Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Iconic Churchill statue goes under the hammer

Sir Winston Churchill Statue in Bond Street

Iconic Churchill statue goes under the hammer

Do you every have one of those chilling moments when you see an item in the newspaper and it makes your heart stop for a moment? I'm being slightly over dramatic here but the picture of the famous Sir Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt statue "Allies" with text that said the famous statue was up for auction made me stop in my tracks. Bonhams will auction the famous statue in London tomorrow and it is expected to reach a price around £200,000.

Four years ago when I set too to create the Cuban Cigar Walk London I wanted a suitable starting point and after many hours researching Mayfair and St James's and planning a suitable route I decided that the junction of old and new Bond street and the iconic statue at this junction was the ideal meeting point.

More recently I have created the London Cigar Guide App which also includes the Cigar Walk and the statue is a key land mark for cigar lovers and tourists alike. It has a polished look due to the number of tourists who sit between the great men to have their pictures taken and is a major Bond Street land mark.

The statue in Bond street was unveiled on 2nd May 1995 by Her Royal Highness the Princess Margaret Countess of Snowdon and it commemorates 50 Years of Peace after the Second World War.

The British nation loved Churchill and as a man who is reputed to have smoked up to 200,000 cigars in his 90 year life you will not be surprised to find that he features frequently in both the cigar walk and the London Cigar Guide App which features many of his London homes.

The thought that I was going to have to re-record the whole of the first stage of the walk and find a new meeting point was not good news.  Only when I called the Auction house directly did I discover that the statue remains in place in Bond Street and the version that is up for auction is one of seven impressions taken. 

Sir Winston Churchill Statue in Bond Street
Churchill was a great leader and is fondly remembered on both sides of the Atlantic. His energy and oratory kept Britain motivated through the war and his relationship with Roosevelt was very special and i for one am delighted that this great statue is staying where it belongs in Bond street.

Laurence Holofcener, the sculptor was born in Baltimore Maryland and has exhibited all over the US and UK. He is know for his statues of famous people including Lawrence Olivier at the Chichester Festival Theatre.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Auction of Sir Winston Churchill's suit

Some people spend a lifetime collecting items relating to their heroes and there must be many people who collect items in the memory of the greatest Englishman of the 20th century.

On the 28th of September there will be an auction of the huge collection of Churchill memorabilia collected by one man and remarkably the auction will include one of the Sir Winston's suits together with an amazing array of letters press cuttings and other items over a total of thirty lots.

Churchill collection to be auctioned includes one of the Prime Minister's three-piece suits and hundreds of other items.

The suit is a 1950's grey pinstripe double breasted suit which comprises of a pair of trousers and two jackets each jacket is inscribed by Austin reed in the pocket with the name of sir Winston Churchill and a date.

The suit is also accompanied by a two page letter of provenance stating that the suit was given by Lady Churchill in the 1960s. There is also a letter from Austin Reed dated 1975 stating that in their opinion the labels in the suit are authentic; together with a book titled Churchill The Walk With Destiny published in 1959 in which Churchill is photographed wearing the suit whilst shaking hands with President Eisenhower at the White House on the 28th June 1954

The auction of 'Tom' Thomas's collection of Churchilliana will take place at Stride & Son, Southdown House, St John's Street, Chichester on Friday 28th September 2012.  

For full details of all the lots Visit Stride & Son Auctions and search on Churchill.

Details were published on Stride & Son's website on Friday 21st September and viewing dates are Monday 24th - Friday 28th September.
Contact details are www.stridesauctions.co.uk and  01243-780207. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

The advantages of a Hidden Humidor

I find that the best place to put your humidor is somewhere you don’t visit too often as you forget about the bounty of cigars that it contains.

As I visit a lot of the London Cigar stores and terraces while researching updates for the London Cigar Guide I am often tempted to add a few sticks to my stash. I have also been lucky enough to visit Havana a few times in the last couple of years and as a cigar lover it is almost criminal not to bring your minimum allowance of 50 cigars back.

The cigar stores in London tend to hold far more aged stock than the Havana cigar stores. This is mainly because of the turnover of the stores due to the high volume of tourists and cigar lovers. You really have to know where to look and be prepared to smoke the less popular sizes of cigars to find something interesting and with some serious age on it in Havana.

In Havana many of the stores have their own rollers and each roller has his or her own blend and specialty. With access to the finest Cuban leaf and usually with huge experience, a job as a roller in a Havana Cigar store is an extremely good job for a roller, the cigars they produce are exceptional. 
Santos hard at work in Havana

For me Santos has the blend that suits my taste. It’s smooth and mild to medium and that suits my taste perfectly.
On my last trip to Havana I popped in to see Santos on my first day and ordered up 25 lanceros and they have been sitting in my humidor ever since. I have a friend who gets a bundle or two every trip and has been aging these cigars for years, smoking them with 4 or 5 years age. For me I had totally forgotten about my Lanceros, the best way I think, so I was unhappy to be reminded about them by a Facebook post and now they are calling me from my hidden humidor.

