Choose your Cuban Cigar Merchant Carefully

Cuban Cigars

I'm frequently asked by customers if they can visit my shop, the answer is YES! I am delighted to welcome customers and friends at our retail cigars shops in London and Liverpool (as well as my Robert Graham Cigars and Whisky shops in Glasgow and Edinburgh) but if you want the lowest mail order prices in the country as well as rapid delivery....order online through my websites. You will only receive superior quality Havana cigars that are fully guaranteed to be of the highest possible quality available in the UK

Of course this is another reason why our customer service levels are so high, as most of the other cigar merchants online, their internet business is simply a side line where as their shop is the main business. For C.GARS Ltd it works in reverse, as our internet and mail order business is operated by a dedicated team of trained advisors online 24 hours a day every day of the year for your convenience.
Buying on the internet is so fast and convenient as you can order from the comfort of your office or home 24 hours a day. You can get rapid responses to your email enquiries on the purchase that you wish to make and although you can't actually see the cigars you are purchasing we are always happy to decipher date and factory codes and select wrapper colour as best we can! If you require we'll even smoke one from the same batch and provide you with tasting notes - I know... I know... its a tough job! But somebody's got to do it!!!! Our aim is simply to ensure that our customers get 100% quality and 100% satisfaction!

So here's the tips:

When purchasing from an Internet cigar company ensure that they have a physical address and telephone number/fax number clearly displayed on their website and check that the telephone number actually exists. PO Boxes are always suspicious. 

What country are you purchasing from? We believe the UK and indeed English Market Selection (EMS) cigars are of the finest quality in the world. Other countries do have excellent quality Havanas, as well as excellent cigar merchants, but make sure you know which country you are dealing with. As some countries do have lower grade Havana's than ours in our opinion. Further most other countries have little or no quality control whatsoever.

Cohiba Cuban Cigars

Does the cigar merchant give advice and tasting notes online and indeed by telephone? Are they happy to call you back so you are not wasting your money on the phone call? If not, it's a sign for caution.

The vast majority of our cigars are English Market Selection, supplied by Hunters & Frankau, the official importers and distributors for the United Kingdom. The exceptions are particularly in the Aged, Rare and Unusual category and of course the occasional specials bought back directly from Havana during my thrice yearly visits. 

Sealed boxes or not? Attractive though they may seem, I would personally NEVER purchase a sealed box of cigars from anywhere in the world, as you simply don't know what you are going to find inside. I kid you not, before I was a cigar merchant I always bought sealed boxes and it's a hit or miss affair. You can easily find lousy wrapper colour or far worse tobacco beetle, rendering your purchase useless. All Havana cigar boxes imported to the UK are opened and inspected by Hunters & Frankau and quality controlled accordingly. C.GARS Ltd does a mirror quality control check when the cigars arrive in our humidor, if they don't make the grade, we return them to the importers. This ensures that our customers are only sent the highest quality Havanas possible. 

Cuban Cigar Bar

I seem to have been contacted more and more over the last year by customers who purchase from me and elsewhere requesting for empty boxes which Im quite happy to send regardless of whether the cigars have been purchased from me or not. But I have to ask myself and perhaps these people should ask themselves, why wont a cigar merchant ship an original empty box when you have purchased the cigars from them? The short answer is there is no reason whatsoever. So if you are purchasing from a cigar merchant who refuses to send you the original empty box, I would be enormously suspicious as something simply doesn't add up. In fact I send 1000's of empty boxes all over the world and have never lost an empty box to the best of my memory! 

Does the Cigar Merchant offer a no quibble guarantee? Is he happy to give you your money back if you're not satisfied. Is he happy to replace the cigars if they arrive damaged? Or refund your money if they don't arrive at all! These are all things that you should be asking before making your purchase and if a full and comprehensive guarantee is not provided then you could simply be throwing your money away. Lower prices can indeed be a terrible false economy! Remember… you get what you pay for!! 

