I visited an old friend recently as part of the eid celebrations, and also because i’ve been promising to do so for the longest time, and just never have. Rehman Rashid is his name. A talented journalist and published author, a man whose work i read as part of my university coursework, whose writing i looked forward to each week in the editorials of a major Malaysian daily. We happened to meet one night years ago, cigars had brought us together. We’ve been friends ever since.

Besides his love for cigars and his penchant for the written word, he also has quite a handsome face with sharp, glorious features. A photographer’s dream; with this in mind, i dragged 20lbs of lighting gear to his home. We were going to have a chat, a cigar, and i was going to shoot his portrait.

As is customary when Brothers of the Leaf meet, we had gifts for each other. For him, a 3-pack of rare Yolanda Gonzales sublimes custom rolls, and for me the pick of anything from his humidor. Graced with cigars of such passionate quality as the Cohiba Gran Reserva 2003, i had a tough choice. But i was reminded of a story i read a long time ago, about a knight on a quest for the Holy Grail. At the end, when faced with the choice of a thousand shiny and bejeweled chalices, the knight chose the plain wooden cup. It turned out to be the Grail.

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A small (actually, tiny) corner of Rehman’s collection — try finding the Grail in that!

Not to say that my choice was the equivalent of a poor wooden cup, but it was the least illustrious of what he had to offer. I chose it because i needed my wits about me as i shot his portrait, and i knew i’d be too distracted to give one of his rarer cigars the attention it deserved. The Por Larranaga Petit Corona (PLPC), from a cab of 50 from 2010, was my choice, and it turned out to be a beautiful cigar to smoke. Rehman picked up a Vegas Robaina Famosos whose smoke aroma smelled so delicious as to make my mouth water.

The PLPC is the firm favourite of many a seasoned aficionado. Not too well known amongst common circles, it’s a staple in many rotations. Literally hundreds of them have been turned to ash by me over the years. Unlike the rough edges you can find in many a Montecristo #4 or the acquired tastes of a Cohiba Siglo II, the PLPC is a very refined cigar. The only issue with them is that they tend to take a bit longer than usual to mature to levels of acceptable smoking (don’t smoke one fresh, i tried that before, and turned a shade of green), and the signature flavour is a subtle pleasurable dash of vanilla and dark sugar; it takes seasoned smoking technique to draw these flavours out in what would otherwise be a boring cigar.

As it turned out, because we were chatting so much like a pair of old hens and because we were having so much fun in front of the camera, the cigar smoked very cooly, and gave up all it’s gorgeous secrets. A bright evolution of flavours from light, sweet nutmeg, to a dark vanilla bean, and finishing with a intense mocha coffee, peppered with laces of spice and chili bites on the tongue, lips and palate. Perhaps i was surprised as well, PLPCs rarely perform as well as this specimen i had, but perform as such it did, and i couldn’t help myself but sing it’s praises all throughout.

Maybe it was the cool mountain air, surrounded by the forest. That’s an often overlooked factor to consider when storing and smoking cigars. I can’t imagine the weather in Cuba being any more perfect that what it felt like to be in his home. Without air conditioning, a cool 20 degrees, if that.

Did we get the portraits we wanted? Yes, we did. Enjoy the images below, Rehman nubbing the VR Famosos and basking in the afterglow. Click through for the larger versions.

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Verdict: 91/100. Not a typical score for a PLPC, which usually rate in the 85-88s, but i review cigars i smoke independent of what i think or remember them delivering before. This particular stick was as about as good as i can imagine a PLPC ever being, even better than aged samples i’ve had. Complex, multi-layered, outstanding burn and construction, and flavoursome. What a treat!

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