I fear that an evening of ‘quality control’ smoking is beckoning me and once I have started work on my meager bundle of custom rolled lanceros I worry that I won't be able to stop my self finishing them off. The one advantage is that a lancero demands some time to smoke and it would be just plain wrong to leave one half smoked.
If you are heading for London and you want to find London’s cigar stores and cigar terraces the London Cigar Guide app will help you in your quest for quality Cuban cigars. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

An Original Cigar Cutter

Some people have the most stylish cigar cutters!

If you are a cigar lover you will have your favourite cigar cutter. If you are like me it's one that you have had for ages and which you are terrified of losing.

The London cigar stores are full of wonderful technology to ensure that you cut the cap from your cigar perfectly every time however, some people just have to go that little bit further.

My picture shows Edward Sahakian the owner of the Davidoff Cigar store in London with, on the right of the picture Major James Fox on the left 2nd Lieutenant Rupert Budge. Both are from the Grenadier Guards. Edward is a General in the Royal Cigar Guards (Trinidad Battalion)!

The Store had helped Major Fox select some cigars for a mess dinner at the Officers Mess at St James's palace. It is a little known fact that when the smoking ban came into effect in the UK all royal palaces were excluded. This includes the 'Palace of Westminster' which means that MP's are free to smoke a cigar. Sir Winston Churchill would have been delighted.

St James's Palace and the Davidoff London cigar store are included in the Cuban Cigar walk which is part of the London Cigar Guide App the iPhone/iPad/iPod app which will guide you around the finest cigar stores and cigar terraces in London. It is available from the App Store.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A light goes out in Vinales, Pinar del Rio, Cuba

Sometimes a light goes out on the other side of the world and you feel that the whole world just got a little bit darker. On the 21st of June in Vinales , Pinar del Rio province about 2 hours drive from La Habana a light went out.

Vinales is a beautiful little village surrounded by many fields where hardworking tobacco farmers toil tending fields of domestic tobacco. The village is in a stunning valley which comes straight from central casting; think 'The Land Time Forgot' or 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'. If it wasn't for the "little local difficulty" I am sure Hollywood would flock there.

Dawn over the Vinales valley
In the centre of town is Casa Dago with half an imposing portico, a hang over from a divorce where each party got half the premises. Out back the ever smiling proprietor would dispense drinks, manage food orders and pick up his guitar at the every possible opportunity to entertain the clientele with sad ballads or Cuban sing alongs all the while dispensing mojitos and happiness.

I probably only spent three or four evenings in this crazy Cuban back room bar but they're all memorable.

I took my whole family there 18 months ago and Dago sensed my wife's concern at the cage rabbit by the door, disappeared. for two minutes and then called her over to see the ' dish of the day' sign he had rapidly run up. Just as quickly the rabbit was hidden away, joke over, move on.

The next day we spent on the beach with Dago in fine form and I have great memories of singing and dancing as the sun went down. Some locals wanted to know if he was Grandfather to my kids, they had grown so close to this happy, charming ray of sunshine even though neither spoke the others language. He noted my son's ability on the drums and early the next morning organised a young local drummer to come over to give him a lesson in Cuban rhythms. Life isn't easy in Cuba but you never saw that, a sight of the real world for my kids and one that left a lasting impression in the world of pap tv and Facebook.

Dago was a young heart and a bright light. My kids have lost their 'Cuban Grandfather', who had "great hair!" and the world is a darker place for his passing. It will be hard to light up the nights (and days) in Vinales in the same way again.

(Pictures 2 & 3 - Toby Brocklehurst, pinched from his Facebook page without permission but I’m sure he won’t mind)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

250 years since the English landed in Cuba

On the 6th June 1762 an English expeditionary force started landing troops in Cuba. The force under the command of the Earl of Albermarle had left Portsmouth in March with the aim of capturing Havana which had been held by the Spanish for over 200 years and was their main 'hub' for transport and treasures from South America. Havana was considered to be impregnable.

The English force was made up of five warships and thirty transport ships carrying some 4,000 battle hardened troops. The first group of English forces set foot on Cuban soil on the 6th June at the mouth of the Cojimar river five miles to the east of Havana.

To read the full account of the English Campaign in Cuba and the history of the Island of Wonder from that day to the revolution I recommend you read Cuba a History by Hugh Thomas published by Penguin.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What do you do with your old cigar boxes?

