Certified Cigar Sommelier Scam. The other day, we read about a Cigar Sommelier Certificate and people proudly claim that they are now an official Cigar Sommelier. It’s by a company called The International Association of Cigar Sommeliers, founded by the Cuban Yamir Pelegrino who calls himself ‘sommelier of the stars’.

Habanos sommelier

The cigar sommelier term became popular due to Habanos. Habanos introduced a sommelier competition as part of the Habanos festival. The competition was born out of the need to tell the true story of the cigar. And the competition made sure only the best of the best would compete and earn the prestigious title of Habanos sommelier. A deep knowledge of the Cuban cigars, each vitola, blend profile, history and perfect pairings is needed to participate and stand a chance at the stage. It takes years of smoking and pairing, years of listening to and learning from masters in their craft. And then you can compete for that tile. Even Habanos doesn’t offer courses to become a sommelier. They do offer courses to learn about Cuban cigars through the Habanos Academy.

But not anymore. For a few hundred American dollars and a few hours of your time you can call yourself a certified international cigar sommelier. And it’s appalling. An insult to every single expert in the world. A degradation of the world sommelier and a slap in the face to everyone in the cigar industry. A few hours of your time and a few hundred dollars doesn’t make you an expert, a sommelier. It makes you a gullible victim of a scammer. Nothing more and nothing less. A naive victim of a scam.

Years of knowledge

Tobacco and cigars are a complicated matter. Thousands of components need to come together. From the soil, the seed, the conditions to the blend, the vitola and the pairings. You can spend your whole life in the cigar industry and only have scratched the surface. Ask people who aren’t born in the industry but are now renowned brand owners like Pete Johnson and Litto Gomez. In the Handrolled documentary, both are modest. Johnson says that he’s in no way a master. And Gomez recalls his first steps in the industry, he compared learning about tobacco by drinking water from a fireman’s hose. There’s so much information yet you can only drink so little at a time. Another example is Rocky Patel, who worked the fields and factories for years, making thousands of blends before he dared to put his name on a cigar. It simply takes that long to learn the complicated matters of tobacco. It is simply impossible to learn in a few hours, for a few hundred dollars.

Of course, people learning more about tobacco and what it takes to make a great cigar is fantastic. But don’t line the pockets of a scammer. Buy a ticket to Cuba, Nicaragua, Honduras or the Dominican Republic. Join the group tours that many factories are having every year. You will learn much more, you’ll have more fun and a first hand experience on tobacco plantations and in cigar factories. You can touch the tobacco, smell the fermentation rooms, and if you’re lucky even try to roll your cigar. Instead of a useless, meaningless certificate that isn’t accepted anywhere, you’ll have a stamp in your passport and priceless memories. Don’t fall for this Certified Cigar Sommelier scam.

Ministry of Cigars - Certified Cigar Sommelier Scam
Photo credit: Casey Aldulaimi/XS Cigars