Emanuele is a true gentleman. A young and contemporary gentleman. Very eloquent and well-spoken, with an enormous passion for cigars. Originally from Rome, Italy, now living in LA and founder of the Cigar Somms Club, founded with his partner Diego Meraviglia, who’s also a cigar sommelier. A great personality and a great honor to share this interview with all of you.
Thank you very much for accepting our interview, it is a pleasure to personally meet you. Who are you?
My name is Emanuele Rizzo. I was born and raised in Rome but I moved to Los Angeles 5 years ago. I’m a wine and cigar sommelier and I work in the real estate business here in Los Angeles. I’m also the founder of the Cigar Somms Club, which supplies a couple of hotels here in California but also provides a membership club where our members receive cigars handpicked from us directly to their homes.
What motivated you to start producing content for the community?
I started smoking cigars when I was 16 years old thanks to my father. Every time I see him we smoke a cigar together because we share the same passion and I believe that sharing the passion with a big community is amazing, sharing with people that love what you love is a great feeling.
How is the cigar scene in your country?
The cigar scene here in Los Angeles is pretty big. I’m meeting more and more cigar lovers every day. There’s a big community but I have to say that only a few people really know cigars well.
Do you prefer having a cigar alone or with others?
I guess it really depends on my mood. Smoking cigars is my meditation and I feel the need to smoke alone but it is also an amazing social activity that connects people. I love smoking with my friends, share my knowledge, and sometimes learn something new from others. Share thoughts and opinions and obviously have a good time, always!
Enjoying a cigar: inside or outside?
I probably prefer outside. When you smoke indoors sometimes it can get a little hard to breathe if the air system is not great and I tend to smell tobacco all day. My wife couldn’t agree more.
We’re going to talk about cigars, no matter their origin. However, we have to ask: What is your favorite cigar-producing country?
Well, I guess my favorite cigar-producing country is Cuba. No doubt about it. I also love Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.
Imagine that the embargo on Cuba is lifted. What will happen next?
I guess I’ll take the first flight to Cuba and buy as many cigars as I can.
Usually, people have two first-time moments: the first cigar and the cigar that ignited the passion you have today. What were yours?
My first cigar was a Toscano Classico which I smoked with my father. The one that ignited the passion I have today is probably a Cohiba Siglo VI.
What’s the best cigar you have ever had?
The best cigar I have ever had is probably a Partagas E2 which I received as a gift from a friend.
Based on that, what’s the perfect pairing for that specific cigar?
I’d say the perfect pairing is Rum. That night we drank Diplomatico. Outstanding pairing.
Everyone has their ritual when starting a cigar session. What’s yours?
I don’t really have a ritual, if I’m home I make sure I turn on my speaker and play some music. Music is really important for me, not only when I smoke but in my life. If I am with other people I always make sure I have at least another couple of cigars to share. Also, I always carry my gold Dupont lighter with me, my best friend.
Tell us about your collection. What does your humidor look like?
I have 3 humidors. One is filled with only Cubans. Cubans of any kind, from Cohiba Edicion Limitada to Partagas of different sizes, Montecristo, Hoyo de Monterrey, Trinidad and many other brands. I like to smoke different cigars every day. I like to try cigars that I have never tried before. The other two humidors are filled with Nicaraguan, Honduran, and Dominican. I love Padron and Davidoff.
When we meet someone, we usually give away one cigar as a gesture of good faith. What was the best cigar you have been offered?
It was probably a Cohiba Robusto Supremo Edicion Limitada 2014.
What do you think about cigars as a type of investment, like watches and cars?
I don’t believe that cigars are as valuable as watches and cars. I think the only real investment is watches and obviously real estate.
Plume and mold. Same thing?
They are two different things, one is positive and the other is negative. Unfortunately, I had a few cigars with mold that I had to throw in the trash can. Plume is a sign that the cigar is aging correctly but it might be easily confused with mold.
Cut and light or light and cut?
I think it’s really subjective. The best way to do it for me is by lighting and cutting so that the whole cigar can warm up 100% and is ready to be smoked when you cut it.
You can have as many cigars as you want, forever BUT it always has to be the same. What would you pick?
This is such a hard question. It would be Partagas, I find they’re always consistent. Great flavor and also a great price. It would probably be Partagas E2.
We all made some honest mistakes on our cigar journey. Tell us about your most embarrassing one.
In the beginning, I didn’t know too much humidity so I bought a lot of cigars and I set the humidity too low and they all got dry. I had to toss them all in the trash. I’m talking about expensive Cubans, unfortunately.
As a customer, what do you look for in a cigar retailer?
I smoke a lot, I buy every month so I guess the price is super important but the quality is everything.
With the smoking restrictions in almost all places, do you see the private club scene growing?
Yes, especially in Beverly Hills you can’t smoke anywhere so there are a few cigar lounges that have been open forever but there’s not a lot. I really hope they’ll open more private clubs because we really need them!
What’s your favorite cigar accessory?
It is definitely the lighter.
Are you a soft-flame or a torch lighter person?
Lighting with a torch lighter is faster and easier but I’m an old-school guy so I’d go with a soft flame.
What is your favorite personality in the cigar community and why?
I like Jasim Hamed, another cigar sommelier who lives in the UAE. He has incredible knowledge and style. I’m looking forward to going to visit him and smoke a cigar together.
Fake cigars are a real problem, we see them popping everywhere. What’s your take on the counterfeit industry and what can we do to minimize the damage?
Fake cigars are everywhere especially here in the US. It is a big problem and I think it is really hard to solve. I think it will be solved when the embargo, maybe one day, will be lifted.
How do you see the future of Cigars on social media?
I think that the future of cigars is going to be online, everything works through social media. Social media is a great tool to find, sell and trade cigars. As I said before, I’m an old-school guy so I like the physical interaction especially when you’re buying cigars online you can’t really see the quality but I guess this is going to be the future. I’d use social media more as a way to educate about cigars and take advantage of the range of people you can reach in a second.
Did something surprise you in the cigar community?
It really surprised the fact that there are a lot of people who smoke cigars in the world. That was a pleasant surprise.
What is the most overrated cigar for you?
And the most underrated? I know that I’ll get attacked and judged from this but I think the most overrated cigar for me is the Arturo Fuente Opus X. I had a few so far and I think they’re great cigars but I also think that they are a little overrated. They created this myth about these cigars and they did a great branding job as well but to me, they’re not worth all the money they cost. The most underrated for me is La Flor de Cano. I bought a box last month and I was really impressed. They deserve more visibility.
What brand have you never smoked and probably never will?
There’s a lot of cigars I haven’t smoked yet. There are a few brands that I’ll probably never smoke but I like to have an open mind so I’m willing to try any kind of cigar.
What is your “Unicorn” cigar?
It is probably the Cohiba Behike 56. No doubts about it.
What are your Top 5 favorite cigars?
What are your Top 5 favorite Instagram accounts?
Finally, do you want to send a message to the community?
Life is too short for cheap cigars. Quality over Quantity. Always.
A message to the community
Thank you very much for giving us a bit of your time by reading this article. It really means the world to have you with us. If you want to follow our daily activities head to our Instagram, where we try our best to bring the community together by sharing our love and knowledge for cigars. Have a great day.
Please note that smoking is bad for your health and we do not encourage it at all. These articles are written to show the differences between cigars and never to influence anyone to start smoking. If you are a cigar smoker, please respect others around you.