Ukraine’s Elite Help Cigar Business Thrive

KIEV, Ukraine -- As cigar smoking increasingly becomes part of the glamorous lifestyle led by Ukraine’s wealthy, top cigar brands, cigar clubs and specialized magazines are attracting greater consumer interest to satisfy the market’s growing demand.

Davidoff cigars

One company eager to take advantage of Ukraine’s growing cigar market is Oettinger Imex AG, a Swiss-based company that owns the Davidoff brand and offers homemade tobacco and tobacco-related products.

The Davidoff boutique in Kyiv, a franchise that is owned by a Ukrainian businessman, became the first mono-brand cigar shop in Ukraine’s capital last year.

Last week, the boutique marked its official opening with a lavish celebration, attracting more than 300 VIP guests, including Sonia Davidoff, the 73-year-old daughter of the company’s Ukrainian-born founder Zino Davidoff.

“We are here for the same reason that Mercedes and Bentley are here,” said Raymond Scheurer, a member of Davidoff’s executive board, who arrived at the event along with Sonia Davidoff from Switzerland.

“If there is a market for those brands, there is a market for us as well,” said Scheurer.

Viktoria Selantyeva, deputy editor of Cigar Clan magazine in Ukraine, said the Ukrainian version of the specialized Russian publication on cigars was launched last year because “the audience appeared to be there.”

“Our audience consists of prosperous people with a high consumer culture,” said Selantyeva of the magazine’s readership.

“These are the people who can afford, and are already accustomed to, choosing the best – whether it’s clothing, accessories, cars, art, tobacco products or glossy magazines,” said Selantyeva.

According to her, Cigar Clan’s readers are successful business owners and top managers aged 26-55, who, opting for cigars, display a concern for their image and a taste for the pleasure of tobacco smoking.

Although cigar smoking is not a novelty for Ukraine - Cuban cigars were sold in shops in Soviet times – true cigar aficionados were few in number a decade ago, according to Jean Smotrich, marketing director of Cigar House Fortuna.

Fortuna was among the first firms to import handmade cigars to Ukraine at the end of the 1990s and promote the cigar smoking culture in the country, he said.

“It is only now that most big Ukrainian cities have cigar clubs where people can get closer to the cigar smoking ritual and its philosophy,” said Smotrich, who added that his company partners with existing cigar clubs in Kyiv, Odessa and Lviv, supplying them with cigars and accessories.

Cigars are never smoked in a hurry, Smotrich explained. They are enjoyed in a relaxed state of mind and, ideally, are combined with a friendly chat, coffee, and expensive alcohol, traditionally cognac, he said.

“Handmade cigars are a product for people with status, and oriented toward a very narrow segment of the market,” Smotrich said, adding that about 1 percent of all smokers in Ukraine prefer cigars over cigarettes, while worldwide statistics put that number at 3 to 5 percent.

The challenge of the cigar business in Ukraine, said Smotrich, has been the need to invest in the development of the cigar smoking culture and nurture potential customers.

“It’s a huge investment – in special equipment and the development of standards for product presentation, in teaching personnel, in development of marketing strategies,” said Smotrich, adding that Fortuna has worked on creating cigar menus in Kyiv restaurants and training their wait staff to offer the product.

Fortuna’s distribution network currently covers 22 of Ukraine’s biggest cities. The company runs an elite cigar salon in Kyiv, plus nine boutiques and some 30 tobacco kiosks in other parts of the country that offer over 40 cigar brands from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua, said Smotrich.

Cigar smoking, according to Davidoff’s Scheurer, is part of a certain lifestyle and can be fully appreciated only if “a person enjoys life and people.”

Scheurer said that while around 50 years ago the profile of a cigar smoker was a successful man in his 50s, now it’s a younger person and, increasingly, female. Ukraine is following the world cigar smoking trend, Scheurer said, and it’s the country’s financial capacities that determines the number of the company’s Ukrainian clients.

Indeed, cigars are an expensive pleasure.

A cigar at the Davidoff boutique costs from $4 to $50, depending on its size and type, while prices for accessories can be “as high as one’s imagination goes,” according to the boutique’s owner, Artem Holubchenko.

According to Holubchenko, the most popular products in his boutique are Zino Platinum cigars, which sell for $50 per cigar, and humidors, special boxes that maintain the right temperature and environment for cigars to maintain their original aroma. In particularly high demand, he said, are humidors that were produced in very limited editions. These models go for some $10,000.

Yet Holubchenko claims that high-profile businessmen are not the only customers of his boutique on Chervonoarmiyska Street.

“It’s true that we get customers who send their drivers to us with lots of money to spend on cigars,” said Holubchenko.

“But we also have people who apparently can’t afford a box of cigars, but come once a month, and for whom a cigar is a special treat,” he added.

Fortuna’s Smotrich said that since handmade cigars are not a mass-produced product, and regular advertising is not effective, the company tries to think of alternative ways to promote its products and attract its customers.

“Recently, for instance, we offered a new service of ‘cigar catering’ at VIP parties and presentations, when our representative arrives at a location with pre-ordered cigar brands and the necessary accessories, serving as a consultant,” said Smotrich.

Source: Kyiv Post


Anonymous said…
The Best Cigar Shop I have been a client since 2001 is in Washington DC - Gorgetown Tobacco Co.
Last Year I visited my hometown Odessa and being short on Cigars looked for a cigar shop,
I founded one located on Derebasovskaya, really nice place I even bought a cigar cutter.

Prices are high in Odessa, but what you can do?
This year I am going to Odessa to stay for some time, so I being more prepared this time bringing a good box of Zino Davidoff & Romeo and Juliet Vintage.

Anonymous said…
Being a Kiev native, i believe all this Davidoff stuff is plain out b.s. There is no status in overpaying. Have extra money guys give it to charity, but if you want to pay normal money for cigars, just visit my site which had been ranked the best priced cigar site in the US - Although i reside in San Diego, i own a chain of cigar shops in Phoenix, Arizona - Cigar Warehouse Stores. If for some reason you are ever there, stop by and visit us.

There is no status in overpaying. And i would not trust Davidoff cigars a bit. The Swiss can't even make cheese without halls. Can you trust them to make a descent cigar?

Dimitri Rozenman
Stephen Abbott said…
Davidoff Cigars are incredible! The draw, construction, and tastes brought out of the smoke are out of this world.

I picked one up in Churchill's Fine Cigars located in Phoenix, AZ. (44th st. and Camelback Rd.) and had such an enjoyable experience.

Churchills carries Davidoff's entire line of cigars so i reccommend that shop..

Their website is:

They do Phone orders, and this is where i know get my Quality Davidoff Cigars!

sha said…
Best way to get a feel for the taste of a cigar is the smell. Take a good whiff of it. If the smell is overwhelming, then it will likely be very strong. Take notice that we use the word “likely” in that reference. This is not always the case. Some smokes smell a level or two more intense than they actually taste.


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