Standing before us, behind locked acrylic doors, is perhaps the most impressive collection of cigars ever assembled. Hundreds of climate-controlled bins, each bearing numerous boxes of the tobacco industry’s most storied brands, line the walls from floor to ceiling. Yet I cannot sample even a single stick. Neither can my host, Vahé Gérard, proprietor of Gérard Père et Fils, the tobacco shop in the lobby of Geneva’s Le Palace Hilton.
Gérard—the fils in Père et Fils (father and son)—is showing me the Private Bank of Cigars, a kind of vault in which the shop’s clients can safeguard their most valuable smokes. Each client is provided with what amounts to a safety deposit box for his cigars here in Gérard’s capacious humidor, which is housed in a separate building about a block from his store. The Private Bank enables you to store and age cigars without enduring any of the inconveniences of maintaining your own humidor. It also allows you to accumulate large quantities of your preferred cigar or cigars without worrying whether your humidor can accommodate the surplus. The store’s specialists continuously monitor the condition of cigars in the Private Bank, and when you want to smoke the cigars, the store will ship them within 24 hours of your request.
Gérard Père et Fils also provides a shopping service, through which it can reserve limited editions for you and procure your favorites when they become available. “I get to know my clients’ tastes and watch for cigars they will like,” Gérard says. The store also publishes the Cigars Stock Market, a weekly e-mail newsletter profiling its most interesting new finds.
The Private Bank has its downside, though: By ordering your cigars by phone or online, you deprive yourself of a visit to the store itself, which ranks among the world’s finest. The boutique may be small compared to America’s cigar superstores, but the quality of Gérard Père et Fils’ offerings is unsurpassed. Most impressive is the store’s extensive assortment of collector’s edition packages: gorgeous humidors crafted or commissioned by manufacturers and packed with their best smokes, often to commemorate the anniversary of a brand, and typically costing from $1,000 to $4,000. Any cigar store might be expected to carry one or two of these, but when Gérard is asked how many different collector’s editions Gérard Père et Fils stocks, he replies, “About 20.” For customers who lack the willpower to allow their favorite cigars to age, the store offers its own vintage selection: cigars that have been stashed away for years in the store’s humidor.
Although a typical stop at a tobacco shop might last half an hour, a visit to Gérard Père et Fils can consume a good portion of the day. By the time you have browsed the tobacco inventory, paged through the two beautiful books that Gérard has authored (Cigars: The Art of Cigars and Havana Cigars), and listened to the proprietor hold forth on the history of any brand you care to name, many pleasant hours likely will have passed.
Gérard Père et Fils