On the beautiful voyage through the world of cigars, there are many echelons to scale through and discoveries to make. The experience is unique to each smoker and palate, the preferences are personal; being served in a cigar establishment by people who listen, who want understand where we are on our journey, is key to enhancing our experience, and this is exactly what Ali Mezher believes.
His first cigar was a Romeo y Julieta Churchill aluminum tubos. At the age of 20 he began trying different cigar brands, became very curious, and read all the cigars magazines he could find. The first time he saw a cigar lounge with a walk in humidor and private lockers was during a trip to California, in Beverly Hills. “When I saw this place, I felt I wanted to recreate this great idea in Europe. That was 25 years ago and this kind of concept didn’t exist in Europe at the time,” says Ali, “I always believed that the key to happiness is to live off one’s passion, and I was lucky to be able to realise this dream through my cigar business. What I like the most about this business, aside from the product, is the people I meet, they are always very interesting.”
Co-owner of La Casa Del Habano in Brussels, Ali Mezher believes that the secret to serving their customers well lies in listening to them and understanding where they have reached on their cigar journey before trying to suggest a specific type of cigar or profile, he considers the ideal customer to be the inquisitive and curious aficionado, passionate, with a thirst to discover more about the world of cigars. He uses the same approach for pairings in the lounges too: “We listen. We find out what a client has already tried, preferences, likes, and we try to surprise them and take them out of the habitual to discover something new and widen their experience. Generally, clients gravitate towards whisky, cognac and rum.”
Both Brussels La Casa del Habano stores stand out among European stores and meet very specific criteria. The most important element is the walk in humidors revealing a vast and impressive collection and a large choice of cigars that is accessible to customers, the clients’ private lockers, and of course the smoking lounges.
“We had the freedom to create small smoking areas for individuals, for small private meetings as well as larger welcoming areas to meet and make friends, allowing aficionados to share their passion.”
There is also an extraordinary display of exclusive cigars: “It’s like one’s children, it’s something you invest a lot of feelings and time into, with great care!” says Ali. He believes vintage and limited edition cigars are not meant to be looked at, they are to be enjoyed and shared on special occasions.
As for the future, apart from furthering the economic development of the business, the project Ali is focusing on and developing daily is, as he says, “democratising” cigars. “There is an unfounded belief amongst many people that cigars are for a certain affluent or higher income category of people; I don’t believe this to be true. I want to emphasise that behind the economic aspect behind a cigar, I would love people to have the humane experience of unity it creates.” He has visited a lot of cigar establishments and businesses, there is not a specific establishment that stands out for him, “It’s the passionate people, who love what they do and share their knowledge and experience that touch me the most, now I am charting my own journey”.
Celebration Cigar and Dram
Arturo Fuente Opus X 20th Anniversary Father & Son and Arran 18 Years Old
The Opus X 20th anniversary, released in four sizes in limited quantities, is a special and sought after cigar. This medium bodied Toro 6¼” × 49, wrapped in a cedar sleeve, a royal blue ribbon at the foot, smoking time two hours, starts off with pronounced sweetness giving way to cedar and leather, black pepper developing into the second third with cinnamon and hints of ginger and vanilla. Ends salty with an open draw. Don’t let the asymmetrical burn line or flaky ash affect your smoking pleasure.
A beautiful and special smoke that is enhanced with the Arran, aged in ex-sherry and ex-Bourbon casks. This whisky complements the palate with dark chocolate and ginger, sweet but not heavy, increasing the accents of smoothness of the Opus X. Brioche on the finish goes well with the vanilla aromas of the cigar, making this a luxurious memorable pairing.
A Magnum 54 and a Double Barrel
H. Upmann Magnum 54 and The Balvenie Doublewood
Matured in American ex-Bourbon casks and finished in European oak sherry casks, this malt displays a rich complexity that can take on the intricacies of an H.Upmann Cuban cigar. The distinctive soft character that comes from the first cask with layers of vanilla and cinnamon accentuate the notes of cedar and cinnamon in the first few puffs. This impressive Robusto Extra 54 ring gauge cigar is 4¾” in length and documented as light to medium bodied, however be prepared for medium to full bodied strength.
The second sherry cask gives the malt warmth and depth with full sweet Olorosso notes, this marries amazingly with the sweetness in the cigar that runs throughout from syrupy maple, to flowery vanilla to sugary cinnamon. The Balvenie hints sweet nuts too, bringing out the dark chocolate in the last third of the cigar to a long and warm spice. A flavour-filled one hour smoke.
La Casa del Habano Brussels
European District at 32 Boulevard Charlemagne
Tel: +32 2 534 30 02
Louise at 1C Rue Faider 1C
Tel: +32 2 534 29 00