It not every day that a long time reader of this blog opens a cigar lounge (actually, his 4th such lounge in KL). So when Kevin Shah did, i was very happy to receive and accept his invitation to attend the opening night. What a great event it was. Four and a half hours, a ton of virgin libation (the mojitos are terrific), good food, great company and fantastic cigars later, i left feeling very happy.

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A very rare Cohiba-decorated Harley Davidson adorned the front of the store. A real treat to behold.

Festivities began with the arrival of H.E. Rubén Pérez Valdés, the Cuban Ambassador to Malaysia. In his speech he revealed that the date, 12 October was remarkable in the history of Cuban cigars because exactly 520 years ago, the Cuban cigar had been discovered by the Europeans! So, the lounge was opening on an auspicious date indeed! A quick ribbon cutting ceremony later, and the guests, ushered by Kevin and his team, streamed into the lounge.

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The arrival of H.E. Mr. Rubén Pérez Valdés, Cuban Ambassador to Malaysia.

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Kevin Shah, Executive Director of Casa Havana.

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A large assembly of supporters.

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H.E. Mr. Rubén Pérez Valdés, listening to Kevin’s welcoming address.

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Speech, speech!

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Illa Aza, our Master of Ceremonies. A multi-talented lady with the gift of tongues. Super-attractive too.

We were greeted by live music, swinging Cuban jazz, and eager hosts with trays full of fantastic food and drinks. Kevin led the Ambassador for a tour around the place, paying particular attention to the rather large walk-in humidor and a member’s lounge of luxurious decor. I thought the walk-in was very tasteful, with the Godfather of the Malaysian cigar scene, Dato Kadar Shah, adorning a wall with a great hand pastel portrait. The stock was pretty snappy too, a mix of old and new, most notably a selection from the private stock of Dato Kadar Shah for sale; he passed away a year ago, RIP.

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Cutting the ribbon! We’re away.

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A tour of the humidor.

Within minutes, the lounge was buzzing. Cigars were lit (i’m proud to say, i started the ball rolling with my first of the night, a Ramon Allones Specially Selected), the music volume was bumped up a notch or two, and the mingling began. This, for me, is the best part of the Brotherhood of the Leaf — regardless of where we come from and who we are, when we’re smoking a cigar together, the playing field is level, even and fair. Friendships that last a lifetime are struck. Business deals are smoothened through. Common memories become par. And so it was that night. Many hands were shook, named and faces committed to memory, and leads for the future tentatively forged. Good, very good times.

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Signing ceremony.

My second cigar of the night was a Montecristo Edmundo, tubos. It smoked great, good enough for me to take notice despite the conversation going on around me, and of which i was a part of. That distinctive woody spiciness came early, and stayed with me throughout the length of the stick. It’s been a while since an Edmundo has done that for me, so it was very welcome. The smoke volume was incredible, thick and luxurious. From a March 2011 box — watch out for these if you can find them. Real gems. Don’t be deceived by the slightly claro wrappers (as compared to the generally darker wrappers you’d find on Edmundos). They really are tasty.

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Live Cuban jazz band for the night. They set the mood with a series of upbeat favourites.

It seemed as though the who’s who of the local cigar scene turned up in force. Several recognized me from my blog (/wave) and introduced themselves. It was nice to put faces to the invisible audience a blog like this often has. Thanks for saying hello and sharing a smoke with me!

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A very old friend, Robert Lim, having a whale of a time. Smoking a Partagas de Luxe Tubos.

So if you’re in town, and staying around the famous Bukit Bintang area (Malaysia’s equivalent to Orchard Road, 5th Avenue, etc) and looking for a good place to sit down, have a few good drinks, enjoy the company of knowledgeable and friendly hostesses, and some great cigars, don’t forget to check out the Habanos Lobby Lounge, Federal Hotel. The hotel itself is a landmark in KL, so you’ll have no trouble finding it if you mention it to any cabbie in the city.

To Kevin Shah, well done, mate. Great evening it was, thanks for the invite, and good luck in the days to come.