Smoke ’Em If You Got ’Em

“It’s important to note they’re not just any cigars."
Cigars, whether inexpensive or high end, are stored in a climate-controlled room.

Customers come from near and far and at this point the general manager of London Jewelers in East Hampton can often spot them the minute they walk in. They are almost always men, and when they look at the cases of glittering jewelry and watches and rings, they suddenly seem unsure they’re in the right place. Then, with a quick glance, they see “Humidor” in big letters on a glass door to the right and shelves of cigars inside a climate-controlled, walk-in room. 

Ed Dressler, the general manager, is effusive about the cigars London Jewelers carries. “It’s important to note they’re not just any cigars. They’re a Who’s Who,” he said, mentioning Ashton, Arturo Fuente, Davidoff, Camacho, Padron, and Dominican-made Cohibas.

There are cigars called Churchills because they resemble the long-lasting ones Winston loved to smoke. There are cigars with literary names meant as homage to famous writers. There are hard-to-find Opus Xs, the “Holy Grail of cigars‚” Mr. Dressler said, which are special because only a limited number are made each year, and London Jewelers is on the allotment list, with perhaps three boxes every four months.There is also a new brand made by the Hamptons Cigar Company, with a logo that spells out the word “Hampton” in nautical flags.

“I always ask guys when they come in, especially the first time, ‘How did you hear about us?’ and today it’s usually Google or word of mouth,” Mr. Dressler said. “There haven’t been any other walk-in humidors on the East End since we opened in 1996. We’re it. We’re lucky to be able to say these cigars are the best of the best. And we price them the way they should be. I keep the prices in here not just reasonable, but almost cheap.”

 The prices range from under $10 per cigar (or “stick”) to a high of $50. They’re sold individually, in gift packs, or by the box.

Mr. Dressler said in addition to the London Jewelers selection, customers come in “because they know the cigars are stored in perfect conditions that are hard to replicate at home. To wit: The humidor is always kept at 71 degrees, and 71 percent humidity. A mister occasionally emits little puffs of steam. The top and bottom walls of the room have rows of cedar-lined cigar “keeps‚” small personal storage lockers with discreet brass nameplates for some of the store’s most loyal clientele. Asked to name a few, he said Steven Spielberg, Alec Baldwin, Billy Joel, and the former National Hockey League star Pat LaFontaine.

Because Mr. Dressler orders all the stock, it is easy for him to help customers make selections, he said. He also is adept at explaining the particulars of the different cigars and how to smoke them. He can tell stories about how cigars are made: There’s the filler, the binder, and, on many cigars, a wrap called Connecticut Shade, a large-leaf tobacco that is grown under cheesecloth in the Connecticut River valley around Windsor.

 Mr. Dressler said he was happy to educate a newbie client on the proper way to cut a cigar or the recommended way to light one, which, he said, is to hold the flame under it until it lights rather than straight on.

According to Mr. Dressler, it’s also good to know cigars are meant to be puffed, not inhaled all the way. They’re also meant to be smoked in one sitting, which is why some cigars are described by how long they take to finish, not just their flavor.

And, like wine, the descriptions and reviews of cigars can be complex as well as imaginative. The website for Cigar Aficionado magazine describes its 2017 Cigar of the Year, the Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Eye of the Shark, as having a “range of baking spices and citrus notes‚“ as “intonations of nuts and leather unfold before a warm, lingering finish of cedar and cider.” The Padron Serie 1926 No. 2 marries power and grace, from its earthy core to its rich coffee-bean character, accented by a sweet, underlying woodiness and a black tea finish.

Phil Paroff, an East Hampton resident and regular London Jewelers customer, knows such descriptions exist, but he said with a laugh, “I do not have what you’d call a discerning palate. Oaky or buttery, I don’t know. I just know what cigars I like, and I don’t like.” 

Mr. Paroff said he first tried cigars in the early 1990s when he shared a summer house with a friend. “I like smoking cigars because it’s relaxing,” he said. “I was a type A personality before I retired, and back then it was especially nice for me,” he said. “You sit down for 40 minutes or whatever it takes to smoke your cigar, and do nothing. I get a nice cigar, I go outside, and I can sit there and watch the world go by.”

Ed Dressler, the general manager, says the cigars at London Jewelers are a Who’s Who.