What is a Havana Cigar Specialist?
A Havana Cigar Specialist is a shop selling cigars that has achieved the standards set by Habanos s.a., the Cuban company that distributes all Havana brands worldwide, and Hunters & Frankau, its appointed Exclusive Distributor for the United Kingdom.
Individual shops can qualify as Gold or Silver Specialists according to the extent of the range of brands and sizes it chooses to stock.
What is the purpose of the Havana Cigar Specialist network?
To guarantee people in search of Havanas that they will find at every shop in the network:
- an extensive range of Havana brands and sizes;
- cigars kept in the correct conditions of temperature and humidity;
- people with the knowledge to guide their choice; and
- an ambiance reflecting the quality and prestige of Havana Cigars.
What are the standards?
For Gold Havana Cigar Specialists:
A selection of no less than 50 vitolas (skus) representing all the ten principal Habanos brands listed in the box in red and blue as well as at least one of each of the Speciality Line categories shown in the green box.
For Silver Havana Cigar Specialists:
A selection of no less than 40 vitolas (skus) representing the principal brands in the boxes outlined in red and two further choices either from the brands outlined in blue or the Speciality Lines outlined in green.
To remain in saleable condition, Havana Cigars must be kept in an environment with a constant relative humidity of between 65% and 70%. A constant temperature of around 18°C is strongly recommended too because, if the temperature varies, so will the humidity.
Humidified displays must be present in both Gold and Silver Havana Cigar Specialists which are large enough to ensure that all the cigars stocked are presented for sale in the correct conditions. They may take the form of a walk-in humidor room or a display cabinet.
Hunters & Frankau operates a training programme called the Havana Cigar Academy that offers three levels of qualification for shop owners or managers and counter staff at Havana Cigar Specialists.
In order to qualify as a Gold or Silver Specialist, the owner/manager and two members of staff must attend the Intermediate Course (see opposite). Further progress through the training programme is encouraged.
Support for the image of Havanas
As representatives of a uniquely prestigious category with the world of cigars, Specialists are required to support the premium image of Havana Cigars and, in particular, the EMS (English Market Selection) concept, which provides reassurance of the quality and authenticity of Havanas sold in the UK.
What are the benefits?
Membership of an exclusive global network of retail shops associated with one of the world’s most prestigious product categories.
First refusal of allocations of all new Habanos products and speciality lines such as Limited and Regional Editions.
Inclusion in monthly Havana Cigar promotions designed to encourage consumer sales.
Tailored promotions to suit the needs of individual shops.
Opportunities to win visits to Cuba through competitions run exclusively for Havana Cigar Specialists.
Support with organising events such as cigar and drink pairing evenings.
Access to Hunters & Frankau’s Havana Cigar Academy training programme.
Supplies of attractively designed window stickers and posters to identify shops clearly as members of the global Havana Cigar Specialist network., as well as framed certificate from Habanos s.a and Hunters & Frankau endorsing inclusion.
The Havana Cigar Academy
These hour long sessions are conducted on-site by the local H&F Sales Representative and are aimed at accounts or personnel who are new to the world of Havana cigars. The aim is to give delegates a basic insight into storing and recommending Havanas, as well as to provide a general overview on product information, service and the etiquette of how to cut, light and smoke a cigar.
The day long course is conducted by the H&F Training Manager and is a much more comprehensive review of the world of Havana cigars. Although the majority are held at our offices in London, courses can be arranged in venues around the UK. Topics covered during the seminar include:
The History of the Cuban cigar industry
UK cigar market
Tobacco growing regions in Cuba
Cultivation and preparation of the tobacco leaves
Constructing a Havana Cigar
Havana brands and cigar sizes
Packs & Packaging
Storage and presentation
Cutting, lighting and smoking
Ageing and Vintage Havana Cigars
Recommending Havana Cigars
UK tobacco legislation and duties
Many other areas of the premium cigar industry are reviewed and the day concludes with a brief written test. A certificate is awarded to all delegates who have attended.
The Higher Certificate is the pinnacle of the UK Havana Cigar Academy and successful candidates are awarded the title “Master of Havana Cigars” and invited to join the elite Havana Cigar Masters Guild. Only those who have attended the Intermediate Course are eligible to attempt the Higher Certificate and there is a recommended study period of at least three months prior to sitting the written and practical exam.
Candidates are provided with the appropriate study material and given notes and guidelines for the main areas of revision. This is done during an initial two hour briefing session and further support is available if needed from H&F during the subsequent home study period. There are four examination dates during the course of a year and each candidate can select which one they will attend at the initial briefing session.
The revision topics include every aspect of Havana Cigars and their production, as well as the UK cigar market. The Higher Certificate is the ultimate test of Havana Cigar knowledge.
Attendance is free of charge for all of the above courses
The Silver Chaveta Award
Every year Hunters & Frankau presents the Silver Chaveta trophy to one Specialist in Havanas for an outstanding contribution to the UK cigar trade. The past winners are:
2015 Laurence Davis of Sautter’s of Mount Street
2013 Ranald MacDonald of Boisdale
2011 Paresh Patel of Havana House & The Bear Shop
2010 Keir Sword of Cigar Box, Edinburgh
2009 Paul Gilmore of Shave & Coster
2008 Ajay & Bhavna Patel La Casa del Habano, Teddington
2007 Robert Emery of JJ Fox & Robert Lewis Cigar Merchants
2006 Desmond Sautter of Sautters of Mayfair
2005 Mitch Orchant of Cgars Ltd
2004 Edward Sahakian of Davidoff of London
2003 Vimal Shah of Burlington Bertie
2002 John Withers of John Hollingsworth & Son
2001 Mike Davies of Cigar Connoisseur/Frederick Tranter
2000 Tom Assheton of Tomtom Cigars
1999 Jean Clark of Harrods’ Cigar Department
There are currently over 70 Havana Cigar Specialists in the UK.