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Smoking in the shadow of Giants: An Evening at the Davidoff Lounge

Smoking in the shadow of Giants: An Evening at the Davidoff Lounge

By SK March 8, 2017

This particular lounge is found in one of the finer hotels in a sleepy hamlet in the Alps. Its courtyard is home to a Dom Perignon lounge; that alone had me smiling. You enter the lobby through a set of sliding glass doors and are immediately greeted by a concierge. To your immediate left is an elegant hallway full of leather chairs, end tables, reading material and a dining area. You’re looking at what could be a fine dining establishment and, in some senses, you are. There is an attendant dressed to the nines waiting to greet you. They’ll escort you to any available seat you please. As you walk down the hallway you’ll notice something special: it’s a humidor case. Full…of Davidoff. That’s because the sign over the threshold of the hallways says “Salon Davidoff” in an inconspicuous fashion. This is the Davidoff Lounge.

You can sit almost anywhere you want, but I chose the smoking room. It’s not decorated like an ultra-lounge, nor is it particularly modern looking. If you've visited some newer Davidoff lounges Stateside, you might be surprised. It has the aesthetic of an elegant chalet, crackling fireplace and a selection of pipe tobacco on the mantle included. The couches surrounding the fire-front coffee table are leather and comfortable, and you can choose from a wide assortment of reading material while you enjoy an escape from the cold. It’s even dog friendly, should you choose to bring your trust hound along for the ride. The ultra modern has its place, but understated Old-World elegance is a thing of beauty and this room has it to spare. The attendants are professional, unassuming and, from what I could tell, treat everybody like royalty. Of course there’s a wide selection of Davidoff and daughter brands like the Griffins, Zino Classic and Platinum, and Camacho, but that’s not all. If smoking some of the world’s finest tobacco in the home country of their namesake isn’t for you, (eh hem), there’s a selection of Cuban cigars available. And being in a five star hotel, there is of course a full wine list and bar menu available.

As I was sitting down, my attendant politely asked “will you be drinking Scotch or Cognac tonight?”. I suppose people in his line of work quickly become skilled at the art of reading their guests, and I was an open book (or maybe it’s just a safe bet that most of us will be drinking something brown, strong and expensive). Some might be put off by this type of thing, but at this level of service, offering advice on a drink pairing is just as much part of the package as is cutting the cigar. Like Bagger Vance handing you a club, it’s a gentle “suggestion," and it’s probably the right one. Not to worry: you can always veto and, trust me, the customer is always right there. One of my favorite aspects of the pomp and circumstance in these places is something my friends and I have come to call the “Expert Light.” If not already done, I’m officially coining this phrase here and now. Let me explain. It’s completely normal to light your cigar while puffing on it. It’s fine but, as most things in life go, there’s a better way. Let’s just start with the premise that your palate shouldn’t be burdened with the confusion that comes with lighting a cigar. It should come lit and ready, like a prewarmed pipe, but not everyone can do it right. So, who can be trusted to cut and light your cigar? Enter the Expert. The Expert Light is performed by applying a flame (most commonly from a lighter) in regular rhythmic fashion while occasionally shaking it to move air through the barrel of the cigar. What results is a very even light, and it doesn’t have someone else’s saliva on the butt. It’s a professional move. The “True Expert Lite” is the above, but done with only a single wooden match. I’ve seen it happen, but it’s like seeing a shooting star. Anyway, I digress (we should probably write an article on the art of the light, but for now, this will do). Bringing this up is just a long-winded way of explaining that the gentleman was good enough to light my cigar without putting it in his face, which I appreciated. Attention to small details like this are what elevate these types of experiences. And they pay attention here: a lot of it.

I chose to smoke a Lounge Edition, since it only seemed appropriate. There were cigars I would favor better on their menu but I was there for the experience, per se, and that one seemed to round it out. My Davidoff XO arrived (again, I was there to Davidoff-Lounge-it-up and, by the way, it’s still excellent ‘yac), along with a small tray of bar snacks. I’m not talking mixed nuts people. This is a Davidoff establishment, after all. Giant green olives, Marconi almonds, and potato chips – if you’re thinking they’re out of place, I dare you to sit through the experience without finishing them. A little later, the attendant brought a selection of three fine Swiss Chocolates (made locally, of course) varying darkness - 70%, 89% and 99% Cocoa. They didn’t disappoint, as there’s something to be said about handmade fine Swiss chocolate.

The ventilation was impressive. It was not overbearing or notably audible, but the room was never dense with smoke. There was enough smoke in the air that you could appreciate the nose on yours, and maybe the cigars in your immediate vicinity. It was a good balance, all too often absent from places like this. The rest of the evening featured some conversation (the room wasn’t empty, of course), some time with my own thoughts, the warmth of the fire, and the XO in my stomach. And just enough attention from the staff that I never wanted for anything, nor did I feel smothered. If you do this type of thing as intended, on the way back from a nice dinner, dressed up, feeling like a million bucks, it’s hard not to leave feeling like you just had a deep tissue massage for the soul. Despite being an experience in and of itself, it wasn’t overpriced. Bare in mind this is a destination geared toward tourists, so the prices are generally at a premium. No more of an upcharge, at least a noticeable one, on the drinks or smokes than anywhere else in town, which was a pleasant surprise.

If you are lucky enough to find yourself in the Swiss Alps and you plan on having a smoke, find your way over to the Davidoff Lounge: you won’t be disappointed. It is more than worth doing whether you’re a regular aficionado or just indulge on special occasions. It’s an all-too-rare experience that I’m sure you’ll remember fondly. And that’s what it’s all about, right? After all, to quote Zino Davidoff, himself, “pleasure in a thing of beauty is the essence of a happy life.” Until next time, happy trails, PuroTrader community! 

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