I recently had the opportunity to visit the country of Sweden this month and I have to say it was far better than the last time I was there back in the month of January. The weather was warmer and the sun seemed to never want to set. I recall meeting the owner of Royal Danish cigars a couple of months ago at an event in south Florida and mentioned that I would be heading over to Sweden soon. When I mentioned the city I would be visiting; Gothenburg, he said I should check out Mellgren’s Fine Tobacco. I took his advice, as I am rarely steered wrong by my fellow cigar lovers and made my way over to Mellgren’s the first opportunity I got.
The shop is rather large with a big walk in glass humidor in the back. The humidor was well stocked with Cuban cigars, as I expected. There were many of the common culprits we see online but they also had some of the newest gems to come out of Cuba this year and even some boxes of aged (7 plus years) Cuban sticks. I naturally navigated to the 7 year aged Montecristo No. 1 Lonsdale as I do enjoy Monticristos and wanted to see what aging them would provide without having to wait.
Besides cigars, Mellgren’s carries a full lineup of Pipes and pipe tobacco along with accessories, Humidors, and last but not least Snus. You may or may not know what Snus is, but that is what made Mellgren’s its name back in the 1820s. Yes, this name has been associated with Swedish tobacco for almost 200 years. Snus is a smokeless tobacco that comes in small packets that you slip between your front teeth and lip and let it moisten and dissolve. You general expel the juice but the nicotine gets right into your system through the gum line. It is a lot like chewing tobacco.
What really got my attention in the humidor was the other side of it which was filled with Padrons. Mellgren’s is a top Padron house and that is evident not only from the selection of Padron cigars but also the framed mural of the Padron house in Miami, FL and the special Mellgren’s anniversary Padron cigars and boxes. They also carry Gurkha, Fuente, and other known brands that the US connoisseur would recognize.
As the hour was getting near closing time (Mellgren’s closes at 8PM) I made my selections and purchase, but not without fully introducing myself and inquiring about the smoking lounge in the back. Johan, the manager on duty, explained it is a membership only lounge but if I will be in town this week I am welcome to come back as he handed me some passes to the lounge. I smiled and thanked him for his generosity and headed out to enjoy one of my purchases, the 7 year aged Monticristo. I won’t get too deep into a review of that here, except to state it was an enjoyable cigar but had a very tight draw.
As I walked about the streets of Gothenburg I realized that this city is not like other cities I have visited in Europe. Although, the main strip was dotted with shops, restaurants and pubs; it had more of a modern feel to it. There is a harbor that I learned delivers the fresh fish every morning to the city. There were trollies, busses, and cars – not to mention the many bicycles that have their designated lane along the sidewalks. Note to travelers; do not walk in the bike lane, lest you be jingled at by the cyclist bell.
As I noted at the start of this article, the last time I was in Sweden it was in the month of January and the days were short, the darkness long, and the weather was cold and snowy. Of course I was in Stockholm then and the sights were still beautiful but it required frequent stops into pubs to drink some scotch to warm my bones. This time, the days were long and the weather was mild with some occasional rain (Gothenburg is a lot like Seattle). I should note that I still stopped at a pub or two for a tasty beverage, only this time sitting outside to enjoy the sites and a fine cigar.
The next day I finished up with work at a decent time and headed back over to Mellgren’s to check out the lounge. This time when I entered I met Conny Ankargen who is the primary manager for the shop. I was about to introduce myself and he greeted me by name. I guess Johan from the night before told him about me. I have to say that made me feel welcome for sure. This time I entered the humidor and ask him what he would recommend, and after explaining what I like, he suggested I give the newly released Monticristo a try. And so I did.
Conny took me back to the lounge and there was another gentleman relaxing with his pipe. I sat back in the comfy leather chair and fired up the new Monticristo. It was now when I would learn all about the city I am in and the rules of smoking in Sweden. Yep, all it takes to learn about a city when you travel is to find a local cigar shop and fire up a stogie, sit back, and let the conversation roll.
