James Leavey's Sharing An Ashtray With... Peter De Savary

Peter de Savary

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James Leavey's Corner
  By James Leavey
The entrepreneurial founder of The Carnegie Club at SkiboCastle, the former Highland home of Andrew Carnegie, lights up.  

JL: When did you start smoking"

PdS: I never smoked anything in my life until my 16th birthday,when I asked my father if he would let me try one of his belovedHavanas. He said I could have a cigar on two conditions: 1) that Igave him my word never to smoke cigarettes and 2) if I liked cigarsto smoke fewer rather than more and always to smoke good Cubancigars rather than any inferior tobacco. He then handed me my firstBolivar and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

JL: What do you smoke now"

PdS: On average, 6-8 Havana cigars a day, usually two Partagas Dsize, and 5-6 Partagas Lusitianas or Punch Double Coronas. I alsolike Hoyo de Monterreys and Ramon Allones very much, but I only likedark leaf cigars, nice chocolate colour - I don't like any pale leafcigars. I also enjoy collecting interesting cigars and in 1997bought a box of 163 Havanas rolled in the 1856 - for £17,600,auctioned to celebrate Christie's 230th anniversary. They're stillthe oldest and most expensive Cuban cigars sold at a commercialauction, and they're my favourite smoke. When my eldest daughter,Lisa, got married in April 1998 at Stapleford Park, the groom'sfather and I each lit up and enjoyed one of the world's oldestHavanas cigars to commemorate the happy event. They smoked muchbetter than any modern Cuban cigar, much better.

JL: Can any of your guests at Skibo, such as Madonna, Guy Ritchieand Sir Sean Connery, smoke in their bedrooms"

PdS: No. It doesn't matter who it is, they've got to smokedownstairs. They can smoke anywhere downstairs except in one of thedrawing rooms, which is set aside for non-smokers. And they can'tsmoke at the dinner table, until the ladies have left. The routineis you go to the cigar room, which was formerly the study of MrCarnegie's personal secretary, and in there we keep at least 500cigars spread over probably 20 different types of cigars. So you gothere, and the butler will help you select, cut, prepare and lightyour cigar. The best place to smoke it is in the adjoining room,which is Mr Carnegie's library, which has comfortable squidgy chairsand great views over the loch and estate, with a drink appropriateto that time of day.

JL: Did Andrew Carnegie smoke"

PdS: No.

JL: Is it true you throw half of your cigars away"

PdS: I never smoke a cigar to what I call the limit as I findthat once I've smoked two-thirds of a cigar and have had to relightit, that last part starts to get a bit acidy and moist. Some peoplewould say, 'God, he's throwing away a lot of that expensive cigar',but I prefer to enjoy the quality, not the quantity.

JL: What happens to the dog-ends"

PdS: I'm not sure. I think my staff collect them and smoke themsurreptitiously.

JL: You'll have to start paying them! So you must have a lot ofempty cigar boxes, then"

PdS: Yes. I've kept all the cigar boxes I ever owned and now havethousands. I am going to panel a room in Skibo Castle with cigarboxes, from floor to ceiling, in due course, and it will become oneof the great smoker' s rooms in Britain.

JL: Shame you can't take a few stogies with you, when you popyour clogs.

PdS: I'm going to have my coffin lined in cedar wood - a cigarhumidor is always lined with cedar. And when they finally put me inmy box they've got strict instructions to place one of those verylarge Hoyo de Monterreys on top of me.

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