chinese visitors, while locals are more open-minded than ever before,” states de Rougemont, while enjoying a Davidoff 702 Series No. 2. Despite the increase in this open-mindedness, de Rougemont notes that Hong Kong is still very much about Cohiba and Davidoff. “These super premium brands continue to be in demand.”
Hong Kong Island
Hong Kong Island is a treasure trove of cigar lounges and shops, with many lounges located on the upper floors of commercial buildings or tucked away from street view. One such example is Cohiba Atmosphere, which overlooks the city. “There’s a trend for people to go for bigger ring-gauge cigars but a shorter size,” says local icon Teddy Lam, who manages the members-only lounge. “Many people are short on time and enjoy such cigars during their lunchtime.” Lam notes that regional and limited editions are highly sought after, “A classic example was the response to the Diplomáticos Bushido (Asia Pacific’s 2014 region- al edition) – you had to be quick.”
The Davidoff Landmark boutique store in Central is the number one Davidoff store in Asia and the number three shop worldwide, says manager Charles Lim. With Davidoff since 2001, Lim has observed many changes throughout his tenure. “In 2001, foreigners, especially Japanese tourists, were the biggest group of clientele. But since 2007, Mainland Chinese have pushed sales higher each year. Besides Davidoff cigars, Fuente Opus X led the charge in the early 2000s, while now Davidoff and other Cuban cigars share sales volume,” says Lim.
“This lounge attracts more connoisseurs than any other in Hong Kong. They know what they want and are very knowledgeable,” declares Simon Lam, who manages Cohiba Cigar Divan at the Mandarin Oriental. “In the early 1990s the lounge was a favorite haunt for regulars,” says Lam. “However, over time, more hotel guests began popping in.” The walk-in humidor might be a tight squeeze, but Simon informs me that there are over 18,000 sticks on site, not including private lockers. Outside the financial district, the Acanta shop and lounge at the Park Lane Hotel in Causeway Bay provides the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle. In the lounge, a customer enjoys a cigar and casually taps away on his laptop as soft jazz oozes out of the speakers, and comfy leather chairs and slowly revolving ceiling fans set the mood. Acanta stocks Davidoff, Camacho, Ashton, and La Aroma de Cuba cigars, and regularly features Davidoff cigar rollers.
“It’s a young culture compared to Europe,” states Frenchman Jacques Boissier in between puffs of a Partagás Serie D No. 4 on Pacific Cigar Divan’s balcony. Residing in Hong Kong for over 30 years, he observes that cigars began as a “show-off ” thing to do. However people are now transitioning to finding pleasure in cigars. “Hong Kong cigar culture is becoming more friendly and people are sharing their passion. Ten years ago, lounges were quiet, private places. Now everyone is saying hello and discussing cigars,” says Boissier.
Gerard Dubois, a Swiss businessman who has also been in Hong Kong for the better part of three decades, notes that the city is still very much a Cuban cigar stronghold but with a growing interest in non-Cuban cigars. “It will take time for the market to move to non-Cuban brands,” he tells me. “Even Davidoff is just a brand to many buyers, with not much thought of their origin.”
Kowloon/Tsmi Tsa Shui
If you ever face the dilemma of choosing which hotel to stay at to evade a global super power in Hong Kong, the Mira Hotel is the perfect place to do so – as Edward Snowden did before he hopped on a flight to Russia. This funky boutique hotel on Nathan Road provides quite the literal and metaphorical escape, and the outdoor lounge Vibes offers the perfect spot for a cigar when lit up at night. A stroll down Nathan Road will deliver you to La Casa del Habano at the Sheraton. Manager John Wong knows the place inside out and, while puffing on a Romeo y Julieta Mille Fleurs, gives me the skinny on the lounge. “The atmosphere is what drives people to La Casa. Regulars come so often they become family, with many choosing the relaxed venue as the place to meet before settling in for a night,” says Wong. Interestingly, he shares that Mainland Chinese buyers are drawn to La Casa because they are more confident that the cigars are genuine.
Literally across the road, an elegant, wood-paneled walk-in humidor and lounge featuring images of the late, great Zino Davidoff awaits at the Davidoff lounge in the Peninsula Hotel. Our biggest clients have been coming to this lounge for a long time, while 30-some-things are a growing market,” states Davidoff retail manager Anita Ma, while enjoying a Davidoff Escurio. She explains the identification of this 30-to-35 age bracket, “They have finished their studies, started working, and have a growing disposable income to explore cigars.”
An amazing number and variety of cigar shops and lounges await you in Hong Kong. Those featured here are just a starting point for a Hong Kong cigar adventure.
Harbour City Mall, Kowloon
ACANTA SHOP & LOUNGE
Park Lane Hotel, Causeway Bay
COHIBA CIGAR DIVAN
Mandarin Oriental, Central
Shop G12, Landmark Atrium, Central
Peninsula Hotel, Tsim Sha Tsui
PACIFIC CIGAR DIVAN
24th floor, Euro Trade Centre, 21-23 Des Voeux Road, Central
LA CASA DEL HABANO
Sheraton Hotel, Tsim Sha Tsui
RED CHAMBER CIGAR DIVAN
Shop 405-406 A, 12 Pedder Street, Central
VIBES AT MIRA HOTEL
118 Nathan Road, Tsim Tsa Shui
This article was published in the Cigar Journal Summer Edition 2017. Read more