Always ask the cigar merchant where does he store his Havana cigars? And at what temperature and humidity? Correct storage and conditions are essential for Havana cigars to be in optimum condition. If they are a UK cigar merchant have their staff been trained in the manufacture, storage and service of Havana Cigars? C.GARS Ltd staff have been trained at Hunters & Frankau Cigar School.
If the cigar merchant is an internet only company can you actually arrange to visit their premises? C.GARS Ltd are happy to see clients by appointment at either of our offices. 

The internet is a mine of information and its relatively easy to get good recommendations as well as warnings on cigar merchants by asking questions on the bulletin boards and newsgroups such as: 


These newsgroups are also excellent for getting real opinions from real people about cigars they like and dislike.

Finally if you are offered Havanas that seem to inexpensive to be true....they are likely to not be the real deal! The most frequently counterfeit cigars are Cohiba Esplendidos and Romeo churchills as well as Millennium jars and Montecristo no.2......suspicion on small sized cigars such as Montecristo no.4's and Bolivar Bonitas is just paranoia (!)

As you can see its as important to 'know your cigar merchant' as know your cigars! 

Well that's my thoughts and tips on buying on the internet, but if you've got any specific questions, don't hesitate to drop me an email as I'm always happy to advice.

The above article has sparked a response from Chris Anthony, a cigar aficionado who resides in France! If you'd like to add your response, please email me at

Response from Chris Anthony

I have just read your piece about choosing a merchant, especially on the web.

It covers all the essential points, most of which are common sense but are not always thought of. I always look for an address etc of any new site I come across, even when I have no intention of buying anything. the advice about telephoning is good. I like to speak to potential suppliers, even if only to confirm a banal piece of information that I already have the answer to.

However, there is one major draw back with buying over the web compared to over the counter. It doesn't matter if you have narrow band, wide band or even rubber band there is no way the missing ingredient can be duplicated over the net.

I am talking about the 'oomph' factor. What is this?

There are, in my view two categories of cigar merchants. Firstly those who have excellent but limited range kept correctly in cabinets. Then there are those that have a large range, again kept correctly, in walk in humidors. You will notice I only refer to merchants who stock their cigars correctly. Anyone else isn't a cigar merchant.

Back to the 'oomph' factor, this is not found, or at least only in low levels in merchants with cabinets. People who are very perceptive can detect the 'oomph' in this type of shop but it requires a high degree of skill. To my mind the 'oomph' factor only really exists in the other type of shop. There is nothing like the 'oomph' on entering a walk in humidor. The change in temperature, up or down depending on outside weather conditions. The change in humidity, but above all the smell. Nothing can replace that kick. It's the smell and excitement generated when you open a new box multiplied by a thousand. There is the sense of adventure that Egyptologists must have had when they entered a newly discovered tomb. What treasures will be resting undisturbed in the shadows. No matter what you might expect to find laid out before you there is always the chance of a wonderful surprise. No the net can never replace this. C Gars comes closer than any other internet supplier I have come across.

I prefer to buy direct for this reason, but with a supplier you have confidence in and ideally have dealt with in some other way i.e. by telephone or at least by several e-mails, things will be fine. I do buy over the net but these are suppliers I have had close dealings with and have even visited. Spain and Switzerland aren't too far from me here in France so a bit of shopping can easily be added to a short holiday. Even travelling through France can raise my hopes of encountering the 'oomph' factor, each new city or large town I visit potentially has the 'oomph' somewhere.

A little anecdote about the 'oomph" from walk in humidors. In January last year I visited Cuba and went into a Casa del Habanos. One element of the 'oomph' was the marked drop in temperature from outside. Three weeks later I called in again while having a short pause in Habana between visiting one side of the island and continuing on to the other. On entering the temperature went up significantly. Not because there was a temperature change inside but because outside was bitterly cold, for the Cubans, a 30 year old told me it was the coldest January she could remember at 15°C. Three weeks earlier we were enjoying temperatures more than 10 degrees higher.

Buying over the internet is fast, efficient, economic, etc but it doesn't have the 'oomph'.

Microsoft where are you when I need you.....


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