The International Chain of Franchises la Casa del Habano joins more than 90 specialized stores where both beginners and connoisseurs enjoy the art of tasting habanos and find the adequate place that not only guarantees an original product kept in perfect conservation conditions but have become the usual meeting and reference space for cigar lovers.

The first Franchise was founded in Cancun, Mexico, in 1990. In Malaysia, the franchise outlet can be found on the Ground Floor at the Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur. Its a small little place, tucked quietly into a niche of this grand hotel. I’ve been working for a number of years in KLCC, and eventhough i make frequent visits to the Mandarin Oriental, i never noticed the outlet, small as it is. Perhaps, that’s a good thing: aficionados can enjoy their cigars in relative peace and quiet in the hustle & bustle of the metropolitan Kuala Lumpur.

The interior of the outlet is very pleasing – the walls are lined with framed photos of famous cigar brands and cigar-related scenes. Luxurious sofas and comfortable lounge chairs give visitors a place to sit and relax. The ambience of the place is rustic: not too brightly lit, quiet (no music playing in the background), and cool – the temperature is kept at a constant degree of comfort. My first impression of the place was that it would be an ideal place to hide from the rest of the world and enjoy my cigar in peace. Not too many places you can do that in KL nowadays, so this place is a haven for those who are so inclined.

What struck me as particularly interesting about the outlet was that, unlike other cigar divans, its cigars were not stored in a special walk-in, or closed off humidor. All the cigars (still in their semi-plain boxes of 25 or cabinets of 50) were placed in a cabinet that rested against the wall, and strangely enough, with their lids closed. Other divans such as The Havana Club has a walk-in humidor with the lids on the boxes invitingly open. But not so here. The friendly Nadia (who manages the operations of the store) told me this was a different concept from other divans; the humidor and the shop were one, unseparated. The lids on the boxes remained closed so that the aroma from cigars smoked in the outlet would not mingle and spoil the other cigars. An interesting arrangement, but with the humidifier (a small machine that keeps the air humidified) off, i wonder whether the cigars will remain in proper smokable condition for extended periods of time.

The cigars to be found here are exclusively Cuban. All the major Cuban brands are represented here at suggested retail prices, including my personal favourites, the Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2 and the Juan Lopez Seleccion No. 1. If you tell Nadia that i sent you and be a bit extra nice, i’m sure you can get 10% off most cigars on offer. A good deal, by any accounts. I bought a box of Guantanamera Compay’s (5 cigars) here for RM58.50 (off the normal price of RM65).

The store also stocks a relatively modest collection of accessories. My personal favourite is a gold-plated V-cutter which i found incredibly interesting and unique. Also, Nadia informed me that very soon affordable humidors from Taiwan would be made available at the store – compared to the humidors i’ve found elsewhere in Kuala Lumpur that retail for RM1,000 ++, these Taiwanese humidors for less than RM700 might be a good start for most beginners. Ask Nadia about them, i’m sure she’ll have more information for you.

I didn’t take the time to enjoy a cigar at Casa del Habano on that occasion i visited. Perhaps, next time – i look forward to it. A quiet, relaxing stop for cigar lovers of discerning tastes.