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Mastering the Art of Cigars: Insights from Viraf Hansotia’s Masterclass


In a world where the finer pleasures of life captivate our senses, the traditional art of enjoying cigars remains a sophisticated ritual cherished by enthusiasts. During an enlightening masterclass hosted by Viraf Hansotia from Gurkha Cigars, bartenders were treated to a deep dive into the nuances that elevate a simple cigar to a luxury experience. Here’s what we learned from the session:

Beyond Cuban Cigars: Exploring Latin America’s Finest

While Cuban cigars have long held the spotlight in the cigar world, Viraf highlighted that some of the finest cigars originate from Latin America, particularly the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Nicaragua. These regions, revered for producing the best tobacco, offer alternatives that surpass the commercial Cuban variants in richness and flavor, making them a top choice for connoisseurs.

Cigars vs. Cigarettes: A Healthier Indulgence?

Viraf articulated why cigars are often considered a healthier choice compared to cigarettes. The key distinction lies in the inhalation—Rule No. 1 for cigar enjoyment is to not inhale the smoke, allowing for a flavorful experience without the same level of respiratory exposure.

Anatomy of a Cigar: Components and Structure

A cigar comprises three main components:
  • Wrapper Leaf: The outermost part, which significantly influences the cigar’s flavor and appearance.
  • Binder: Holds the filler together and contributes to the cigar’s burning characteristics.
  • Filler: The core of the cigar, consisting of tobacco leaves that determine the complexity and strength of the flavor.

These components can come from the same origin or be a blend of tobaccos from different countries, offering a vast spectrum of flavor profiles and strengths.


Tools of the Trade: The Guillotine Cutter

The cigar cutter, an essential tool for any bartender, takes its design from the historical guillotine, ensuring a clean and precise cut necessary to enjoy the full potential of a cigar.

Choosing the Right Cigar

Viraf explained the diversity in cigars, which vary by length, thickness, and color. For a quick yet satisfying smoke with ample puff, he recommended opting for a shorter, thicker cigar with a medium to dark hue.

Practical Experience: Cutting and Lighting

Participants had the unique opportunity to learn hands-on about the proper techniques to cut and light cigars, skills that are pivotal to maximizing enjoyment.

Pairing Cigars with Spirits

A crucial skill for any bartender is pairing cigars with beverages. Viraf offered valuable tips, such as choosing a light-colored cigar to accompany peated whiskey, ensuring that the cigar complements rather than overpowers the drink’s intricate flavors.

Storage: Preserving Your Cigars

Proper storage is key to maintaining a cigar’s quality. In the absence of a humidor, cigars should be kept in a cool, dry, and airtight space to preserve their freshness and flavor.

Spotlight on Gurkha Cigars

Delving into the history of his brand, Viraf shared that Gurkha Cigars initially catered to the Gurkha regiments in India. The brand later transitioned to the U.S., where it gained immense popularity. Among their celebrated offerings are the Gurkha Cellar Reserve 15 and 18 years and the Gurkha Ghost—favorites among bartenders for their exquisite blend and craftsmanship.

This masterclass not only demystified the process of enjoying cigars but also celebrated the rich tradition and meticulous craftsmanship that define the world of premium cigars. For those bartenders who missed this session, stay tuned for upcoming opportunities to enhance your expertise and delve deeper into the art of cigar enjoyment.

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