First of all, we would like to wish all our readers a very happy new year and all the best for 2019. Let’s hope for less legislation, more freedom for cigar smokers, many great new releases and happy smoked. Here’s to the friendships that cigars can bring, hooray.

The last few weeks, I’ve been traveling. From Singapore to Amsterdam, via Dubai, and from Amsterdam to Helsinki, back to Amsterdam and then Dubai and Singapore.

Since it was a family vacation, I didn’t have much of a chance to check on cigar shops, but here are some of my impressions of the trip.

We started in Singapore, at Changi Airport. Back in 2005, that’s where I bought my first cigars. There’s a decent selection of Habanos, some Fuente, and a few other Non-Cuban brands. But there’s not a lot of knowledge, some longfiller boxes are outside of the humidor. I still picked up a tin with three Opus X cigars, of which I smoked one while waiting on our flight.

In Dubai I was impressed. Not only they have a La Casa del Habano in the duty-free, but also the non-Cuban selection was quite extensive, with some lesser known brands and a few rare Davidoff cigars. And cool, expensive Elie Blue humidors.

When we flew to Helsinki, Finland, I took a few smaller cigars that Skip Martin (RoMa Craft) gave to me in Managua a few years ago. But I forgot a cutter or punch, so I reached out to one of my Finnish Facebook friends, Petteri, who told me about his favourite shop in Helsinki, Havanna-Aitta. I must say, I didn’t expect a selection in Finland but I was surprised and happy to see so many of my Nicaraguan favourites in the humidor. And manager Jukka took good care of me, instead of cutting the Tatuaje Fausto that I bought, he handed me a cutter and said “so you can cut your other cigars too if you need to in the next few days”, highly appreciated. Next time I’m in Helsinki I’m certain to go back.

Then Amsterdam, up until recently my backyard. I spend time at Cigaragua, with my stepson. Since I favor Nicaraguan cigars I decided not to stop at the La Casa del Habano and say hi to Didi, and I also lacked time to drop by Hajenius. If you’re ever in Amsterdam, Hajenius is a must see as a cigar or pipe aficionado. The shop is a monument, completely in art-deco style, the smoke lounge is cozy and the selection of cigars is great. Another lounge and shop that’s worth a visit is Van Lookeren. The lounge is hidden in the basement, speakeasy style. To be honest, when it comes to looks, that’s my favourite lounge in Amsterdam, but the huge selection of Nicaraguan cigars, including some cigars that are only for sale at Cigaragua, and the central location make me gravitate to Cigaragua as my ‘go to’ shop in Amsterdam.

I’ve also visited Primera Lelystad, and their small yet cozy smoke room to have a cigar with owner Ronald Riecker and my long-time friend Igor. The shop has made a remarkable transformation in the last few years, from selling hardly any premium cigars to a well-stocked walk-in humidor and a small lounge. Always a pleasure to sit down and relax there.

On the flight back I checked the selection of cigars at Schiphol airport, nothing special, just a lot of Davidoff and Habanos, a few CAO and Balmoral cigars and that’s it. At Dubai we had a transfer in a different terminal, the selection of cigars wasn’t as impressive as on the way to Europe. Just some Padron, Fuente and Habanos.