Adam Lajca is Corinthia Hotel London’s head cigar sommelier. From looking after the million pounds’ worth of stock to finding the perfect cigar pairings for guests, Adam lives and breathes the world of luxury cigars. We found out more about his fascinating role when we met him for an interview in the hotel’s stunning Garden Lounge.
So, first things first. What actually is a cigar sommelier?
Well, like a wine sommelier recommends wine with different types of food, a cigar sommelier does a similar thing – we match cigars with food or drinks. It can be something as simple as a cup of tea, right through to a cocktail. Lots of people think cigars can only go with spirits like whiskey or cognac, but even something like a delicate Champagne can go with a cigar, it’s just about choosing the right pairing.
How did you become one?
I gained an interest in cigars when I visited Cuba in 2006, and then three years later I wanted to do something more, so I started studying about cigars, travelling and meeting people from all over the world with the same interests. I also grew my personal collection at home during this time. Then the opportunity struck with Corinthia Hotels to look after their collection and I’ve been here two and a half years already. I think more and more people are needed in London in this kind of role because the interest in premium cigars is growing.
Do you enjoy a cigar yourself?
Just like fine wine and whisky, there are those of us who choose to cap our day with a fine cigar. Plus, there are some devoted collectors of cigars. I have over 3,000 in my personal collection.
Who knew cigars were so covetable?
They are! At Corinthia Hotel London there are over 170 types of Cuban cigars. Only Cuban, and many from what we connoisseurs call ‘pre-embargo’. The best of the best. They are the Ferrari of cigars. You can try one or purchase an entire rare case. We keep them in the hotel’s walk-in humidor.
A humidor is a temperature-controlled room which, in this case, is an organisational paradise. The wooden cases where cigars are stored are also called humidors, and we commissioned a limited edition set of intricately hand-carved and hand-finished boxes especially for the hotel. They are made by Humidors of Havana, the most famous humidor manufacturer in the world.
What’s the best part of your job?
It’s always so much fun. The most exciting bit is meeting people. That’s what cigars are all about – meeting people and socialising. It’s great to see people getting together in our Garden Lounge.
What does a day in the life of a cigar sommelier look like?
The main part of my role is making our guests happy and comfortable, and I do this by listening to the guests needs and helping them select a suitable cigar from the menu. I also have to look after the condition of the cigars – they don’t need much, but I have to keep an eye on the temperature and humidity. They need to be kept at around 65-70% humidity and 18-20°C.
What’s the most expensive cigar in the humidor?
The most expensive one at the moment is the Davidoff Dom Perignon from the 1980s and it costs £900. We have 170 Cuban cigars in the humidor as we try to keep the collection interesting for our guests and the total cost probably comes to over a million pounds. We also sell limited edition lighters that are Corinthia branded.
What’s special about Corinthia London?
Many guests have said to me that the Garden Lounge feels like their own personal area, it’s a lovely open-air space, but there’s no wind thanks to the high buildings. All of our Penthouses also have their own antique wood humidors, that were each made in Havana, so these guests don’t have to come downstairs to enjoy their cigars, they can smoke them at leisure on their terrace.