When you look at the number of quality cigars that Chris — @vitolaslover — has in his Instagram profile you will immediately know that you are in the presence of a great aficionado. All the way from Switzerland, Chris accepted our interview request and we now have the absolute pleasure of sharing it with you.
Thank you very much for accepting our interview, it is a pleasure to personally meet you. Who are you?
My name is Chris, I am Swiss, but consider myself a resident of the world. I teach at school, I love my job. I also like swimming and I have a passion for some years now for Cuban cigars. I have been lucky to travel the world and hope to do so for many years to come.
What motivated you to start producing content for the community?
What motivates me is first of all to meet new people who share my passion, cigars. I also like to serve the community by sharing my knowledge, trading cigars, selling some on some occasions, and share my love for the Habanos.
Switzerland is an amazing country and with a great tradition regarding Cuban cigars. How is the cigar scene in your city?
I am lucky that Switzerland is a country with a history of cigars. The illustrious Zino Davidoff was a compatriot. Here I can find pretty much what I want at affordable prices. The offer is wide. We have three La Casa del Habano and a lot of quality shops.
Do you prefer having a cigar alone or with others?
It depends. I enjoy smoking alone and with company. I like to be with myself for a mediation session with a cigar. I also really like sharing this moment with friends after a good meal. So I would say it depends on what I’m looking for.
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?
My opinion is to smoke what you like! I would even say, smokeless, but smoke better. I definitely prefer Cubans who tell me a story. I have the impression that non-Cubans have a similar taste throughout the smoking process. It is my opinion and I respect everyone’s opinion. The main thing is to have fun! And my pleasure I find it in the Cubans who are 99% of what I smoke.
Imagine that the embargo to Cuba is lifted. What will happen next?
I think that closed markets would open up and that global demand for Habanos would increase. I think that countries that have a history with Cuba would always have as many choices, but that countries a little less close to Cuba would have more difficulty obtaining supplies. I also think that there will be more competition and maybe the prices will go up.
Usually, people have two first-time moments: the first cigar and the cigar that ignited the passion you have today. What were yours?
My very first cigar I don’t remember. Indeed, it was during my youth and the first experiences with the adult world. I smoked several at different times, without knowing what it was and what I was smoking. We passed the cigar from mouth to mouth… it was the heyday.
However, my first real cigar that changed my life was a Partagas Series D No 4 smoked during a vacation in Spain. I was with a friend who offered to smoke a real cigar like a gentleman. What a revelation! It has been several years since I had smoked it and I really liked it. The rest is history and a new costly hobby was born.
What’s the best cigar you have ever had?
Difficult question. The best cigar is a Partagas Lusitania which I had the pleasure of smoking in Trinidad, Cuba in the House of Music. This moment will remain etched in my memory. Tasted this wonder, listening to salsa, socializing with local people … paradise on earth.
Based on that, what’s the perfect pairing for it?
Two choices for me. A light cigar with a cool cider or a strong cigar with a whiskey.
Everyone has their ritual when starting a cigar session. What’s yours?
I watch my humidor to see what I want to smoke. Then I select one. I touch it, feel it, and try to get in touch with it. Then I cut it, often a guillotine cut. I then test the cold draw. When I feel ready, I light it slowly, with a torch lighter.
Tell us about your collection. What does your humidor look like?
I have two humidors. One is electronically controlled for a constant humidity of 65% and a temperature of 17 degrees Celcius which can contain around 40 boxes. I use it to age boxes for several years. The whole collection is made of Cuban cigars, with two non-Cuban boxes to try. I also have a 300 piece humidor for everyday use which I keep with 65% humidity. I love 50’s closets and I like to age my cigars in them.
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?
One of the first cigars I received was a Hoyo de Monterrey Regalos EL 2007. A delicious and flavorful cigar even after all those years.
What do you think about cigars as a type of investment, like watches and cars?
In terms of investment, I find that cigars have excellent value, which in most cases increases over time. For example, when we buy a car, as soon as we take it out of the garage it loses value. On the other hand, a cigar box ages with love will gain value almost with each stroke. So should we buy cigars as an investment? I’m not sure of it. I think above all it is a passion. However, if it is possible to do some good business, it is not a bad thing.
You can have as many cigars as you want, forever BUT it always has to be the same. What would you pick?
Ramon Allones Specially Selected.
We all made some honest mistakes on our cigar journey. Tell us about your most embarrassing one.
I would say that I had a lot of problems until I had a working humidor. Firstly, I always bought humidors that were too small, I had to resell them and buy larger ones. Then, I had several bad experiences with products that did not work as described, until the day I decided to make a larger purchase and have a real humidor that works perfectly. I recommend everyone to make a good quality purchase.
As a customer, what do you look for in a cigar retailer?
I seek trust first. The seller must be an impeccable person who sells authentic cigars. In addition, the condition of the cigars must be faultless. Then, I look for a certain familiarity, a spirit of camaraderie. Finally, attractive prices and a loyalty program are always a bonus!
With the smoking restrictions in almost all places, do you see the private club scene growing?
I don’t see a particular development of cigars lounges in my region. To be honest, I know only of a tiny one. There is therefore no visible development in this area, unfortunately.
What’s your favorite cigar accessory?
As a Cuban Cigar smoker, I think my favorite accessory is the perfect draw tool. Indeed, Cuban Cigars have the tendency to be plugged. Therefore, this tool will always help to improve the draw.
Are you a soft-flame or a torch lighter guy?
Torch lighter. Occasionally I use matches.
Enjoying a cigar: inside or outside?
I like both. If the weather is bright and there is not too much wind, I like to be outside. If the weather is gloomy and windy, I prefer to be inside. I don’t like poorly ventilated places. But if I had to choose a perfect spot, it would be at the edge of a lake with mountains in front of me.
What is your favorite personality in the cigar community and why?
My favorite person in the cigar world is Mister Laurence Davis from Sautter in London. I appreciate his youtube videos full of humor, passion, and advice. I like his way of speaking and communicating his love of the leaf. He is also an authentic and generous person.
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?
The counterfeit and the people who try to rip you off in the community are driving me crazy. I find it shabby and totally inadequate. This is the reason why we must support each other and especially point the finger at counterfeiters. For example, on Instagram, I recommend posting stories that indicate scammers. I recommend sending private messages if an account seems suspicious and discussing it with the community. More communication is needed to be able to give these people no chance. It would be nice to create a list of accounts that are fraudulent.
How do you see the future of Cigars on social media?
I don’t think there will be too many changes. Passionate people will continue to share their passions and their cigars. The scammers will continue to try to sell their counterfeit goods.
Did something surprise you in the cigar community?
I was amazed by the generosity and the team spirit of the community. I have met many lovely and interesting people. As we say, in the cigar world there is no competitor, just passionate friends.
What is the most overrated/underrated cigar for you?
The most underrated cigar for me is the Ramon Allones Specially Selected, I think it’s one of the best value cigars on the market, relatively cheap and so delicious! I don’t see any overrated cigars. I do think the Cohiba line in general and the Edicion Limitadas are overpriced, which doesn’t mean overrated.
What brand have you never smoked and probably never will?
I am very open and ready to try any brand. However, I don’t know why, but I have never been attracted to the Sancho Panza. It is psychological, but they don’t attract me.
What is your “Unicorn” cigar?
Partagas Lusitania Gran Reserva.
What are your Top 5 favorite cigars?
In no particular order:
- Partagas Lusitania
- Trinidad Vigia
- Ramon Allones Specially Selected
- Cohiba Genios
- Bolivar Libertador.
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!