Monday, November 23, 2009

G Smith & Sons - One of the oldest purveyors of cigars and snuff in London

Please note, unfortunately this store has now closed. It's a shame but like many London Cigar stores; it's history.

When we put the Cuban Cigar Walk London together we focussed on St James's and Mayfair but there are some really excellent stores in other areas of town, I feel a Cuban Cigar Walk 2 coming on!

If you are searching London for some well kept cigars, a pipe of tobacco or a pinch of snuff you may well miss the unique old Tobacconist in Charring Cross road if you didn’t know it was there.
I suspect there was a time in London when many of London’s gentlemen would take a pinch of snuff, but today I find it amazing that such a huge range is still available from a store in London.

G. Smith & sons in the Charring Cross road is a totally unreconstructed snuff store and tobacconist which was established in 1869 and it looks as though it hasn’t has a major refit since that day, Fantastic!

The taking of Snuff is first documented from the second visit of Christopher Columbus to the Americas where he found the Taino-Indians on Haiti taking this form of ground up tobacco in 1497.

It was first brought to Europe in 1561 when Catherine de Medici is first reported to have taken it and she was followed by other famous French snuff takers including  Napolean and King Louis XIII.

Snuff became more common through the 20th century until it was gradually replaced by cigarettes.  However snuff taking did still remain popular in certain communities such as Ireland, Western Scotland, Iceland and Southern Germany and it also appears there must be a rump of users in London judging by the wide range available here.

G Smith & sons blend their own snuffs and although I have taken it I can’t pretend to be an expert. Those who are recommend the George IV  and CafĂ© Royale blends.  

So if you want to try something that your great grandfather probably did then the knowledgeable young men at G Smith & sons will be able to help you select the blend to suit you and I will almost guarantee that you will be the only person in the pub gently teasing a small pile of snuff onto the back of your hand tonight! 

The store also sells pipes and  cigars.

You may well miss the humidor which is in a room through a door on the right of the shop. It obviously used to be a back room and it must be the only humidor in the world with a fireplace.

The shelves are stocked with a few Cuban cigars but my advice is to take a good look at the Non Cuban cigars here including a number of Rocky Patel cigars.

The full address of the store is 74 Charring Cross Road, WC2H 0BG but if you have an iPhone you should download a great new iPhone app called Topsee and it will guide you to Smith as well as showing you over 270 other Top things to eat, drink, do, see and buy in London. 

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Auction of Cuban Cigars in London including Pre Revolution Cuban Cigars

You will need some where to rest when you have completed the Cuban Cigar Walk London and we include a list of recommended places to eat, drink and smoke on our web site which are useful during and after the walk.

One of our favourite spots if Boisdale of Belgravia and if you pop along there on the 1st of December at 7.00pm there is a fantastic auction of some  142 lots including some exceptional Cuban cigars.

There are some great Pre Revolution/Pre Castro Cuban Cigars and a number  humidors in the early lots including a Cubatobacco 1492 original humidor with 15 original cigars with an estimate of between £3,500 to £6,000.

To find a link to the full catalogue of the lots for sale follow this link

If you wish to attend the auction you will need to register. If you are unable to attend the auction you can still bid by email up to 24 hours before the event.  If you are not an existing client you will need to register by emailing your details with details of which Lots you wish to bid for as well as your maximum bids.

Looks like a great opportunity to pick up some Christmas presents for the Cigar lover.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Nero's rotating dining room discovered in Rome

Archaeologists in Rome have unearthed what they think are the remains of a circular rotating dining room that belonged to the Emperor Nero.

They say it was probably his banqueting hall that imitated the earth's movement so he could impress his guests.

Cities in Sound has three wonderful Audio Guides around Rome: From the Forum to the Colosseum, The Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain and The Award winning Heart of Rome Walk

More details and Video report on the latest discovery click here.

Smoking Cigars in the rain in London?

Sautter of Mount street is a charming little traditional Cigar store in Fashionable Mount Street Mayfair.

It has been selling Cigars since Desmond Sautter started his business 50 years ago and developed a world wide reputation as a the pre eminent supplier of pre Revolution Cuban cigars in London.

It is the second cigar store on The Cuban Cigar Walk London and as part of the celebrations for their 50th year Johnny Burman has produced a range of umbrellas so that you can smoke your cigars even in the most inclement London weather.

There is a choice of three umbrellas but this one caught our attention because it has a hollow handle with a spring loaded mechanism which is designed to accommodate one of your finest cigars so you need never be without a cigar what ever the weather.