The conversation started in a typical fashion, where are you from, what brings you to Gothenburg, how long will you be in town and then it shifted to me asking some questions. I asked about the smoking laws in Sweden and I was told I am sitting in one of the few smoking lounges in the country. Sweden outlawed smoking in public places a few years back and Mellgren’s was able to obtain a special license to have their smoking lounge. It requires a special exhaust and filtration system and even as we were talking out it the country has tightened the standards and Mellgren’s will have to invest more to upgrade the system to comply with the standards.
The Montescristo was getting real tasty and the conversation was flowing well. An Irishman… walked into the lounge and sat down and without missing a beat asked, “so what’s the topic of discussion today”. I smiled and introduced myself and we morphed the discussion into a lesson in tobacco and the City of Gothenburg. You see, the area I was in, used to be all tobacco fields. Gothenburg at one point was the Tobacco capital of Sweden. There were cigar and snus factories dotting the landscape and this was one of the primary tobacco centers for Sweden. It was kind of ironic since we were sitting in a private membership only lounge to enjoy a cigar in a city that had its roots back to tobacco, but then I realized it is no more ironic than what the FDA is doing in the US, trying to take away a freedom that goes back to our founding mothers and fathers.
It was as this point I was going to excuse myself to meet my coworkers for dinner but Conny announced that he will be keeping the lounge open for a an hour or so longer if I would like to stay. Well twist my arm some more – I texted my co-workers to carry on without me and I will meet up later with them. I went back to the humidor and picked up one of my most favorite Cuban cigars a Vegas Robaina and sat back down amongst my new found friends.
Firing up the Vegas Robaina, my mind took me back to Nuremburg Germany where I had my first Vegas Robaina and realized how tasty a well-aged and constructed cigar can be. The conversation continued amongst us in the lounge. We were dancing around the politics and religion discussion, as those can be taboo in any culture and stayed the course about the shop. I inquired about the name and age of the shop. I was told that the name goes back to the 1820s where Mellgren’s sold fine tobacco, though it did not grow it. The name has been associated with fine tobacco ever since. The current owner is not related to the Mellgren’s family but instead bought the name and built the current shop paying tribute to the original Mellgren’s.
We talked about the pipe selection and took out my cellphone to show them pictures of the new Graycliff pipe cigar. That made a big hit, but not to be outdone, my Irish Friend went to his locker and took out a box that was about 100 years old and had the Original pipe cigars in it. Yes these are almost 100 years old and still in fine condition. I have to say I was impressed.
We eventually breached the taboo and broke into politics and religion but I will not get into those details here except to say it was all very respectful and congenial conversation. As the final hour grew on we ended up in discussion about UFOs, extraterrestrial life, and aliens. We never got to the Zombie Apocalypse though. I can only assume when you live in one of the happiest places on earth, you don’t worry about Zombies.
As I finished my second cigar over the past 3 hours, I stated it is time to for me to go but hope to return soon. No sooner did I mention that, and Conny asked what I would be doing the following evening; as Mellgren’s would be having their monthly get together but this time it would be at a local Billiards and Shuffle board pub downtown. Wow, how could I turn down that invitation? I accepted but noted that I may be a bit late based on work and will keep them informed.
The next day was a busy day at work and I was a good 2 hours late to the Mellgren’s event. When I arrived they had already smoked through the first cigar of the evening and eating dinner. They were getting ready to head downstairs to the shuffle board lounge and start the Mellgren’s tournament. I was paired with Ulf Zandhers, the owner of Mellgren’s, who introduced me to some of the nastiest tasting shots in the world, “Gammel Dansk – Bitter Dram”. This stuff makes Jägermeister taste like fruit juice.
We got into the tournament and after a few rounds of play, drinks, and shots, my partner and I came in 8 out 10 teams but that did not matter as we were having fun. Congratulations to the winners, you know who you are.
After the tournament we all went up and sat on the patio of the pub under heated lamps to warm the late evening air and fired up some more stogies. It was after 10 PM and the sun was still out. I just leaned back, smiled, and thanked everyone for the short but fun time in their city. If you ever happen to be across the pond and make your way to Sweden try to visit Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city and checkout Mellgren’s Fine Tobacco and let them know Boston Jimmie says hello.