The California Cohiba Experience
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The California Cohiba Experience

Aug 24, 2023

Vacationers who travel up the coast to escape the madding bustle of Los Angeles (or anywhere else for that matter) and enjoy the laid-back appeal of Santa Barbara, with it sweeping seaside vistas, happening art scene, Spanish Mission architecture and many wineries, can now add an elegant, but quintessentially Californian, cigar venue to the list of attractions.

Overlooking the Pacific Ocean and backed by the Santa Ynez Mountains, The Cohiba Experience at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara held its launch event on Friday. A year and a half in the making, the venue is a large, al fresco terrace off the main building of this Santa Barbara hotel. It slots in perfectly with the five-star property, which sprawls over 78 wooded acres, offering gardens, pools and a spa.

Cutting a ceremonial ribbon to allow the throng of eager first-nighters into the lounge, the Cohiba brand ambassador Sean Williams said, “What you will experience back there is just more of what you see out here.”

Except that “back there” cigars were welcomed on the 1,680-square-foot terrace with its comfortable seating, firepit tables and ocean views. With its hand-painted murals, the ambience of The Cohiba Experience is in marked contrast to the men’s club feel of many urban lounges. Gone are the televisions airing sport events, the whirr of exhaust fans and any sense of being crowded. The fresh air, of course, wafts smoke away in the gentle breeze and so welcomes those who are not indulging in cigars. If the opening night is any indication, smartly-clad female guests will become a feature of the stylish space, whether they smoke or not.

The lounge also offers drinks and food from the ‘O’ Bar + Kitchen, with its “Central Coast cuisine with a Latin flair.” Four other dining venues specializing in local cuisines, as well as a wine-tasting room, are also available within the full-service hotel.

A cedar-lined, walk-in humidor provides the smokes for the Experience. As the Cohiba in the name suggests, the choices are dominated by cigars with the familiar red-dot logo. They include the Spectre 2021, the Royale Toro and Connecticut Crystal Robusto—all non-Cuban—but the menu will change to accommodate other limited editions.

Other smokes by General Cigar Co., such as Macanudo, CAO, La Gloria Cubana and Partagas are also on the menu. The plan is that Williams will host quarterly activations to include cigar pairings, handmade cigar seminars, exclusive cigar release parties and other special events.

If you are among the lucky ones who live in or frequent Santa Barbara, with its Mediterranean climate, you may consider the convenience of renting one of the 24 cigar lockers on one wall of the humidor room. They will become available in the final quarter of this year.

Admission is complimentary to guests 21 and over. Hours are from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.

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