For more details please visit the Sautter web site

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A great home for your Cigars in London - The Ultimate Humidors - Part Two

While I tramp the streets of London in search of cigars and stories and likely locations to include in my Audio Guides I frequently make extra ordinary discoveries. I recently visited the Tom Tom shop in London where four of the Hunters and Frankau / Linley limited edition humidors are currently on display. They looked great in the pictures but they look totally stunning in the flesh. 

They are due to move on soon and I will try to keep track of them and let you know where they are but I thought you might like to see some pictures. To see part 1 of this Blog item and more details on these amazing humidors follow this LINK

Friday, September 25, 2009

Cigars over London - Huge cloud of Havana smoke spotted over London

Recently a group of Cigar smokers who first met on the UK Cigar Forum on the internet got together to walk the Cuban Cigar Walk London and then in the evening smoking cigars by London's river Thames to celebrate one year of the forum's existence.

A group of 20 completed the Audio Guide and for the first time we used radio head sets which ensure that everyone hears the guide simultaneously.

We lunched at the wonderful Red Lion pub in crown passage and many bemused passers by could not understand why the old gas lit alleyway was filled with vast clouds of cigar smoke on a quiet September Saturday afternoon.

We ended the walk at the Churchill Museum Cabinet War rooms and a group of 14 of us made our way into the museum where you can see Sir Winston Churchill's war time head quarters and the remains of one of his exceptionally well chewed cigars.

In the evening we met up with a larger party at a great pub calledhe Doggetts Coat and Badge on the South bank of the Thames overlooking Blackfriars Bridge and proceeded to produce huge clouds of Havana smoke.

One of the advantages of smoking cigars with a group from an internet forum is that everyone posts a note to tell you what they smoked and of the 12 that smoked here are the details:

They smoked a total of 54 cigars

The most cigars smoked by one person was 8 (Lascau)
20 different brands and 44 different types of cigars were smoked of which over 98% were Cubans

I did a quick check and the most popular brand was Hoya de Monterrey with the most popular cigar being the R&J short Churchill

The full list of cigars smoked was:
Hoyo De Monterrey -Petit Robusto, Epicure Especial, Regalos, Depute, Epicure No 2, Double Corona
San Cristobel -Moralles
Juan Lopez - No 2, Petit Corona
Cohiba - Sublimes, Esplendidos, Robusto, Siglo IV, Siglo V, Genios
Cuaba - Distinguidos
Ramon Allones - Corona, Small Club Corona
Montecristo - No 2, No 4, Sublime, Edmundo, Open Regata
Bolivar - Royal Corona, Petit Corona, Belicosos Finos
El Rey Del Mundo - Demi Tasse
La Auro - Leoninos
Partagas- Charlotte (1998), P2, D4, Lusitanias
Por Larranaga- Belicoso Extra
Punch - Petit Corona, Double Corona
Romeo & Julietta - Short Churchill, Dukes
Trinidad - Fundadores
Upmann - Magnum 48
Vegas Robaina - Famosos
Non Cuban - OPUS X, Placeres Reserva, Dunhill Petit Corona

As you can imagine the smell on that terrace was wonderful and the few drops of rain didn't spoil a great evening.
Same time next year everyone?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Trinidad Robusto T launch seminar at Boisdale

A short while ago I wrote here that I had seen the new Trinidad Robusto T cigars at Davidoff in London which is one of the stores on the route of the Cuban Cigar Walk London, and today I got to sample one in illustrious company on the wonderful cigar terrace at Boisdale

And what a great evening, when you consider that these cigars retail for £21 each, we got a cigar a glass of the new house no 4 claret and an extremely instructive introduction on this great new cigar from Simon Chase of Hunter and Frankau for just £25. 

There were only 10 lovers of fine cigars at this inaugural Monday evening event and Simon started the evening by giving us a potted history of the Trinidad brand, which is named after the beautiful 16th century city of La Santisima Trinidad which is on the south coast of Cuba and is a Unesco World Heritage site.

Simon explained that Trinidad cigars were first released to the public at the beginning of 1998 but long before that they had been Havana’s mystery cigars having been first produced at El Laguito, the Cohiba factory , but in very small quantities for distribution by the Cuban Council of State.

Cigar Aficianado confirmed their existence in it’s first issue. Trinidads became the holy grail of cigar enthusiasts, mainly because they were almost impossible to obtain. Prices rocketed and it did not take the cigar industry long to decide to fully launch the brand.

