Mikaela is an incredible communicator and a great source of knowledge for all alcoholic drinks in, water, tea, coffee, olive oil, and of course, cigars. In a highly male populated industry such as cigars, it is a true pleasure to talk to a female entrepreneur and explore in more detail the motivation behind it. Go check out @mikaelapaim‘s profile for an incredible journey of lifestyle visuals.
Thank you very much for accepting our interview, it is a pleasure to personally meet you. Who are you?
I feel honored to be invited to this interview. I am very happy and thankful.
My name is Mikaela Paim, and as of today, I am the only Brazilian specialist in all alcoholic drinks in the world, water, tea, coffee, olive oil, and international wine and cigar sommelière. I live in São Paulo, Brazil, where I own restaurants and provide food and beverage consulting for the whole country.
What motivated you to start producing content for the community?
To inspire more women and a new generation of aficionados in Brazil.
How is the cigar scene in your country?
Very Interesting! A new movement started in Brazil in the last 5 years. More aficionados, more women smoking a cigar, more professionals. There are Brazilian brands producing new cigars and limited editions every year. And since 2017 there is the Festival Origens — 4 days to experience 4 important factories in Bahia.
Do you prefer having a cigar alone or with others?
Both. When I’m studying cigars, I prefer being alone, giving all my attention to this, taking notes, and trying different pairings. I love to take some time for myself at the end of the day when I prepare a drink and relax with a good cigar. There is also something magical to spend some time with my friends and cigars, students, and especially with the women group Confraria Aficionadas.
We’re 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 person?
I’m a flexible person on that matter. I appreciate traditional cigars and also new ones.
Imagine that the embargo to Cuba is lifted. What will happen next?
In my opinion, the USA will finally discover how beautiful and happy Cuba really is. Not just the cigars but the amazing country and people of Cuba.
Tell us more about why you decided to become a Cigar Sommelier.
I work in bars and restaurants since 2002 and in Brazil until 2011, it was possible to smoke in closed places. On my first Wine Course, I learned about spirits and cigar service for customers. It was how I started to learn about it. I decided not just to know a little bit about all this. I decided to study all these topics deeply. I did all the possible courses available in Brazil, and the last one was the IACS — International Association of Cigar Sommeliers. Today I am the only Brazilian expert on wine, cigars, spirits, coffee, tea, water, olive oil, and gastronomy.
What did you like more while taking that course?
To learn from professionals who have had countless experiences around the world.
There was some buzz on the internet about the IACS diploma not being a scam. What are your thoughts about it?
I believe that regardless of the course or diploma, there is the work of trained professionals. A course does not make anyone a real expert. What makes a professional relevant is the work and contribution in the cigar community.
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 Romeo & Julieta and old Brazilian tobacco set my heart on fire.
What’s the best cigar you have ever had?
Por Larrañaga Magníficos from 2007. An edition launched for the British market.
Based on that, what’s the perfect pairing for it?
At that time, I paired it by contrast with a limited edition Cognac. I still remember how incredible the explosion of flavors was, notes of almond, caramel, honey, and spices provided me with an unbelievable experience.
Everyone has their ritual when starting a cigar session. What’s yours?
I choose my cigar, my drink, pick up all the accessories and glasses I’m going to use, prepare the space where I go to smoke, choose a playlist (often is jazz or Cuban music). I like to prepare my mouth drinking quality water (yes! Water can make all difference!), I put my phone in airplane mode, sit down and give myself 2 hours (or more) of pure relaxation and connection.
Tell us about your collection. What does your humidor look like?
Today I have almost 1000 cigars at home. Many Brazilian cigars, 15% Cuban classics, 20% non-Cuban, 30% limited editions.
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 Cohiba Talisman EL 2017.
And the worst?
I have always offered something good, to give a good experience to my friends and new people as want to try cigars. But the simplest cigar I remember was the Brazilian cigar Dona Flor (92 points in Cigar Aficionado).
What do you think about cigars as a type of investment, like watches and cars?
A cigar for me is much more about the experience and the connection. It is an opportunity to stop, and appreciate the moment. But I respect those who take this as an investment. I also invest, but I understand the happiness of enjoying my cigars is in the present.
You can have as many cigars as you want, forever BUT it always has to be the same. What would you pick?
OMG! A very difficult question… possibly I would choose to make my own tobacco with Mata Fina.
We all made some honest mistakes on our cigar journey. Tell us about your most embarrassing one.
4 years ago in Bahia, I was at a table of friends explaining Brazilian cigars, a gentleman asked to sit next to me, saying that he wanted to learn more about it. I just didn’t realize that it was Félix Menendez, son of Alonso Menendez, who came to Brazil after the embargo where they owned Montecristo in Cuba.
As a customer, what do you look for in a cigar retailer?
A comfortable and elegant environment, with good exhaustion. Guarantee of the cigar’s origin and a good drinks list.
With the smoking restrictions in almost all places, do you see the private club scene growing?
Yes, especially in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Where for the past 5 years the scene is growing exponentially.
What’s your favorite cigar accessory?
My little collection of cutters. (You know, a different color to combine with different moods and looks).
Are you a soft-flame or a torch lighter person?
Soft-flame for sure! For years people hear me say: “What lights up the cigar is the heat, not the flame”.
Enjoying a cigar: inside or outside?
I prefer to enjoy my cigars outside, but most of the time I enjoy them inside.
What is your favorite personality in the cigar community and why?
Manuela Romeralo was my first inspiration, for being a strong and amazing woman on the cigar scene.
Fake cigars are a real problem, we see them popping everywhere. What’s your take on the counterfeit industry and what can we do to minimize the damage?
Counterfeiting is a major evil for the sector and it harms everyone. I consider it very important that we raise the level of information for consumers and make it more difficult for counterfeiters to enter.
How do you see the future of Cigars on social media?
More friendly, with more united professionals to transmit quality content to bring the aficionado even closer to this wonderful cigar world.
Did something surprise you in the cigar community?
A very pleasant surprise was the growing number of women smoking cigars worldwide.
What is the most overrated cigar for you? And he most underrated?
The Royal Courtesan by Gurkha Cigars, maybe the US$ 1 million for one cigar it’s a little bit overrated. And the most underrated, definitely the Brazilian cigar.
What brand have you never smoked and probably never will?
I have a goal to smoke all brands in the world for the next 40 years, I think I can do it.
What is your “Unicorn” cigar?
What are your Top 5 favorite cigars?
- Quai d’Orsay, on the breakfast with Champagne;
- Dannemann Arts Line 2006, after lunch;
- Toscano Rosso, on my coffee time;
- Davidoff Limited Edition 50 Years, with cognac after dinner;
- And a Partagas Series P No 2, with whiskey to end the night.
A short message to all the community
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!