Traditionally, winter was always the busy time of year for the cigar trade, building up to the annual hysteria of the Christmas rush. I recall a colleague, during my time working for in retail, describing the final week before Christmas as ‘a cigar riot’ in our humidor, and it was easy to see what he meant. Typically, sales of Cuban cigars would more than triple in December.
However, since 2007 and the UK smoking ban, things have begun to change. The archetypal picture of gentlemen smoking cigars while sat in high-backed leather chairs by an open fire with a glass of something warming is being replaced by another, more alfresco, image.
While Christmas is still a boom time in the retail trade, the slow burn of the summer months cannot be ignored and, for many cigar smokers’, summer marks the high point of their calendar. As temperatures rise and daylight hours increase, we are able to sit outside and enjoy a cigar without fear of frostbite or failing light. It is not only that more cigars are smoked but bigger cigars are being smoked too as people take advantage of the longer evenings.
Directly after the smoking ban many felt that, as far as cigar sales went, the catering trade would be dead in the water, but it hasn’t quite happened like that. More and more establishments are responding to the 2007 legislation by developing ways to allow their customers to smoke in comfort.
It is with this network of Comfortable Outdoor Smoking Areas (COSAs) in mind that we have recently developed the ‘Where to Smoke’ function on this site. Although it is in the early stages of development, it is intended to provide an easy to use tool for people seeking a cigar friendly place to visit. A few years ago people would make do with a doorway and an ashtray – now we find heaters, seating, canopies and outdoor table service are all becoming more prevalent, creating an indoor feeling outside. Furthermore, cigar evenings and dinners are back on the menu and, in some respects, the very legislation that was instrumental in driving people to create these cigar areas has served to bring likeminded people together in a way that did not happen when one was free to smoke wherever they pleased.
As individual venues develop reputations and popularity within the cigar smoking community, the movement feels like it is developing a natural momentum and narrative. Now it has been proved that the British climate is no barrier for the inventive and determined cigar smoker, how much longer before winter once again lays claim to being the cigar season?