Caribbean editor Gay Nagle Myers dined, sipped, rolled and
puffed during a too-brief visit to Nassau's historic Graycliff
Hotel. Her report follows:
NASSAU -- Avelino Lara let me hold his chavetto. I was flattered
It's been with him for 67 of his 78 years -- ever since he
rolled his first cigar at the age of 11. To a cigar roller, a
chavetto is as important a possession as life itself. Lara's
chavetto, worn smooth from years of use, accompanies him
The small metal instrument, used to trim and cut cigars,
resembles a utensil that would be used for dicing onions.
Cuban-born Lara, now the master roller at Graycliff, created the
Cohiba cigar brand in Havana in 1966 and was cigar roller to Fidel
He learned his trade from his grandfather and father. Enrico and
Anna Maria Garzaroli, owners of Graycliff Hotel & Restaurant
since 1973, recruited Lara to join the family operation in
Until 1998, when the Graycliff Cigar Co. began producing seven
different cigars under its own label, Lara sat at a small table in
the parlor of the main house and rolled cigars for restaurant
Today, he presides over a staff of 14 Cuban-born rollers in a
first-floor, glass-enclosed viewing room in the new Graycliff Cigar
Co. It's here that Lara demonstrates his art to hotel and
"There are 87 different steps involved in producing a cigar,
from planting to shipping," Lara said in Spanish (translated for me
by Anna Maria). When the cigar rolling operation is at its capacity
of 20 staff, close to 1 million cigars a year will be rolled in
The tobacco leaves are airfreighted in from six different
countries -- Brazil, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, India
and Paraguay. Cuban tobacco is not used because of government
Each roller can turn out between 90 and 140 cigars on an
eight-hour shift, depending on the size of the cigar. All Graycliff
cigars are aged for up to six months in strictly controlled
conditions of 70% humidity and 70 degrees.
The price for a box of 25 cigars ranges from $195 to $480,
depending on the category and size of the cigar.
The new Graycliff Cigar Co. is an annex just a few steps from
the main Graycliff Hotel on West Hill Street in downtown Nassau
near Government House. In addition to the cigar-rolling room,
Graycliff Cigar Co. also features a large walk-in humidor, the
Humidor restaurant, a lounge, a gift shop and seven guest
Each of the guest rooms is named after one of the Graycliff
cigars, such as Elegante, Presidente, Corona Especiale and Grande
Amenities include cigar memorabilia, antique furnishings and
linens as well as air conditioning, ceiling fans and private baths.
The large double rooms have sitting areas with windows that open to
a covered veranda.
Nightly rates start at $235, double, including breakfast.
The Humidor restaurant serves lunch and dinner from both an a la
carte menu and a Cigar prix fixe menu, accompanied by a selection
of cigars. Garzaroli said that the new Humidor restaurant is
outfitted "with an elaborate smoke reduction system. Guests will
not be affected by cigar smoke nor will their hair or clothes
[smell like smoke]."
The average dinner for two with wine costs about $150. A bar and
lounge are open daily from 11:30 a.m. to midnight, serving light
fare and beverages.
Scheduled to open at Graycliff by September are a spa, a gym and
a beauty salon. The property also features two pools and gardens.
The Graycliff Cigar Co. annex complements the 13 guest rooms and
pool cottage suites at Graycliff Hotel.
No two of the hotel's rooms are decorated the same, although all
have air conditioning and private baths. The Pool Cottage, where
Winston Churchill stayed, and the Baillou, the original master
bedroom in the main house, evoke an old tropic charm.
The Mandarino Cottage features an extra-large bathroom with a
whirlpool. The hotel's restaurant has four air-conditioned dining
rooms and an outdoor area. Garzaroli said the hotel is sold out for
the millennium period.
Graycliff Cigar Co.
Phone: (242) 328-7050
Phone: (242) 322-2796