Cigar connoisseurs suggest you take your time and savor an exceptional cigar. Regarding locations, why not travel to London’s Wellesley Hotel, Knightsbridge? This five-star boutique hotel houses one of the UK’s largest walk-in humidors and is known to have one of the most extensive cigar collections outside Cuba. At the hotel, you can enjoy a Montecristo, a Cohiba, or a limited-edition Bolivar, to name but a few. The heated terrace, with its inviting leather chairs, allows you to relax and take your time to enjoy your experience no matter the weather.
At the Wellesley, you can indulge in the Cigar and Cognac Experience, which will increase your understanding of cigars. The experience includes a 2-3 hour session with a cigar expert, who will advise you in selecting two cigars and a complete commentary on the art of the cigar, from personal tastes to the cutting and lighting of the cigar. On hand to ensure that the selection process is as pleasurable as the smoking is award-winning Cigar Sommelier Giuseppe Ruo with his fully trained team. Our magazine’s journalist, Daljit Kaur Aulakh, had the pleasure of interviewing Giuseppe and learning firsthand about his journey that led him to become one of the world’s most sought-after Cigar Sommeliers.
Who is Giuseppe Ruo? Tell us a little about your background.
I am originally from Italy and genuinely have a passion for everything within the hospitality sector. At 17, I bought my first bar, and at 19, I opened a cocktail bar in my hometown. In 2000 I moved to London, and cigars became my secret passion, along with aged whisky and cognacs. In 2002 I opened the first cigar walk-in humidor in London. Then in 2007, the indoor smoking ban was announced, leading to the first cigar terrace in London.
In 2008 I was awarded cigar sommelier of the year and represented the UK in the world final in Cuba. In 2012 I joined The Wellesley Knightsbridge and created one of the world’s most respected and popular cigar terraces. Since then, I have traveled every three months to Cuba to get our clients’ latest stock.
It is such a niche industry. What drove you to become a Cigar Sommelier?
In 2002 I believed that cigars would be the next frontier for bringing business to bars, and looking at how many cigar places have been opened over the years, I think I was right!”
What type of reaction do you typically get from people when you tell them what your profession is?
People’s reactions are different. Cigar smokers love me because I have access to all the new stock six months before it comes on the market. Others are shocked and can’t understand why I am so happy with what I do.
Were you involved in the conception and creation of the smoking room?
I was involved in all aspects of creating The Wellesley’s cigar offering, from the humidor concept to armchairs, tables, and cigar stock.
What is your signature cigar?
My signature cigar would be a Cohiba Sublimes EL 2004.
What drink would you pair with this and why?
The drink I would pair with it is a Macallan 1967 because the complexity of the chocolate and coffee notes of the cigar would marry perfectly with the nutmeg and spicy marzipan flavors of the whisky.
Which is the one cigar you have not smoked that you aspire to savor?
I have smoked all the important and precious cigars to me, so I am very happy.
I have always considered cigar smoking as a pastime for affluent middle-aged men. What, in your experience, is the modern demographic of cigar smokers?
The demographic is changing. Smoking cigars these days has become popular with younger people. Both men and women between 20 and 30 are very enthusiastic cigar smokers.
How imperative is excellent client service to you?
Smoking cigars is an expensive privilege and deserves the best service possible.
How do you achieve such a high-ranking service?
Very simply, attention to detail and passion for your job.
What are the most rewarding aspects of being a Cigar Sommelier?
When we see the happiness and satisfaction of our clients.
Who was your most famous client?
Over the years in London, I have served Michael Jordan, Jay-Z, and Tom Selleck.
If you could enjoy a cigar with anyone, past or present, who would it be and why?From the present, Edward Sahakian (my mentor), Khalid Affara, Naji Halawi, and Pasquale B. My best friends.
Where do you see your journey taking you next?
To choose my next cigar and enjoy smoking it.
What question do you wish a journalist would ask you?
After all these questions, I think all the aspects of the business are covered, and there is nothing else I wish to be asked!
A cigar consists of a rolled bundle of fermented tobacco leaves made to be smoked. The origins of cigar smoking are unknown. It is thought to have first been observed by European explorers when encountering the indigenous Taino people of Cuba in 1492.
Cigar tobacco was primarily grown in Central America and the Islands of the Caribbean, including Cuba, famously renowned for its fine cigars.
The French, Spanish, and Portuguese initially referred to the plant as the “sacred herb” because they thought it had medicinal properties.
Formerly seen as an expensive privilege, cigar smoking is now something most can afford. Cigars are often given out or smoked on special occasions and celebrations, such as births, graduations, and promotions.
There have been many famous cigar smokers. Winston Churchill said, “If newspapers write that we need to quit smoking, I’d rather give up reading.” Ron Perlman said, “Just to make sure I was smoking throughout the day, I started adding cigars to some of the characters that I played as an excuse to keep smoking even as I was working.”