BACK ISSUE #405

Puff 'n' stuff
Since Madonna was snapped midparty with a cigar in her lips last year, the sweet-smelling sticks have been hot stuff. Martin Webb braves billowing smoke to report on the best of Tokyo's cigar sellers.


Photos Anatole Papafilippou

ACANTA
Adjacent to the bustle and glamour of the Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel lies the cigar shop ACANTA, where a wide range of men's lifestyle goods fills the futuristic-looking space. The majority of the inventory is cigar-related, and there are also sunglasses, ties, Davidoff, etc. Cigar cutters, humidors, tubes and scissors from Davidoff, Elie Bleu, and Cristofle are ideal gifts for the cigar-loving husband, father, uncle, brother, lover or whoever you can think of to provide an excuse to get close to these beautiful pieces of craftsmanship. With its uncustomary glass-and-concrete interior the humidor offers a unique selection of hard-to-find stogies. ACANTA recommends Dominican cigars over the traditional Cuban favorites—purported to have declined in quality over the past few years—and boasts one of the widest selections in Tokyo. The cheery sales staff are exceptionally helpful and can steer you, in decent English, to a suitable cigar for your special occasion.
Open 10am-8pm. Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel Lobby, 26-1 Sakuragaocho, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3780-8335.

SMOKE
This friendly, family-run establishment caters to tobacco enthusiasts in trendy Minami-Aoyama. Although there's barely enough room to accommodate more than two customers at a time, the shop has a mind-boggling array of tobaccos from around the world. The somewhat cramped humidor houses a surprise-free selection of top names. You won't find anything suitable for posing or party gags, just great cigars for the serious smoker. SMOKE is well patronized, and the high turnover of stock means your cheroot of choice is fresher than elsewhere. Aside from tasty torpedoes, SMOKE stocks cigarettes imported from all corners of the globe. Beedies, the professional hippy/traveller's smoke of choice, is available, as are Death brand and Guram. For those who like to roll their own, there are a couple of brands of loose tobacco and a decent selection of papers. The inevitable cigar cutters, ashtrays and lighters are all at bargain prices, and there are some knickknacks that might well stir a chuckle.
Open 7:30am-9pm. 5-6-22 Minami-Aoyama. Tel: 03-3486-1908. Nearest stn: Omotesando, exit B1.


Tokyo Cigar Club
Tokyo Cigar Club boasts the widest selection of cigars in Tokyo with 30 brands, almost all from Cuba. Above the slick store is a cosy bar, furnished with touches of Latin American passion. On weekday evenings one can find dedicated aficionados from the embassies and neighborhood offices puffing away to their hearts' content while savoring some of the premium beverages from the swish bar. The Cigar Club reports that an increasing number of female and expatriate customers have been taking an interest in this previously male-dominated pastime and that clientele who frequent the shop and bar defy stereotyping. Aside from the vast assortment of cigars, Tokyo Cigar Club also carries handcrafted humidors, cutters and ashtrays imported from Germany and France. The cigar smoker on the move should consider the travel humidor embossed with the club logo. This being a club, members are afforded certain privileges, but as the price of tobacco is fixed by the government, these don't extend to discounted smokes. Make the journey to the Azabu store or the Westin Hotel, and sign yourself up.
Open Mon-Fri 11am-8pm, Sat 11am-6pm. 2-3-9 Azabudai, Minato-ku. Nearest stn: Kamiyacho. Tel: 03-3583-7130. Bar open Mon-Fri 5pm-12am. www.intercontinental.co.jp/cigar

Le Connaisseur
Le Connaisseur's dens of opulence occupy prime locations in Ginza, Roppongi and Shibuya and are the perfect place for cigar lovers to stock their humidor and rub shoulders with fellow fetishists. Each establishment twins a cigar shop with an immaculate bar. Le Connaisseur's humidors are stocked with over 100 types of fine cigars, and if you're at a loss as to which to plump for, expert staff will guide you with impeccable politeness. Ascend to the bar space to join torpedo-toking tycoons, international men of mystery, and the odd cigar aficionado exchanging acrid anecdotes and stogie stories. Thick with sweet fog, the bars sport cozy armchairs that are easy to drift off in and are delicately lit in a way that is very flattering to the jowls. Drinks aren't cheap (beer from ¥700, wine from ¥1500), but the service is flawless. As a luxury destination for unwinding after a tough week or a spot of self-indulgence, Le Connaisseur is a good bet.
Open Mon-Sat noon-1am, Sun/hol noon-7pm. Ginza Hakua Bldg, 6-7-5 Ginza. Tel: 03-3573-8686. Nearest stn: Ginza, exit B3, West 5th street.
www.connaisseur.co.jp