Niels has one of the most visually interesting profiles on Instagram. His cigar collection is a dream and the love for the cigar community really shows up in this interview. He also has a great point of view about the future of cigars on social media.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you?
It is an honor being interviewed by you guys — the most diverse cigar account on Instagram. My name is Niels, I am 31 years old and I am from Belgium.
We are going to talk about cigars, no matter their origin. However, we have to ask: Are you more of a Cuban or a non-Cuban cigar guy?
Definitely Cuban. Sometimes I try non-Cuban cigar but Cubans always come on top.
What is your honest take on the eternal debate of Cuban vs non-Cuban cigars?
We can all agree that the quality of Cuban cigars has gone worse every year. On the other hand, non-Cubans are almost always perfectly rolled and have a perfect draw and burn. But they miss one crucial thing: that unique special taste that Cuban soil gives to tobacco. And that is why I prefer Cuban cigars. Even if you sometimes curse the hell out of a cigar.
You are a very young guy. Are people surprised to see a young person having a cigar?
It depends on where you are. In bigger cities, people are not that surprised anymore. But that stigma of being a snob when you smoke cigars still exists., and that’s a shame.
Usually, people have two first-time moments: the first cigar and the cigar that ignited the passion you have today. What were yours?
I started smoking cigars after quitting cigarettes. I know it sounds weird but I smoked cigarettes before, and after quitting those I started smoking cigars once a week. My first cigar was a Cortez short filler. But when I tried my first Cuban — a Partagas Series D No 4 — I said goodbye to short fillers forever.
What is the best cigar you have ever had?
Without a doubt, the Trinidad Topes EL 2016. Trinidad is putting it in their regular production now.
Based on that, what is the perfect pairing for it?
I think pairing is more about the moment than about the right drink. If I feel like it, I’ll have a beer, coffee, or even a glass of wine. It depends on the mood.
Is it possible to have a cigar on your bar?
Yes absolutely! I have a heated terrace, cigar ashtrays and always some cigars at hand. It always puts a smile on my face if cigar smokers find their way to my bar. If you ever visit the Belgian coast, come find me in Nieuwpoort. The Calypso. Sorry, I took that moment for some free publicity.
Everyone has their own ritual when starting a cigar session. What is yours?
First of all: the location. When I am walking in a city I will have to find a smoking lounge or a terrace. If it is winter, I have to find a heated one. But when I am sitting comfortably and have chosen my cigar the ritual begins. I always moisten my cigar so it cuts easily. For the moment I love V-cuts. Sometimes, I even make a double V. Then, I light it gently without drawing, until the foot is evenly burning. Then, one or two draws with the fire in it. When I am smoking a non-Cuban I won’t be needing my lighter anymore. But we all know that in the case of a Cuban cigar, you better keep that lighter at hand. When I smoke a cigar it calms me down, all the stress and bad thoughts go with the smoke. Its a cleansing of the soul.
You can have as many cigars as you want, forever BUT it always has to be the same. What would you pick?
No doubt about it my favorite pick is the Trinidad Topes EL 2016.
We all did some nasty mistakes on our cigar journey. Tell us about your most embarrassing one.
Well, it is not just a bit embarrassing… it is very embarrassing! When I was out with friends I got a little tipsy. We were smoking, I was explaining something and I use my hands to do so. I put the cigar back in my mouth but the wrong way and I got a mouth full of ash. And I even remember the cigar, it was a Cohiba Robustos.
What do you look for in a cigar retailer?
An open person. Easy conversations and a humidor at the right humidity.
Imagine the embargo to Cuba is lifted. What will happen next?
Well, let us hope for the people of Cuba that it will happen. But for us as European cigar smokers, it would not be that great. There is already a shortage of cigars in Europe, in Belgium at least. So it would only be worse.
With the smoking restrictions in almost all places, do you see the private club scene growing?
Yes, I do. Even though it is not that easy to find locations for clubs. And the law here is getting very strict about it too.
Fake cigars are a real problem, we see them popping everywhere. What is your take on the counterfeit industry and what can we do to minimize the damage?
It is a shame. But to be honest, the tobacco on some fakes is not always bad. It is just a shame they put brands on it. There are some very good custom rolled cigars out there. Just do not put a brand on it. Respect the brands. And now even China is making counterfeit boxes, even for the Reservas and Gran Reservas. It will be harder and harder to spot the fakes, in my opinion.
We can see that you have some big boy toys. What’s your favorite?
Tough one. Well, you can’t change your car as many times as you can try a new cigar or a watch. So I put cars first. Then cigars, then watch. But smoking a cigar with the windows open in the summer cruising the small roads? Best of both worlds.
What is your favorite cigar accessory?
My ST. Dupont torch. Can not light a cigar properly without a torch.
Are you a soft-flame or a torch lighter guy?
Torch definitively. To create an even burn or even relight your cigar its the most effective way.
What is your favorite personality in the cigar community and why?
Has to be @that_was_what_i_meant. Great pictures, a magnificent collection of vintage cigars and a great person. We have daily contact in a WhatsApp group and met each other in Havana at the festival. And I had the chance to smoke a pre-embargo Davidoff with him.
You are very active on Instagram, how do you see the removal of the Like counts that is already live in some countries.
I think people will post more. They won’t wait for that perfect picture or setting anymore. Now it is all about the likes. So you wait until you can post that one picture you think will do great! I think it will get more personal. Better.
How do you see the future of Cigars on social media?
It is already straightened with online selling and even clubs or shops can’t do advertising anymore online about tobacco. I hope people know the difference between smoking and enjoying. Cigarettes you smoke, cigars you enjoy.
Did something surprise you in the cigar community?
Yes, that when you are a cigar smoker you always have something to talk about. And it opens conversations with other cigar smokers. It is one big family. No matter the language or culture.
What have you learned with our community in the past year?
To spot fakes easily.
What is the most overrated and the most underrated cigar for you?
Overrated is the Cohiba Talisman EL 2017. Smoked it a couple of times already and its always just another cigar. So don’t know what happened there. Underrated would be the Saint Luis Rey Tesoros ER España from 2016. I think I smoked 10 boxes. They weren’t expensive and a perfect Petit Robusto.
Enjoying a cigar: inside or outside?
Outside, in old Havana with some live music.
What brand have you never smoked and probably never will?
Ghurka. About $15.000 a box.
What is your “Unicorn” cigar?
Cohiba Robustos Supremos EL 2014. Never had the chance to smoke it.
What is the next update you would like to get for the hobby?
I am thinking about getting an air purifier. I live in an apartment so would be a great addition to my home.
What are your Top 5 most affordable cigars?
So if we are talking price/quality, I would say a Vegueros or a Montecristo Petit Edmundo. A Partagas Series D No 5 always does the trick, it rarely disappoints. Also, and I am taking some risks here, a CAO Pillon. And any ER from Spain. Except for the La Gloria Cubana. I bought too many boxes and it is bad in almost every way.
What are your Top 5 favorite cigars?
Difficult question. Only 5? I would go with the following:
- Trinidad Topes EL 2016
- Trinidad Short Robusto T EL 2010
- Cohiba Robusto
- Montecristo Edmundo Cava 8
- Cohiba Behike 52, from before the 2015 line.
Thank you for your time to read this profile interview. It means the world that you dedicated a bit of your time to do it. Share your thoughts on the comments. We are eager to listen to you and bring you value every single day. Have a great one!