Does it get better than this: take 13 cigar lovers, put them in a room together, add some excellent food, throw in a pinch of cigars, and then, serve.

Results: a wonderful evening of food, cigars and some excellent company.

The cigar taste test went as planned on 21 October 2003. Only one of the promised attendees failed to turn up (he fell ill at the last moment), and once everyone was in place at 8.45 pm, proceedings began in earnest.

The mystery cigars (actually, a Tobacco de Kayang corona and churchill but no one knew what they were until much later when all was revealed) were passed out, the starter (Asian plater with all sorts of yummy goodies) arrived, and everyone started lighting up and puffing away.

After the starters were finished and cleared, the main course arrived. Some ordered the excellent filet steak, while a few oohs emanated from those who ordered the impressive sea bass in cream sauce. Gastranomical delight, to be sure.

At some point Naresh Mohan, MD of Trinidad Holdings, who was having dinner at Rahsia with his lovely wife, Sue, dropped by to say hello to everyone. He was generous enough to contribute a fine bottle of Argentinian wine to the evening.

Once dinner was squared away and dessert started to arrive, an incredibly rich apple crumble with vanilla ice cream, everyone, who was already having a great time, lit up their churchills. Puffing away, enjoying the cigar and the company, a great camaraderie began to form – Robert and his wife, Mann Linn was animated in the company of Ismail (the manufacturer of the mystery cigars, but no one at that point knew this fact); Kaz, Nur and Roslan looked like they were having a great time at their table; Tone, Hamid and Badrol kept their lively; and Amir, Hadini and Baizura kept me company at mine.

As the clock crept past midnight, it was time to reveal all and call it a night – i annouced that the mystery cigars were actually de Kayang cigars, 100% locally hand made in Perlis. A relatively new brand, just about a year old, feedback from all who tasted it that night was fairly positive – issues such as consistency in construction still need to be sorted out by de Kayang, but overall, given a bit more time, these cigars may be a surprise hit. I’ve yet to taste test the Borneo Cigars from Sabah, but between Borneo and de Kayang, things are certainly looking up for the cigar industry in Malaysia.