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There is something inherently alluring in smoking a fine cigar. Just the thought conjures up images of the good life—men clad in their finest, a whiskey in hand and, of course, a fine cigar. It’s a refined, luxury experience, and one that 12.3 million people in the world partake in.
Cigar aficionados make up approximately 4.6 percent of the adult population, a group that finds the aromas of a premium cigar a beguiling symbol of the finer things in life.
Cigar lounges can certainly be stereotypically masculine dens…plenty of women enjoy a fine cigar from time to time as well.
Those savvy enough to cater to such devotion do so in dedicated establishments, often in upscale hotels or in clubs wholly given over to the habit. You’ll find both public and member-only retreats where the initiated can secure their own humidor lockers. And while cigar lounges can certainly be stereotypically masculine dens—dark wood furnishings, deep leather-cushioned armchairs, soft lighting—plenty of women enjoy a fine cigar from time to time as well.
Photo courtesy of The Blend Bar
“I was amazed to learn that 20-percent of my clientele is female,” says Michael Milinkovic, general manager of Burn Pittsburgh. In any case, these days there are seldom dense clouds of smoke hanging around like a malodorous fog. There are sophisticated ventilation systems for that. So it’s possible to have your cigar and pick up the peaty bouquet of that fine single malt Scotch or vintage Petite Syrah you’re having, too.
“We took 12 trips in as many months to scout out the best ventilation system before opening Torch Cigar Bar in Phoenix two and half years ago,” says owner Jon Harrington. “And we probably spent as much time and effort on our lighting.”
Burn by Rocky Patel
Décor at cigar lounges may frequently suggest James Bond is about to sidle up to a Baccarat table, but at the emerging chain of Rocky Patel-branded sites integrating some local vibe is the goal. At Burn Pittsburgh, a nod is made toward the city’s industrial past—although it’s still pretty glam, suggests Milinkovic.
Michael Herklots still remembers his first visit to a Boston cigar lounge as a teenage musician, at the urging of a friend. “It was like walking into a completely different world. Seeing this room filled with leather chairs and all these guys all doing the same thing, with great jazz music playing—it was compelling. So I had a cup of coffee, took a puff of my first cigar—an Ashton Classic Panatela—it was a flavor I’d never tasted, a medium I’d never experienced.”
Humidor cigars, courtesy of Cigars at No. Ten
It was also life-changing. Twenty years and uncountable cigars later, Herklots is a Certified Master Tobacconist and the vice president of retail and brand development for the legendary New York tobacconist, Nat Sherman International. He’s not only seen a few good cigar lounges in his time, but he’s probably lectured in them as well. He’s also a walking fashion plate, though that’s not a requirement at most lounges.
“True, when you walk into Torch for the first time you may feel you need to put on a tuxedo,” says Harrington. “And indeed you may see some. But you might see someone in flip flops, too. It’s a no-judgment dress code.”
Ready to explore guilty pleasure a bit closer? Here’s a sampling of the best cigar bars to light one up:
The Blend Bar
The Blend Bar in Indianapolis opened in 2013, announced a branding partnership with Davidoff Cigars in 2015, took the Cigar Journal’s 2017 award as the best cigar lounge in the world, much less the U.S., and has since opened three other locations in Nashville, Houston and Pittsburgh.
Burn by Rocky Patel
There will soon be five Burn by Rocky Patel cigar lounges around the U.S., owned by the eponymous cigar maker, the first having opened in Naples, Florida in 2010. The newest opened in Pittsburgh, and promptly waltzed off with the 2018 Cigar Journal Award. There’s a full dining menu, along with 270 cigar facings (or 77,000 individual cigars).
Torch Cigar Bar
Jon and Kelly Harrington adapted Rocky Patel décor ideas for the Torch Cigar Bar in Phoenix, but chose to remain independent of any branding. There’s a 2,000-square-foot outdoor patio with firepit where members were recently able to light up arguably the most expensive cigars going, the HMR (His Majesty’s Reserve) from Gurkha.
Nat Sherman Townhouse and Club Macanudo
Anyone can light up in the retail section of the classic Nat Sherman Townhouse in midtown Manhattan, but members have a quiet downstairs den in the Johnson Club Room where they can raid their personal lockers and smoke in splendid isolation. Another one of the best cigar bars in New York City is the Upper East Side enclave Club Macanudo. It’s hard to tell what’s more extensive here: the premium cigar menu or the wine and spirits list, which runs to the hundreds and includes scores of single malts and the signature Sixty-Third Street Martini.
Cigars at No. Ten
If roaming further afield, you might want to book a room at the No. Ten Manchester Street Hotel in London, where you indulge in Cigars at No. Ten and its all-weather terrace, replete with artwork of famous cigar smokers and, more importantly a Hunters and Frankau-designed walk-in humidor stuffed with hand-rolled Havanas. Seems like a Churchill-sized cigar would be the appropriate choice here.