Had a cigar in the Davidoff Store NYC a few days ago (just arrived here from my visit to Florida) – and it was like a dream come true! I’ve visited 5 different tobacconists here, and each has their own little unique charm.

Davidoff — CLASSY — a fantastic two story outfit with HUGE walk in humidors on both floors. Must be more than 1,000 different types of cigars across 50-100 different brands (everything you could imagine except Cubans). The staff are really friendly and they are all (including two ladies) smoking cigars as they work (they are required to smoke on the job!!). I bought a Zino Platinum petit corona (US$10.50) and a Padron Anniversario 1964 Principe (US$12.50), smoked the Zino while lazing on one of the many comfy leather chairs around the shop. Browsed the shop while i smoked, and saw a cigar aficionado’s WET DREAM = Davidoff #1 Humidor = SRP US$2,900. An incredible 100-count humidor. All customers smoking in the store get a free cup of espresso (nice, and very, very sweet). Every moment or so, one of the staff would stop by by chair and chat with me. Very knowledgable in most things cigars, and all are DYING to smoke CUBANS. Told them i’m from Malaysia and they nearly wet their pants when i told them about our cigar dinners where Cuban cigars features prominently! 🙂

Nat Sherman — OLD SCHOOL — another two story store, with the largest single walk in humidor i’ve ever seen on the second floor. Half the walk in humidor is dominated by members’ private humidors (definitely something i’ll have in my divan one day) and the other half full of boxes and boxes of cigars from floor to ceiling (they’ve got ladders in the humidor!). Mostly Nat Sherman cigars, with a small selection of Padrons, Camachos, Arturo Fuentes, etc (most of the other premium non-Cubans). Staff is friendly and very sociable. They greet customers by their names and by the looks of it, this is very much like the “neighbourhood store”; old time customers are greeted with hugs, smiles and even kisses on the cheeks! Bought a Padron 3000 (US$8.90) and a Partagas mini-belicoso (US$7.90). Smoked the Partagas while strolling in a nearby park, watching the joggers and roller bladers and cyclists go by, cup of Americano coffee (US$1.50) in hand — FANTASTIC!

J&R Tobaccos — CIGAR SUPERMART — two stories, but second storey is actually underground (basement). The whole store is a HUGE HUMIDOR with tens of thousands of cigars along every single wall, floor to ceiling. Mostly lower-end cigars (no Padron Anniversarios, low-end Arturo Fuentes, no Ashton VSGs, Zino Platinums, etc.) and VERY, VERY affordable. Staff is very friendly, and came up to me and asked my name the moment i walked into the store. Told them i was looking for Padron Anniversarios — they didn’t have it so they called another store (a nearby competitor!!) and asked whether they had it. Now how’s that for CUSTOMER SERVICE!! Got many, many brands in this store (including their own HOUSE BRAND) that i’ve never heard of before. Bought a very, very cool cigar case — full leather, made by hand in Spain — US$20 and a couple of Montecruz perfectos (US$2 per stick). Smoked the perfectos as i walked to the next store — terrible cigar by my reckoning, but a useful distraction as i enjoyed the stroll to the next stop, about 5 blocks away.

Arnold’s Tobaccos — PREMIUM — a very small store with a tiny walk in humidor. What they lack in variety and quantity, they make up with quality. Boxes and boxes of Ashton VSGs, Padron Anniversarios (OMG EXPENSIVE!!!! — comparable prices to Cuban Cohibas), Arturo Fuente Hemingway Series, a few boxes of Opus X, Davidoffs, Limited Edition Camachos, La Aurora Cubas, etc. Very nice selection of accessories; picked up a Colibri Firebrand lighter (US$14.95). Staff seems knowledgable but not very customer centric. Stuck up?? Perhaps my Chinese looks don’t fit the profile of their typical cigar-smoking customer. 🙂 Oh well, their loss!

Barclay Rex Tobacconists since 1910 — CIGAR STARBUCKS — reasonable sized store with a fine selection of cigars to cater for every taste and budget. Spent the most in this shop — La Aurora Anos 100 years Limited Edition (Robusto US$14, Belicoso US$16), Ashton VSG Belicoso (US$15) and CAO Criollo robusto (US$7), Xikar Cigar Scissors Multi Tool (US$31.50). And Marc, the friendly dude behind the counter (who seems to know a lot about Malaysia), threw in a couple B-Rex (their house brand) cigars FOC. Enjoyed my time with them — the guy manning the walk in humidor was a really old guy who was fun to chat with (Marc was the front counter guy).

Impressions: You can find just about any cigar you want in this city, save for Cubans. Prices are, for a Malaysian, a bit on the steep side, but i reckon for Americans with their superior Purchasing Power Parity, cigars are still quite affordable; a good cigar here costs about the price of a McD Happy Meal. A good cigar back home in Malaysia can buy at least 10 McD Happy Meals.

Best Store: All in all, its got to be the Davidoff Store. A fantastic experience, a MUST SEE. Prices are steep (well, not really — all cigars here are sold according to their Suggested Retail Prices, plus or minus 50 cents – US$1), but service and comfort are A-Class.

Best Cigar: Been puffing away contently here, but so far the Zino Platinum is TOP CLASS. Really, really MAHAL back home (the Davidoff shop in KLCC marks up on these cigars like CRAZY — they shouldn’t cost more than a good Cuban). It compares well with just about any cigar i’ve smoked so far, PERIOD.