While South Korea may not be the best place in the world to visit for cigar smokers, there are a few members clubs scattered around the country for connoisseurs.
The cigar market in Korea was introduced by Pierre Cohen-Aknine back in 1994 when he became the exclusive distributor of Habanos S.A. in the country.
The market responded positively to this new lifestyle experience with a rapid growth based on the opening of retail channels, bars, hotels, restaurants, even golf country clubs, and Pierre owned shops.
The industry started to be challenged by a succession of anti-smoking laws from 1999 with the latest in 2015 which pretty much prohibited public smoking everywhere along with imposing very high taxes and import duties.
While the wholesale channels closed one by one, cigar lounges with a special status maintained good business with the quasi-monopoly on permitted smoking areas — making the three cigar clubs within the Pierre Ltd network the dominate retailer of Cuban cigars in the Korean market.
Though the Asian-Pacific cigar market now makes up 15% of Habanos S.A sales according to the company with strong demand in China and Hong Kong, interest in Korea is growing.
If you’re looking for a place to enjoy a good, relaxing cigar atmosphere, here’s three places under the Pierre Ltd. network around the country to check out.
Casa Habano — Busan
Owned and operated by American Mike Conforme, General Manager at Pierre Ltd, Casa Habano offers a slice of Havana in Busan.
Located in Mipo, Haeundae-gu, in front of the new Lotte Hotel/LCT Towers, it is tastefully decorated in a Cuban theme, with a walk-in humidor that invites aficionados to its wide range of offerings of fine Cuban cigars.
A large selection of whiskey and spirits carefully paired with your cigar on their outdoor deck with a view of the sea make this place a must-visit for cigar smokers in Busan.
A members-only rooftop lounge is also in the works for the late fall/early spring 2020.
Address: 3F, 8-1 Dalmaji-Gil 62 Beon-Gil, Jung 1(il) Dong, Haeundae-Gu, Busan, Korea 48097
Phone: +82-10-4125-6962 (English) / +82-10-5036-0064 (Korean)
Operating hours: Tuesday-Saturday 4:00 pm – 2:00 am, Sunday Members’ Day, Monday Closed.
How to enter: Members all access. Overseas visitors and travelers are welcome. Casual dress. Reservations are preferable for overseas visitors and travelers as members have priority to lounge seating and use of the outdoor deck.
What to expect: A place where you can go to sit and relax and enjoy a Cuban cigar. All are welcome from the novice to the aficionado, male and female. You can join the conversation or just reflect on your day, with a large selection of Cuban Cigars and a selection of travel accessories available.
Atmosphere: Living room sitting, relaxed and homey atmosphere, outdoor deck with a view of the sea.
Imbibe: Wine, beer, single malt, whiskeys, cognac, and liquors (by the bottle only)
Pierre Seoul Cigar Club
Pierre Seoul Cigar Club offers its members a genuine cigar break in a dedicated space in the heart of Seoul.
Address: 25, Sowol-ro 38-gil, 4th floor, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Phone: +82-2-790 4522
Operating hours: Weekdays 9:00 am to Midnight ++ / Weekends 6:00 pm to Midnight ++
How to enter: Casual dress. Members, overseas visitors, and travelers welcome.
What to expect: All about Cuban cigar smoking. Largest selection of Cuban Cigars in Korea. Indispensable selection of accessories.
Atmosphere: Four different kinds of sitting ambiance, homey atmosphere, and a large terrace.
Imbibe: Wine, beer, single malt, cognac, liquors (by the bottle only)
Pierre Cigar Divan
Pierre Cigar Divan is a boutique cigar shop on the 2nd floor of City Bakery building and offers its members a genuine cigar break in a dedicated space across the street from the Seven Luck Casino Gangnam COEX Branch.
Address: 28 Bongeunsa-ro 86-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Operating hours: Weekdays 11:30 am to 10:30 pm / Weekends 6:00 pm to 10:30 pm
How to enter: With elegance. Casual dress. Members, overseas visitors, and travelers welcome.
What to expect: Friendly smoking divan with a large terrace. Large selection of Cuban Cigars and accessories.
Atmosphere: Tiny and friendly inside, relaxed outside.
Imbibe: Wine and beer
Photos courtesy of Casa Habano and Pierre Ltd.