Edward Sahakian of Davidoff London
If you are a regular cigar smoker you will have the problem of what to do with your empty cigar boxes. Once you have filled your shed and offices with boxes what else can you do?
Imagine if you were a cigar retailer selling huge quantities of cigars every year, then you would have a real challenge.
Edward Sahakian of Davidoff London has teamed up with a woodworking craftsman to produce some amazing electric cigar box guitars. Edwards son Eddie loved the guitars so much he bought one and is currently learning to play. The guitar that Edward is holding is made from a classic old Partagas box. In the window of Edward's London store I have recently seen some fantastic guitars made from Cohiba Behike boxed. The black varnished boxes look amazing. Pop in and see his latest guitars.  Visit Davidoff London on the Cuban Cigar Walk London.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saturday 4th September - Jermyn Street London.

On Saturday the 4th September you need to be in Jermyn street London to share this view and so much more!!

The Art of being British is a new event happening on Jermyn Street on saturday 4 September, between 12pm and 5pm. Supported by the Crown Estate, the event is designed to raise the profile of the Jermyn Street and St James's area, by focussing on the quintessentially British heritage of this part of London and highlighting it as a specialist shopping destination for bespoke clothing, wine, food speciality produce.

For the day Jermyn Street will become a traffic-free zone, with a display of vintage cars and a catwalk fashion show.

It is going to be a fantastic event, with loads of the retailers and restaurants doing some great things. Participants include Fortnum & Mason, who will host a tea making demonstration and then a high tea, Church's, who will be having bespoke shoemaking demonstrations out on the street, Paxton & Whitfield who will have cheesemakers on the street in front of their store, and be selling take-away cheese platters.

The Cavendish Hotel will be offering a complimentary hog roast, with proceeds going to the St James's Church and Links of London will raffle off some of their sterling silver pieces, whilst serving homemade lemonade and tea cakes.

The Ritz will have one of their chefs out on the street, giving cooking demonstrations, and Franco's will offer a value added champagne tea.

Other participants include Wilton's, Green's, Favourbrook, St James' Hotel & Club, TM Lewin, Thomas Pink, Alfred Dunhill, and Hackett.

Davidoff's contribution to the day will be to have the latest roller in the store:

Hamlet Jaime Paredes is classified as a 9th grade roller – the highest achievable grade and is able to roll every vitola (size and shape) within the Habanos SA portfolio.  His career a torcedor  began nearly twenty years ago at the legendary Partagas Factory in the heart of Havana.  During his time there he rose to the position of Second Chief of the Rolling Room before moving on to a high profile role in various Tobacconists in Havana.
In 2000 he was selected to conduct promotional tours around the world for Habanos SA and since this time he has visited Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Australia, Japan, China, Macau, South Korea, Indonesia, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Canada.
When he is not travelling he is based in the world famous Romeo y Julieta factory in Havana.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Entire Churchill archive to be published on line.

The BBC is reporting today that the entire archive will be available on line in 2012.

The archive includes over 1,000,000 pages of documents and private letters from the archive of the greatest Englishman of the 20th Century.
See the full story at the BBC Web site


Monday, June 21, 2010

Rare Meerschaum pipes in London antiques market

Until recently I had not fully appreciated just how many people treasured and collected old pipes. 

Then I met Michael Clements who runs a regular stall on one of London's best known antique markets and he explained to me how old pipes are so prized by collectors and in particular the fantastic carved Meerschaum pipes made from the rare fine clay. 

The highest quality Meerschaum (from the German - sea spray) is only found in sufficient quantities in two places in the world. 

Craftsmen have long prized this fantastic material and carved the most incredible and ornate pipes.

Over many years, as the pipes are smoked they take on a beautiful colour as the tars from the tobacco infuse the fine clay. For this reason older pipes are much prized by collectors. 

Michael explained to me that in many cases the pipes are waxed when they have been finished so that different parts of the pipe colour at different rates.

This can be clearly seen on this magnificent  example where the hat and clothes of this figure have been waxed and the face has coloured as the pipe has been smoked to create the most wonderful contrast.

Many of the very finest examples of Meerschaum pipes come in their own beautiful shaped wooden boxes, covered in leather and lined with velvet to ensure these masterpieces have a long life.

The craftsmen who made these pipes produced many weird and wonderful creations and I like to think that if Keith Richards were ever in the market for a pipe he would beat a path to Michael's door for this particularly wonderful example. 

Michael is one of London's foremost pipe experts and his stall includes many old and collectable pipes. 

His stall is only open on a Saturday but if you would like more details on his regular stall please contact Nic Wing via this blog