When you were growing up in Apulia, Italy, did the older men in the village smoke cigars?
In my village, I used to observe the older men smoking a typical Italian cigar called Toscano. It struck me how sophisticated they looked and how passionate they were about their cigars—they gave off a sense of prestige.
When and where did you smoke your first cigar?
My first introduction to the world of cigars was in 2001. I was at a bar exhibition where I met a Cuban roller at the Hunters & Frankau stand. He gave me a freshly rolled cigar, and after I smoked it, I understood the passion for Cuban cigars that people have in this business.
Then, while I was working at The Park Lane Hotel in London, one of my guests was cigar expert Edward Sahakian. Mr. Sahakian gave me a cigar, a Davidoff Number 1 Cuban Edition, and told me to smoke it and then come back to him in two weeks and tell him how I felt about it. That was when I truly fell in love with cigars.