Strike a light! Cigars - and humidors - are back in fashion

Collect to invest: John Windsor on the enduring enticements of Cuba

Cigars are back in fashion as are humidors, the decorative boxes that keep them fresh. Prices at Bonhams, the London auctioneers, have doubled in 18 months. A novelty Louis Vuitton leather and brass-bound humidor fetched pounds 950 this month, well above its pounds 500-pounds 700 pre-sale estimate.

There are no antique purpose-made humidors: the preference for relatively moist cigars - firm but spongy instead of dry and crackly - came only after the war. A new trade has sprung up: customising Victorian workboxes by inserting a cedar lining, humidifier and hygrometer (humidity gauge) - and making new ones.

The latter signals a revival of the craft of marquetry and is likely to yield limited-edition collectables of the future.

Viscount Linley, the Queen's cabinet-making nephew, has only one left of his five classic architectural humidors, each in an edition of 10. It is a miniature villa in the style of Sir John Soane, with urns and columns in rare woods. Price: pounds 9,500. His modest walnut ones cost pounds 1,200.

More than half the buyers in this country are American. Back home, they lounge smoke-wreathed in newly-formed cigar clubs, known decadently as divans.

Britain's first divan, the luxurious members-only Monte's (as in Montecristo Cuban cigars) opened in Sloane Street, Knightsbridge, west London, two years ago. Its enticements include French silk upholstery, Lalique glass panels, dining, dancing and Cohiba Esplendido cigars at pounds 24 each.

The renewed popularity of cigar humidors is due to the combined efforts of two cigar fanatics. One is the American publisher Marvin Shanken, 53- year-old founder of the 500-page lifestyle quarterly Cigar Aficionado, which in five years has achieved a circulation of 400,000.

At Sotheby's much-hyped Jackie Onassis auction in New York last year, his purchase for a whacking $574,500 (pounds 375,500) of John Kennedy's walnut Dunhill humidor earned him publicity worth many times that amount. At Big Smoke cigar conventions, the famous humidor, in which the President is alleged to have stashed Havanas before imposing the still-existing trade embargo on Cuba in 1962, is locked in a glass display case with two guards on 24-hour watch.

The other aficionado is the Russian-born cigar merchant Zino Davidoff, who died two years ago, having popularised the Cuban taste for relatively "fresh" cigars and pioneered humidors to preserve them. He once remarked: "I discovered Cuba's perfume and her sensual warmth as an immature adolescent discovers an ardent, knowledgeable woman."

One of Monte's suppliers, London humidor maker Wendy Salisbury, describes the function of the magic boxes as "kidding the cigars that they're still in Cuba: Havana is one big humidor".

At fairs and auctions she buys antique gentlemen's travelling boxes that have lost their silver-topped jars, women's workboxes,even gun boxes on stands then has them stripped out and kitted with the necessary cedar lining, hygrometer and humidifier - a pad moistened with distilled water in a metal grille. She insists that her boxes should lock air-tight, gently squeezing together the rubber seals inserted into grooves.

Converted, they sell for between pounds 900 for a Victorian box in rosewood, mahogany or walnut to pounds 5,000 for a Victorian travelling trunk on a stand, holding up to 500 cigars. Prices of her brand-new cabinet-makers' humidors with intricate veneers begin at pounds 600.

Another London maker, Adrian Lesley, spent six months finding suppliers of components and brass fittings for his Palladian-style humidors in pear, ebony, satinwood and rippled sycamore, that sell in editions of 100 at pounds 1,475 each.

Members of Monte, soon to be offered an edition of Mr Lesley's bearing the club livery, will appreciate that all his humidors contain the most accurate hair hygrometers obtainable. The hair, his importer assures him, is culled annually from a Himalayan tribe whose genes make its elasticity uniquely sensitive to changes in humidity.

The investment value of humidors depends to some extent upon whether cigar-smoking is here to stay or a passing fad. The signs are healthy (whatever you may think of cigars themselves).

The Americans are capable of smoking 8 billion of them a year (1970s peak figure) compared with today's figure of some 3 billion (a significant increase on the low of 2.14 billion four years ago).

Although the current re-ignition owes much to the misconception that cigar smokers do not inhale and smoke less than cigarette smokers, its clubability and prohibition-style anti-correctness could have lasting appeal.

For humidors:

Alfred Dunhill, shop and museum, 50 Jermyn Street, St James's, London SW1 (0171-499 9566); Davidoff, 35 St James's Street, London SW1 (0171- 930 3079); David Linley Furniture Ltd, 60 Pimlico Road, London SW1 (0171- 730 7300).

Wendy Salisbury, Hamilton-Blake Ltd, 95 Elgin Avenue, London W9 (0171- 286 6787).

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search

British Gas repays £1m for mis-sold deals

British Gas was yesterday forced to pay back £1m to its customers after mis-selling them energy deals.

Bare necessities of life cost a pensioner £10,000

Pensioners now have to spend £10,387 a year on basic necessities such as food and fuel. new figures published today reveal.

Six months since its introduction, Obamacare has set market's pulse racing

As America's health reforms take effect, some firms look well placed to benefit, says Simon Read

Holidaymakers warned over hidden charges when opting to pay in sterling abroad

Fresh warnings emerged this week that overseas retailers and hotels aren't playing fair.

Employees will be able to request flexible hours in drive to make workplaces family friendly

From next week employees will be able to request changes to working hours. Rob Griffin weighs up the options

E2Energy's wind-turbine scheme offers green investors 7.5 per cent a year

If you're fed up with paltry returns on your savings and are interested in green energy, a new loan-based crowdfund launched this week could be a better home for your cash.

Why miss the chance of tax-free returns as Isas raise their game?

The tax-free limit of £15,000 is a big jump and rates for savers are starting to edge up, writes Simon Read
More and more trade drivers are falling prey to fraudsters

'Crash for cash' gangs target white van man

"Crash for cash" accidents are reaching record levels. The insurer Aviva trawled through its claims data to discover that fraudulent "slam-ons" – accidents deliberately caused in order that claims can be made for whiplash compensation – rose by 51 per cent in 2013.

Lenders lose their appetite for debt forgiveness

Banks may be getting tougher with people who fall into financial difficulties, a debt charity has warned. Statistics from The Money Charity reveal that the amount of personal debt written off by banks and building societies reached an all-time low during the first quarter of the year.

Should you pile into the Footsie or run for the hills?

With the 7,000 mark in reach, investors must ask if the index will keep climbing or peak and plunge, writes Simon Read

High-cost payday loan firms set to be exposed

More payday lenders could be forced out of business after the Competition and Markets Authority called for an independent price-comparison site to show borrowers which loans charge rip-off interest.

Are you due an energy supplier refund?

The relatively mild winter means you could be in line for a refund from your energy supplier, and it won't be peanuts! New research published this week suggests the average household in credit with their energy company could be owed £86.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Accounts Payable

    £12 - £15 per hour: Cameron Kennedy Recruitment: Excellent opportunity to join...

    Technical BA - Banking - Bristol - £400pd

    £400 per hour: Orgtel: Technical Business Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £400pd...

    Account Management Strategy Manager

    £38000 - £42000 per annum + competitive: Real Staffing: Required skills:Previo...

    Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

    £60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice