People Behind the Profile — @the_duke_of_habanos

This one is probably of the most visually rich interviews we have ever conducted. Mr. Obaid, a true gentleman, has two very clear paths in his life: cars and cigars. The passion that resonates with his words is contagious and reading about his journey and personalities he met along the way is a true delight.

Thank you very much for accepting our interview, it is a pleasure to personally meet you. Who are you?

Firstly, I would like to thank you for arranging this session. It is indeed a privilege!

I’m a long time Habanos fan and an Auto-enthusiast. I have traveled the world and have lived in four continents. My affinity with Cuban cigars got ignited when I was living in the Caribbean and made frequent trips to Cuba. I’m happily married and have three lovely daughters. I am content with life as long as I can puff one cigar a day.

I am the person behind Instagram handle @the_duke_of_habanos and hashtag #Rahmoments. I tend to express my emotions, my stories, and my escapades through a combination of visuals & anecdotes.

So far, I’ve remained fairly anonymous on social media without the majority of the followers knowing my identity and this is the first time I’ve come out in the open.

You have a cigar club, can you tell us about the concept of it? Also, what was the motivation behind forming the club?

Yes, I have been smoking cigars with like-minded people for quite a while and realized that there are quite many things in common amongst them. Hence, I conceptualized to bring all of them together under one umbrella.

Autos & Habanos is a premium social club for Habanos connoisseurs and Automobile enthusiasts, alike. The main idea is to bring professionals, technocrats & diplomats together who share the love of Cuban cigars and passion for Automobiles. We socialize, share, respect and have a good time together. We now have an amazing set of members who all bring in richness to the bond we’ve created, the discussions we have and the activities we hold.

Do you prefer having a cigar alone or with others?

I can smoke alone but I’m a have-a-cigar-with-others kind of a man. I love sharing cigars with a wider circle of friends and community, whenever possible.

My wife and I have an annual ritual of Habanos Fest in our backyard, where, all cigar lovers congregate and savor on some good Habanos. It’s all about having a good time and the pleasure to see others having a great time too!

What’s your honest take on the eternal debate of Cuban vs non-Cuban cigars? Also, are you a Cuban or a non-Cuban cigar smoker?

Firstly, I’m strictly a Cuban cigar smoker, however, I do smoke a non-Cuban occasionally while socializing. I was recently offered a cigar from Liga Privada collection by a good friend and I did enjoy it. Out of non-Cuban countries, I’ve visited the Dominican Republic and seen the industry up close. Indeed, there are some great brands, blends, and cigars of non-Cuban origins.

However, for me, it’s about the roots, the origins, the history, the source of this phenomenon. Cuba is the original author of this diary and that’s what makes me adhere to it. It’s like you think of Italy when it comes to exotic cars yet, other countries make amazing cars too.

Imagine that the embargo to Cuba is lifted. What will happen next?

My personal view is that it would create a disequilibrium. Certain nations have acquainted themselves with non-Cuban cigars and others are very content with Cubans. Any change to this would induce shifts in demand, prices and eventually, diplomacy. So, let it be as is!

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 back in 1999 at a Casino in Macau. I can’t remember which one was it actually, but it certainly didn’t entice me. I did, however, get into the habit of having a cigar occasionally. The passion got truly ignited during my first trip to Cuba in 2004 when I lit up a Cuaba Salomones while sitting in the courtyard of Hotel Telegrafo. I vividly remember it!

What’s the best cigar you have ever had?

I’ve had some amazing cigars all my life but the best one has to be a custom-rolled made with a selection blend at Maximo’s La Casa in Havana. His collection of custom-rolled is one of the best. I’ve christened them as ‘Sin Cortars’ given their unfinished structure. I still have a couple of them resting in a Humidor.

Based on that, what’s the perfect pairing for it?

It all depends on what time, mood and the occasion is. I can pair it with a good cup of Cuban coffee in the morning or a Cigar book in the afternoon.

Everyone has their ritual when starting a cigar session. What’s yours?

Again, it varies for me according to the time, mood and occasion. It can be an elaborative ritual while sitting down with my lovely wife for a dinner or I can light it up in a snap if time doesn’t permit.

Tell us about your collection. What does your humidor look like?

I have six personal humidors in a designated area of my house which my wife calls ‘the shrine’. Each humidor is categorized by what they carry — Emotive Cigars, Custom-Rolled Cigars, Edicion Limitada Cigars, Great Cigars, Everyday Cigars and lastly non-Cuban Cigars. My treasure of Emotive cigars rest in an artisanal Humidor commemorating Cohiba’s 50th Anniversary that has been handcrafted by a great friend, Ernesto Milanes.

