Part of the Rehman Rashid series of reviews

IN a corner of the humidor were two Cohiba Siglo VIes from a 2005 box of 25; back from when they were rolled with flat butts. They were no longer lion-tawny as they had been when the box lid first slid open. They had acquired the look and colour of polished mahogany.

The other 23 had gone long before, of course. These two had survived because of the Last-Two Conundrum: When down to the last two of an old batch of great cigars, the math indicates that smoking one would leave just one. Which means, regardless of what the second-last one was like, the last could never be smoked.

For if the penultimate cigar is as good as its predecessors had promised so many years earlier, how much better would the last one be with even more time on it? Conversely, if it turns out to have wilted from waiting too long (as can happen to the best of us) the last one could turn out as sadly or worse.

Years may pass mulling this dilemma. And so the last two Cohibas of that 2005 vintage had lain quietly undisturbed in the humidor for five years until last week, when I decided I’d had quite enough of this foolishness and lit one.

Over the next two hours – otherwise alone and silent on my balcony as the brief twilight of what had been broiling-hot day faded into a sultry night of fitful breezes – I learned that the finest cigar experiences are utterly unique and absolutely unrepeatable.

Not if I smoked every Siglo VI El Laguito produced, not if I bought the entire industry and smoked that too, could there be another cigar like this one.

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as “marriage” among cigars stored together for a long time. But no, it is not a bad thing. What these special creatures offer you is entirely your own – they have absorbed enough of you in the essences of the other cigars you have cared to acquire and store with them.

Here I confess again to my utter inability to describe a cigar’s flavours and aromas as experts do. I might venture analogies in the smell of an ocean or a jungle, or I might suggest music – orchestral, jazz, rock, you catch my drift.

On the rarest occasions, however, the experience is purely emotional. A Padron once evoked an exquisite melancholy; a Por Larranaga, somewhat disconcertingly, adolescent love. For this Cohiba, it was… astonishment.

It was precisely a Cohiba Siglo VI, but it was different; softer, gentler, fuller, deeper, wider and more resonant; it was embracing, it was… the word I’m groping for emerges as: wise.

There’s one left. Sitting in its corner of my humidor, looking like polished mahogany, the yellow of its band a little faded and blemished by what lies beneath. When it’s gone, there will never be another. Ever. Until the end of time.

Which is why I rather fear that’s how long it will sit there.