The essence of the original cigars was taken by Raul Valladares who is a Master blender of tobacco, known as the ‘Maestro de Maestros’ (Master of Masters), he softened the flavour to produce an aromatic fragrance with a medium flavour.

The new Trinidad Robusto T was announced at the Festival del Habano in February 2009 and has just landed in England.

The Trinidad Reyes has been one of my favourite cigars for a while now, I find it extremely complex and tasty without being too strong and overbearing.

It’s big brother the Robusto T has the same complexity but is more muscular. Simon took time to explain to us the way the cigars are constructed and why we should anticipate different strengths and we worked through each third of the cigar due to the construction of the cigar and it’s filler.

I always learn something when I smoke a cigar with Simon and it’s not surprising with the years he has spent in the business but what also helps is that he is such a charming host.

If you are in the London area I suggest you quickly get the details of a future event and try it for yourself.

The next event is on the 26th October between 6pm and 7pm at Boisdale and will include the Bolivar Petit Belicoso (5’’ 52 RG) and a large glass of Hennessy 1982 Grand Champagne Cognac to drink as you smoke.

With the masterful Simon Chase to host the event, talk you through the background and history of the brand and the new cigar, I can't imagine a better place to be on a cool Monday evening in October than on the Terrace of Boisdale under the heaters with some good friends and a warming drink.

For more details and to get tickets go to the Boisdale web site  You can also register here for updates on future events.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Every office should have a Cigar Park?

It's not an uncommon site to see people standing outside an office having a quick cigarette. But if you are a cigar smoker you normally make your pleasure last a little longer than a 5 minute break.

While I was visiting the office of Hunters and Frankau recently I spotted a wonderful device in their 'Out Door Smoking area.

If you smoke cigars you might like to consider getting one of these your office.

Each of the cigars is held on it's own little numbered 'shelf' and there is a small roof to keep the rain off.
So you can enjoy a cigar break throughout your working day.

What a great idea, every good office needs a 'cigar park'.

Cuban Cigar Walk London

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Beautiful little now you see me, now you don’t Humidor

Walking around London, smoking great cigars and meeting wonderful people, what could be better? And it’s what I do for a job.

I am currently getting ready to do a group audio walk of the Cuban Cigar Walk London where we will be taking a group of about 20 around the four cigar stores in Mayfair and St James.

I popped in the oldest store on the walk, JJ Fox and Robert Lewis. This store first opened it’s doors in 1787 and it has so much history they have even opened up the ‘Cigar Museum’ downstairs. It has lots of great history including what are reputed to be the oldest cigars in the world.

The first cigars were shipped to London in about 1830 and in a case at the far end of the museum you will find two glass cabinet containing cigars of the La Cabanas brand and these are some of the first cigars shipped to the UK and it is believed that these are probably the oldest cigars in the world.

Having supplied cigars to England’s Royal Family for many years the list of past customers is long and distinguished and includes Tsars of Russia, Lord Salisbury, Bing Crosby and the Bengal Lancers Regiment.

As I entered the store the staff were demonstrating the most exquisite Humidor or cigar case, to me it looked like something out of a Harry Potter film.
As you will see from my pictures it has a small knob on the top which when turned rotates each individual face of the case to reveal holders for three cigars.

I was quite captivated by this wonderful little treasure. You can see many more fascinating objects like this at the Cigar Museum at JJ Fox and Robert Lewis which is on the route of the Cuban Cigar Walk London.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Venice opening times!

I visited Venice this summer and saw this great sign in a shop window which captures a very relaxed Italian attitude to commerce.

Although we do not have Audio guides for Venice yet, if you are visiting Italy we have three wonderful Audio guides for Rome including the award winning “Heart of Rome” Audio guide where you will discover the best ice cream in the world.

To hear samples and to find maps of the three rome audio guides follow this link:
Cities in Sound Rome Audio Guides.

I tested them all recently and have some snippets of information to give if you are heading for the eternal city so keep watching my blog for new posts in the near future.

Alfred Dunhill's little devil - The Tweenie Devil

The Cuban Cigar Walk London visits four of the finest retailers of Cigars in London including the new home of Alfred Dunhill at Bourdon House.

Built between 1723 and 1725 Bourdon House is the former home of the Duke of Westminster, the Grade 2 listed Bourdon House is an oasis of Luxury and calm in the hustle and bustle of London’s Mayfair.
If the weather is fine there is a court yard where you can have a coffee and enjoy your cigars purchased from the wonderful humidor in the basement.

