There is no real shortage of cigar lounges here in KL, or rather shall i say there are no shortage of places that call themselves “cigar lounges”. There are several things that a place needs to have before it can lay claim to being the real deal.
- Cigars. Lots of them, and not just the stuff for “tourists” (someone who enjoys a good smoke, but couldn’t tell the difference between a Montecristo and a Partagas). A good lounge has a good selection of cigars, ranging from the main brands like Cohiba and Montecristo to the less celebrated like Por Larranagas and Ramon Allones.
- Knowledgeable sales staff, preferably a cigar sommelier of several years of smoking experience who is able to educate, entertain and recommend suitable pairings. The last part of this is really tricky and equally revealing. A person who has just memorized what the Cuban Cigar Website has to say about every brand may sound knowledgeable, but a true sommelier is able to deliver the full experience, including food and drink pairings that will light up all your senses.
- A Theme. Lots of places think that to qualify as a cigar lounge, all they need is to cobble together a few chairs and tables, serve some drinks and offer cigars and voila, a cigar lounge you will be. But that’s not true. You become a place that sells tobacco, at best a tobacconist. A cigar lounge is not just about the cigars, it’s about the experience. Like it or not, cigars are a luxury item, something that when we light up (which tends to be fairly rare unless you can afford it), we want to be treated to a fun and happy experience. A lounge with an appropriate theme goes a long way to making this happen. Some of the best lounges i’ve been to in Kuala Lumpur are decorated so tastefully that you feel you’ve been transported to Havana. Others, resemble a latin bar with great live music (loud, but fun, and a great place to have a cigar).
- Perfect storage conditions. When you walk into the lounge, or at least the humidor where the cigars are kept, the air has to be cool, not cold, with just a touch of humidity in the air. Look for a digital hygrometer to tell you the humidity and temperature; every good lounge will have one of these displayed. For a place like Kuala Lumpur where our ambient humidity is extremely high, the room needs to actually feel drier than it is outside. If the lounge is in a mall or a hotel where the air is kept cool through air conditioning, don’t forget that air conditioning dries the air; therefore, the lounge or the humidor needs to feel more humid than the ambient. If the cigar lounge doesn’t get this right, it means that the cigars are not being stored properly, and may taste/burn funny.
There are lots of other details that go into a good cigar lounge, but as long as the 4 items above are satisfied, then it should be fine.
A new cigar lounge recently opened in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, named WTF (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot). The owner, Bob Chua, is a nice guy who knows his cigars and knows his whiskeys. Cigars and whiskeys, especially refined single malts go very well together — it’s interesting that no other place in KL took these two elements and paired them together as a selling point before WTF opened.
With a very British feel to the place, the decor is lovely. The humidor is the first thing you see when you enter through the password-controlled front door. Rows of fantastic cigars, some of which are incredibly rare including Cuban Grand Reservas. A good selection of non-Cuban cigars. And some lovely accessories on display. Quite a first impression!
Once you’re through the humidor, you enter the lounge. A well stocked bar. Sets of plush leather seats. And to the left, one wall is dominated by Member’s Lockers — small lockers where members to WTF can store their prized cigars. Quite a generously sized locker too — easily large enough to squeeze in 7-10 boxes of varying sizes. There are two members-only private rooms at the back, equipped with their own LCD TVs. Not a very large setup, but cozy, comfortable and luxurious.
What i like most about the place is the service. The staff, led by the manager, Jaz, is quick to serve (my cup never went dry), very attentive, and hungry to learn. They’ve got a ways to go still as far as their knowledge about cigars goes, but you can tell that they are fast learners under the tutelage of Bob Chua.
After speaking to Bob for a bit i was impressed with the plans he’s got for a place. Activities are the lifeblood of any lounge, and he’s got them all lined up for WTF. Launch events. Whiskey tastings. Cigar appreciation nights. Even some talk about a members’ trip to Havana. That plus a plan to open several more WTFs around KL in the months to come make him a man with a plan. I was suitably impressed.
If you’re in Kuala Lumpur and looking for a place to smoke some amazing cigars and drink some of the finest whiskeys on earth, look up WTF. It’s got a semi-strict member’s-only rule. But if you give Bob a ring and let him know in advance you’re coming and that Aizuddin from My Cigar Blog sent you, i’m sure he’ll open the doors for you.
Check out WTF’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/WhiskyTangoFoxtrotMY
Address: 128B Jalan Kasah, Medan Damansara, 50490 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysia
Telephone: 03-2011 2056