Amongst 40 odd cigars in this humidor, I have a Cohiba Piramides that I have myself kept since 2003 (the year my first daughter was born), Romeo & Julieta Cedro №1 2004 (I bought in Cuba), Bolivar Bonitas 2009 (a find from London), a collection of Behikes from launch, 1966 Edicion Limitada 2011, a couple of Partagas 170th Anniversario, Cohiba Majestuosos 50th Anniversario and lastly, Robaina Unicos that were gifted by Carlos Robaina.

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?

All the great people I’ve befriended with during my cigar journey have been very generous and I’ve received many great cigars. However, the best cigar ever offered to me was by the Ambassador of Cuba that he kindly hand-rolled himself for me.

What do you think about cigars as a type of investment, like watches and cars?

For me, cigars are just for personal consumption and to be shared. I value them emotionally and sentimentally, not monetarily.

You can have as many cigars as you want, forever BUT it always has to be the same. What would you pick?

You can put me on a deserted island and give a life-long supply of Partagas Series P №2 and my family, I would remain a happy man. These are my staple cigars and I carry them in my travel humidor for all the journeys in anticipation that I might not find a good Habanos.

We all made some honest mistakes on our cigar journey. Tell us about your most embarrassing one.

Yes, some are embarrassing moments and others are not-to-be-shared kinds of embarrassing moments. I had mine during the Gala Dinner bidding for the Cohiba 50th Anniversario Humidor. I guess, I had a lot of cigars that night and mixed up people and bids. Let’s leave it here and let it be buried!

As a customer, what do you look for in a cigar retailer?

I can’t stand retailers who simply pose to know something that they don’t. Also, narcissistic retailers don’t tickle my fancy. I simply look for retailers whom I can build a trust with and then obviously, they should have a good selection of cigars.

With the smoking restrictions in almost all places, do you see the private club scene growing?

Private clubs have been growing at a steady pace, but I think we are about to witness some shift in social behavior given what’s happening around us at the moment. However, it’s premature to judge as to how things would pan out.

What’s your favorite cigar accessory?

I have quite many favorite cigar accessories, but the most precious ones are:

  • Goyard Cigar Case handpainted by Maison Gris with an Aston Martin DB5 and customized licensed plate.
  • Customized Smoking Slippers by Mount Street Shoe Company

Are you a soft-flame or a torch lighter guy?

It depends on how much time I have at hand and what’s the environment. Either way, it’s a flame-does-not-touch-the-tip rule for me.

Enjoying a cigar: inside or outside?

Given the option, I would always prefer outdoors. However, if the weather doesn’t permit, then I can revert to an indoor setting too.

What is your favorite personality in the cigar community and why?

For me, its Carlos Robaina, son of Alejandro Robaina who runs the La Casa Del Habano in Miramar, Havana. Another person is Jose Maique of Habanos S.A. fame and the man behind Behike. Both of them have inspired and influenced me and remain to be good friends.

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?

As long as the value chain including wholesalers, retailers, and consumers would keep buying them consciously, the counterfeit industry would keep on flourishing. Counterfeiters take advantage of a lack of regulatory policy support towards the manufacturers. It’s a lengthy topic but the community as a whole should say no to it and discourage counterfeits to be added into the mainstream supply-chain.

How do you see the future of Cigars on social media?

We all have experienced restrictions in the recent past but seemingly, it is still growing positively and responsibly. Social Media has been a good medium for like-minded people to share their experiences and lifestyle. I feel that it would keep playing this role.

Did something surprise you in the cigar community?

Our Cigar community includes all those men & women too who work in the fields and factories to make that ‘field to cigar lounge’ process complete. I have spent some time with them and it surprises me to see that they work humbly while being oblivious to the fact that what they grow and create, runs a global industry. I have very high respect for them and I feel we all need to recognize and acknowledge them.

What is the most overrated/underrated cigar for you?

Cohiba Talisman is a good cigar but it is being overrated by the market at the moment. Robaina Unicos is a very fine cigar but not being given the respect it deserves.

What brand have you never smoked and probably never will?

I’ve virtually smoked all Cuban brands but one I would never smoke again is Flor de Rafael Gonzalez. I had it during one of my trips to Havana and we just didn’t agree with each other. Although it’s a simple blend but it just isn’t piquant enough for my taste.

What is your “Unicorn” cigar?

Cohiba 1966 Majestuosos 50th Anniversario that I’m saving to smoke on my 50th birthday. Still a couple of years to go!

What are your Top 5 favorite cigars?

  1. Cohiba 1966 Edicion Limitada 2011
  2. Montecristo Linea 1935 Leyenda
  3. Hoyo De Monterrey Diademas 2004
  4. Cohiba Behike 54
  5. Romeo y Julieta Duke 2009

So, apart from cigars, what else are you involved in?

I’ve been involved in motorsports for nearly three decades now. I still keenly participate in club racing events. I’m also an active member of the local Porsche Club and I love going out for off-roading on weekends with my family.

A message to the community
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