On the wall of Alfred Dunhill’s stylish London home, outside the exclusive Alfred’s Club you will see a polished brass plaque bearing a strange looking mystical figure. This is the Tweenie Devil, a sign of Alfred’s devilish sense of humour.

In 1893 the young Alfred Dunhill took over control of his fathers business making all of the accessories that the carriage owning Gentleman of the time required.

But although he was only 21 years old, Alfred quickly realised that the invention of the motor car posed a serious threat to business.

He changed the name of the business to Dunhill Motorities and started to produce a wide range of luggage, waterproof coats, in fact all of the accessories required to make the motor car luxurious and exclusive.

On the boot of Alfred’s own car was the Tweenie Devil, a grinning figure thumbing it’s nose at all those left in it’s wake.

Today it is possible to get a pair of Tweenie Devil cuff links from Alfred Dunhill stores. I have a pair and they never fail to start a conversation.

To hear a sample of the Cuban Cigar Walk London go to The Cities in Sound Web Site.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Partagas Culebras – the twisted cigar

I was recently given a Patagas Culebras which is the wonderful twisted three cigars in one.

On Friday I was in London visiting the cigar stores featured on the Cuban Cigar Walk London and I spent some time at Davidoff where Armando, who is in the UK on a break from his usual job as a roller at the Partagas factory in Havana.

I spoke to Armando and Edward Sahakian about the Culebras and got some really interesting details.

I asked Armando about rolling the Culebras and he told me that in order to achieve the twist it was necessary to roll the very loosely and also with very moist tobacco.

Edward told me that he had been told the history of the Culebras by one of the old Cigar importers.

The rollers are apparently allowed to smoke any number of cigars while they are rolling but are only allowed to take 3 cigars home every evening.

In order to discourage them from selling them the three cigars were twisted together.

However as they were for their own consumption the rollers made sure they always used the very best tobacco.

I told Edward and Armando that I intended to smoke mine with a couple of my friends who love cigars. Remember said Edward "that you are smoking the tobacco not the shape".

Friday, August 28, 2009

Newly released Trinidad Robusto T

Just a quick note this evening, while I was at Davidoff in London today I saw the new Trinidad Robusto T cigars which were released today.

Just look at that lovely little piggy tail there!


I haven't smoked one yet but James Suckling likes them:
Cigar Aficionado

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sir Winston Churchill's cigar part of War Time bunker exhibition

The Cuban Cigar Walk London naturally has many references to the life and cigars of Sir Winston Churchill  as on our Audio guide we visit two of the Cigar stores (Robert Lewis and Alfred Dunhill) which supplied Sir Winston during his long life.

The Cuban Cigar Walk London finishes at the Churchill Museum Cabinet War Rooms just next to Downing street and a new exhibition revealing the day to day workings of life inside Sir Winston Churchill's secret World War II headquarters is being opened to the public this week.

Marking the 70th anniversary of the start of the conflict, the exhibition will showcase the stories of the people who worked alongside Churchill in the secret bunker.

For those of you who are keen Cigar smokers interested in the specific cigar that Sir Winston smoked you can see an example of one of his cigars in the museum.

It's partly smoked and well chewed but it's a contact with the great man himself.

Whether you can get to the exhibition or not I strongly recommend that you buy a copy of the book "Churchill's Cigar" by Stephen McGinty.

Stephen was kind enough to read extracts of his wonderful book for inclusion in the Cuban Cigar Walk London and it's a authorative and beautifully written book.

For more details see :

BBC News Article
Churchill Museum Cabinet War Rooms Web site.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Ultimate Humidor? (Part 1)

If you like good Cuban Cigars then you need somewhere to keep them and while working on a group version of my Audio Guide the Cuban Cigar Walk London I recently met Simon Chase of Hunters and Frankau who told me about the new Humidors which Hunters had commissioned from Linley the famous bespoke furniture company which is run by the Queen’s nephew.

The Cuban Cigar Walk London passes very close to the Linley store in Mayfair and you can be sure that we will be making a detour on group walks to ensure that we get to see these wonderful pieces of design.

Of the three designs, the reproduction of the El Laguito factory in Havana, the home of the world famous Cohiba cigars is the most stunning.
Only one of these humidors will be made and it will be available filled with a fabulous selection of Cigars all carefully selected by Hunters and Frankau.

Slightly more accessible to mere mortals are the two other designs in this exclusive range. The Skyline Humidor is the second in the collection and five of these will be produced. This humidor contains 50 cigars and features the panoramic skyline of London in marquetry detailing around the box.

