Being one of the most colorful profiles on the cigar community, we could not call this a proper series if we did not interview Mr. Jasim Ahmed. With his strong opinions regarding the present and the future and his typical gentleman style, it was a true delight to hear him.
Thank you very much for accepting our interview, it is a pleasure to personally meet you. Who are you?
My name is Jasim Ahmed, Cigar Sommelier, and Master of Habanos in the United Arab Emirates. I have been in the cigar world since 2004, exploring my passion for cigars and learning every day from the best.
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?
I am more of a Cuban Cigar guy but I do enjoy a non-Cuban cigar from time to time.
What is your honest take on the eternal debate of Cuban vs non-Cuban cigars?
It is truly a matter of taste such as in wine or coffee. However, today we have hundreds of non-Cuban brands in the market where we have no idea what the origin and authenticity of those leaves is, and that is a problem. Anyone can own a brand these days by putting together leaves from different origins and this lacks consistency. You cannot expect quality in those selections all the time. You may enjoy a very good cigar today but consistency on the same flavor and blend is nearly impossible for these newcomers. The non-Cuban market grown exponentially and it is good and bad like in any other business. I am open to new flavors but I find a lack of quality these days in these cigars. For this reason, I prefer Cuban cigars or a branded popular cigar since you are sure what you are smoking.
Usually, people have two first-time moments: the first cigar and the cigar that ignited the passion you have today. What were yours?
My first cigar was a Cohiba Corona Especiales gifted by one of the members of the Habanos Management Team while on his visit to UAE. The cigar that ignited the passion for cigars was a Cohiba Esplendidos from Cohiba 35th Aniversario Humidor released in 2001 for the brand’s 35th Anniversary. The reason behind this choice the level of detail those cigars have inside, the way they were rolled and also the premium tobacco used for the creation of this release. When I heard the unexplainable passion that people put on it, I wanted to learn more and more.
What is the best cigar you have ever had?
This is a tough question and I come across it every other day. There are lots of memorable cigars I smoked like the Cohiba Gran Coronas from the 35th Aniversario Humidor, the Cohiba Esplendidos from the same humidor, the Cohiba Gran Reserva Cosecha from 2005, the Trinidad Fundadores from 1997 and many more…
Based on those cigars, what is the perfect pairing for them?
If I get the chance to go back in time, I will probably pair them with a fine Champagne.
Everyone has their ritual when starting a cigar session. What is yours?
I like a glass of sparkling water followed by a nice coffee and dark chocolates — no less than 70%.
Tell us about your collection. What does your humidor look like?
My humidor is not that big. This will remain a secret.
When we meet someone, we usually give away one cigar as a gesture of good faith. What was the best cigar you have been offered?
A Trinidad 50th Anniversario Gloriosos from 2019.
And the worst?
A bad cigar that a friend insisted me to smoke due to our friendship. Later, I had stomach pain and a bad stomach ache for 3 days!
What do you think about cigars as a type of investment, like watches and wine?
Cigars are one of the best investments you can ever do.
You can have as many cigars as you want, forever BUT it always has to be the same. What would you pick?
We all did some nasty mistakes on our cigar journey. Tell us about your most embarrassing one.
I dipped a cigar in coffee as an experiment, a very long time ago.
What do you look for in a cigar retailer?
Professionalism in maintaining the humidor, trust in reserving a cigar and a great friendship. A cigar aficionado is a friend of a cigar retailer forever.
Imagine that the embargo to Cuba is lifted. What will happen next?
Initially, it will be a big hit as American cigars lovers will go crazy to try new flavors. However, it is a matter of taste and the American cigar lovers’ palate is used to flavors of different blends from different countries. We need to wait and see how it goes. I believe Cuban cigars will be loved by many in the US even though they are used to non-Cuban flavors, especially the new generation of cigar smokers.
With the smoking restrictions in almost all places, do you see the private club scene growing?
Absolutely. The private club scene is becoming more and more popular but there is a hefty membership fee imposed by many and that is not helping the new cigar lover to explore this beautiful culture and lifestyle.
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?
Awareness, education, and more social media campaigns. There are some bad fakes out there. It requires a real professional to explain the ways to identify a fake cigar and the consequences of smoking it.
What is your favorite cigar accessory?
I love the S.T. Dupont lighters and the Xikar cutters. I have tried many other brands and durability is a big issue.
Are you a soft-flame or a torch lighter guy?
Soft flame for sure. However, I try to light cigars with a torch flame from time to time, being careful in taking the time and toast the foot without burning the cigar. I like the words from Carlito Fuente Jr. — one of my mentors — who said that his father — Carlito Fuente Sr. — said about cigars in general: “We will never rush the hands of time”. This is applicable for lighting and also enjoying cigars. These days, some cigar smokers burn the cigars very fast because they do not have the patience for it. Let’s call it a new style.
Enjoying a cigar: inside or outside?
Since we are in UAE, we have a few days of outside smoking pleasure. We enjoy it mostly indoors but smoking outside is a true pleasure if there is no wind and perfect ambiance.
What is your favorite personality in the cigar community and why?
So many of them for so many different reasons: their knowledge, humbleness, creativity, and friendship just to name the few. I can not say names here but I love our community.
You are big on Instagram, how do you see the removal of the Like counts that is already live in some countries?
I am not big on Instagram. I do not think it matters if there are fewer likes or more likes. People watch you and they know what you do. I receive lots of recognition from our community even if I have 5 likes. What I am trying to say is that people know you and if they happen to meet, the friendship is forever and no likes or dislikes can overpower it. My best friends in the cigar community have no time for Instagram likes. They meet me and we smoke and share the passion for the leaf and I prefer those friendships than a virtual like from someone who I do not know.
How do you see the future of Cigars on social media?
It is already powerful in social media and I truly believe that social media has a big impact on educating, marketing and introducing a new cigar or related product.
Did something surprise you in the cigar community?
The friendship and relationships between aficionados over the passion of cigars are unbelievable and eternal.
What have you learned with our community in the past year?
To identify the real cigar aficionados.
What is the most overrated/underrated cigar for you?
There are so many but I want to limit myself to one or two.
Overrated: Mayan Sicars.
Underrated: Diplomaticos and Vegas Robaina.
What brand have you never smoked and probably never will?
From the existing cigar choices, it would be a cigar with added or infused ingredients artificially, a gold wrapper or a cigar dipped in cognac.
What is the next update you would like to get for the hobby?
For me, it is a lifestyle and not a hobby. I would like to write about this passion on a big platform.
What are your Top 5 most affordable cigars?
- H. Upmann Half Corona
- Montecristo No 4
- Hoyo De Monterrey Epicure No 2
- Partagas Shorts
- Romeo y Julieta Petit Royales
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!