Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Vancouver Cigar Company *Grand Opening*

Last month I had the distinct pleasure of being invited to the Grand (re)Opening of the Vancouver Cigar Company ( ) right here in the Lower Mainland of BC.

I can remember the old days of "The Company" when they were lodged in the hip-district of Yaletown and walking into that shop was like walking onto a film-set. Not only for the leather couches, rows upon rows of ultra-premium Cuban tobacco, but also for the regular clientele of visiting stars. I brushed past Stallone one day, just missed "The Governor" another time and made a point of missing Charlie Sheen on several occasions (only joking Charlie).

Smiling Staff (right) and client at Van Cigar Co.
Yes, it was a bit like being invited to an Old-World gentleman's club, New-World style. Courteous staff - that was before I knew the difference between Robusto and Maduro (I thought they were both cigar sizes)... these guys (and gals) took me by the hand and led me through their maze of riches. They showed me how to season my humidor properly, gave advice on purchases, and picked my brains more then once on wine pairings with what I was smoking currently. Nice folks, and a great place to have a chat.

Well then the laws changed in BC, and cigar-smoking was put on the same executioners block as cigarette-smoking. I could digress and begin a rant on the differences between the two, but I must assume that my readers, since obviously literate, are also more intelligent then the law-makers who put such drivel into practice.


But rising  like a phoenix from the ashes (almost literally) came the resurrection of the company back into public-life and a great big smoke-off to start things with a bang! I called Trevor; fellow raconteur and General Manager, and asked him a few questions about this exciting and by-law defying event!

Trevor cigar-sales have taken quite a beating over the past 5 years; what separates you from your local competition?

Well first off, I have to give credit back to the company for being one of the first to deal only in premium and ultra-premium Cuban tobacco, starting in 1996... to us old guys sometimes that doesn't feel like that long ago, but in reality that's almost 20 years of business and that means we're doing the right kind of things.

Secondly I would have to give kudos to the staff here; I'm surrounded by people who are not only passionate about cigars, but passionate about learning and sharing their acquired knowledge. The staff are selfless when it comes to this and I'm quite proud of them.

Lastly I'ld have to say that our merchandise speaks for itself. Cuban cigars are widely regarded as the best in the world, and we only deal with the best from Cuba.

An interesting line of thought as I, personally, enjoy many Dominican cigars as well... what makes Cubans "The Best" in your opinion?

Well obviously it's only my opinion, but the richness of Cuban-soil, the high iron content, the perfect mix of moisture, sun and wind... not to overlook the obviously vast cultural heritage that goes along with the cigar industry there... this is a place and a people uniquely qualified to produce constantly top-scoring cigars.

A beautiful Bolivar I smoked to the last inch
An interesting point-of-view, and valid points... going back to business for a minute - if the average person learns from repeated mistakes, the wise person from one mistake and the genius learns from watching someone else make a mistake - what has the Vancouver Cigar Company learnt from its competitors over the past few years?

You know, above and beyond all other things, we're really embracing that to be successful in this economic climate we need to A) never quit and B) always be willing to try new things. It's the companies who are too old, too big, too slow or too comfortable to try new concepts who are, inevitably, failing.

And what would you consider to be the greatest challenge to your business here in BC/Canada?

Obviously the new anti-smoking laws have had the most devastating effect on cigar sales across the country. When we combine that with some of the highest tobacco taxes in the world - cigars have become something that most people are associating with wealth. Which is silly when you think of the simple pleasure a cigar can bring, and the absolute accessibility of the average person to cigars in most parts of the world.

Most parts of the world... are you thinking of anywhere in particular?

Me, with two beauties at Van Cigar Co.
Well like many people, I have very romantic memories of my time in Havana. I've been lucky enough to spend some time there and know this little restaurant... there's a wrought-iron staircase that takes you up to the second floor with these tiny balconies that overlook the city - they're almost like mini gallerias - I sat there with a beautiful girl, had a great meal - then enjoyed a fantastically fresh hand-rolled cigar with some truly world-class beer and spirits.

Of course, walking the seawall around English Bay with a friend is a great way to spend an hour or so, and I still have good memories of our old store in Yaletown and long talks over cigars in the over-stuffed leather chairs!

I actually share similar memories of Cuba - different place, but the same vibe... but smoking here in Canada is now illegal virtually everywhere; I'm sure it seems like an obvious answer, but what changes would you like to see in the cigar industry here?

You know the biggest issue I have with the current laws isn't that we have new laws protecting non-smokers, it's that they put cigars and cigarettes on exactly the same level.... it's blatantly false and I just wish the government would recognize that. I wish more cigar-lovers would speak up! Send an email to your MP or MLA, start a petition, contact a senator -

- yes, I think I know of one senator who's for sale these days...

Well Trevor thanks for your time and thanks for inviting me to the grand (re)opening - it's been great having this chance to pick-your-brain.

A pleasure Kristof - thanks for making the time to come out!


I would like to say that I was diligent in my work after that. I would like to say that I took copious notes on the cigar(s) I smoked, and remembered to ask people about their experience, etc etc...

The truth is that the Cuban music was pumping, the cigars were beautiful (as was much of the company), there was a complimentary scotch tasting with a master of the industry; all situated in the middle of one of the most eclectic car collections I've seen in years. A particular Bentley caught my eye... I have to drive that one day! My wife says it's a bargain at $85,000 used.

I wish.

At at the end of the night, as my energy was waning and I was faced with an hour long drive home, they even made me a genuine Cuban espresso... a little cup of paradise with my end-of-night Fonseca *(mild start but rich finish and scoring a solid 89 points).

Yes, 'tis true that the climate in Canada these days might not favor cigar-smokers as in days of yore... ah those heady hay-days of the 90's. Would that I could have enjoyed that time with the appreciation that it wasn't going to last. But now - a glimmer of hope.

A new beginning... an "underground" cigar-smokers club? Pop-up cigar lounges? Will there be a cigar-police car trailing after me? If so - I'll seek sanctuary in my new oasis;

Vancouver Cigar Company

I look forward to your thoughts. 
Write to me on Twitter @AStudentOfWine

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

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