Welcome to our second installment of 'Cigar aficionados around the world', where we profile passionate cigar smokers who share a common love for the leaf.
Sharing inspirational and motivational quotes through his Instagram posts, Hassan Althagafi describes himself as an obsessive when it comes to cigars. His short pearls of wisdom and quotations were intended to be motivation for himself and the community, but "sometimes they have a message," Hassan tells me. His social media prowess initially started off as a private account, meant to socialize with his family and friends but a close friend convinced him otherwise, "and the rest was history," he says.
He posts pictures he loves purely for pleasure, and to share them with a great community - the cigar community. Many sometimes confuse him to be a tobacconist, which tends to happen to a lot of folks on social media. But I think there is a level of personality and passion that distinguishes the personal from the commercial - something Hassan clearly has. Many of you know him as "The Ash King", a title which is not self-proclaimed but that which I certainly consider him undisputed in. A true gentleman in every sense of the word and an avid cigar aficionado, we spoke to the Saudi native recently on his passion.
How long have you smoked cigars?
Between 7 and 8 years.
What initiated your foray into cigar smoking?
Relaxing and socializing but primarily for stress relief.
Your first smoking experience?
It was bad! It was a dry cigar and I rushed it. The result was a harsh and bitter smoke.
Your favorite cigar?
That's a hard question. All Habanos and from the non-Cubans, Arturo Fuente and Jose Padron.
Of particular interest to me from the Cubans, a Montecristo 520 EL 2012 holds a special place and any aged Cohiba. And from the non-Cubans, any aged Opus X and Padron Family Reserva.
How did you come to be known as “The Ash King”?
The title was actually given to me by a fellow Instagrammer, Cigar Of The Day (@cigaroftheday), and I liked it quite a bit - so I wear it with pride.
Keeping the ash on the cigar is tough and requires practice. How are you so good and how can others get better?
Many trials and attempts got me to where I am but not before having cigar ash fall into my face or lap along the way. I do have OCD! So that definitely helped in a positive way. It definitely requires steady hands and patience - and a well-constructed cigar of course.
Where do you buy your cigars and how many do you tend to smoke?
From local shops or on my travels abroad. I smoke on average, 3 Cigars a day and some days I don't due to health reasons - chronic sinus which comes and goes regularly.
Best time to enjoy a cigar and pairing?
After a good meal or in a large herf - or better yet, simply while watching something on TV.
I personally avoid pairing a cigar with anything that could mask the taste, sometimes a cool glass of water hits the sweet spot. If it's something I smoke regularly (not limited production or aged), I pair it with coffee.
Your favorite cut and why?
Straight cut. I personally love Xikar Xi cutters. Sometimes if the mood is right, I enjoy a V cut but I definitely don't like using the puncher.
Your favorite place to smoke cigars?
Everywhere is a good place if it welcomes it. I prefer to smoke indoors, especially if the weather doesn't fit the ritual. There is a great designated cigar lounge here in Riyadh called "Lavida", one of the better ones in Saudi Arabia. I also frequent "Unique Edition", a private lounge in my home town of Jeddah.
Your best smoking experience?
The first time I smoked a custom blended KSA cigar with the legend, Prince Khalid Al-Saud (also known as PK). "No commercial cigars for me," he emphatically told me.
Your worst smoking experience?
Plugged cigars are the absolute worst for me! Especially when you have been stashing them away for a couple of years in your humidor and when you do decide to smoke one, you find it plugged. It's a pain every cigar smoker experiences.
Photos courtesy of Hassan Althagafi.