Finally The third humidor in the collection marks the bicentenary of the Cuban Revolution. Only fifty of the Cuban Flag humidors will be available and each one is numbered.

The box features marquetry inlay depicting the Cuban national flag in ripple sycamore, satin walnut and Santos rosewood encased within walnut lippings.

The box is distinguished by an undulating ‘ripple’ effect on the surface which evokes a flag fluttering in the wind.

For full details and to place your orders go to the Hunters and Frankau web site:
Hunters and Frankau Humidors

Monday, August 24, 2009

Top ten jokes at the Edinburgh Festival 2009

If you are in Edinburgh for the Edinbugh Festival, for the Edinburgh Tatoo or just for a visit Cities in Sound has two Audio Guides for Edinburgh Old Town and Edinburgh New Town:

Found these on the BBC News Web site:

The Top 10 jokes were judged to be:

• 1) Dan Antopolski - "Hedgehogs - why can't they just share the hedge?"

• 2) Paddy Lennox - "I was watching the London Marathon and saw one runner dressed as a chicken and another runner dressed as an egg. I thought: 'This could be interesting'."

• 3) Sarah Millican - "I had my boobs measured and bought a new bra. Now I call them Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes because they're up where they belong."

• 4) Zoe Lyons - "I went on a girls' night out recently. The invitation said 'dress to kill'. I went as Rose West."

• 5) Jack Whitehall - "I'm sure wherever my dad is; he's looking down on us. He's not dead, just very condescending."

• 6) Adam Hills - "Going to Starbucks for coffee is like going to prison for sex. You know you're going to get it, but it's going to be rough."

• 7) Marcus Brigstocke - "To the people who've got iPhones: you just bought one, you didn't invent it!"

• 8) Rhod Gilbert - "A spa hotel? It's like a normal hotel, only in reception there's a picture of a pebble."

• 9) Dan Antopolski - "I've been reading the news about there being a civil war in Madagascar. Well, I've seen it six times and there isn't."

• 10) Simon Brodkin (as Lee Nelson) - "I started so many fights at my school - I had that attention-deficit disorder. So I didn't finish a lot of them."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

H Upmann Magnum 48 Limited Edition

I had a wonderful afternoon yesterday and I sat with Edward Sahakian at Davidoff in London . It was the first day of the release of the 2009 limited edition Cuban Cigars and I sat with him and smoked one of the new H Upmann Magnum 48 Limited Edition 2009.

It’s a great cigar, not to strong, which is ideal for me. It is made with tobacco which as been aged for a minimum of 2 years. Edward had smoked one the day before and he says they will age very well.

We will be heading back to Davidoff on the Cuban Cigar Walk London on the 19th September for a group walk which will be followed by a Herf.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Make the most of the smoke

Quite simply, it was one of the most pleasant and informative afternoons I’ve had in London”
Mark Hedges, Editor – Country Life, May 2009

I recently spent a sunny afternoon doing the Cuban Cigar Walk London with the editor of Country Life and you can read his article on the Country Life web site:

Monday, February 9, 2009

Step by step tube map

Have you ever though it might be quicker to walk than to take the tube. Health Company PruHealth has engaged some energetic walkers with pedometers to measure the number of steps between each station.

As you can imagine we here at Cities in Sound are ardent fans of anything which involves more walking to help you improve your health.

To find the map follow the following link

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Beatles in Saville Row

We try to make our walks as cosmopolitan as possible and in a new audio guide due to be released in the next few days we will pass the site of the Beatles last performance at the old Apple Corporation building at number 3 Saville Row.

On 30th January 2009 it will be the 40th aniversary of that famous last live outing for the 'Fab Four.

It had been planned to re enact the concert and broadcast it to the world but somehow Westminter Council have managed to bog the idea down in red tape and it had to be cancelled.

So to get a true flavour we suggest you head to You Tube for a replay. There are three sections of film available and it's a real time capsule, I love the guy on the other side of Saville Row in the Bowler hat, with the pipe. They don't make them like that any more. Oh and aren't the police polite!

So watch out for the release of our new walk. To be sure of getting details of new walks be sure to register for updates.

Monday, January 12, 2009

New Year Diet?

No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to a traditional baker or boulangerie.

The Gastronomic Pleasures page of the Le Marais web site will allow you to review some of the wonderful spots on the Le Marais audio walk so that you can carefully plan your snacking as you go. A croissant here a pain-au-chocolat there.

Just remember that you are on an audio walk so you will probably be walking off those calories, now where can I get a wonderful rhum baba?