It was an excellent herf: a good bunch of people, a good restaurant with good food, and an outstanding offering of cigars. Nothing much else could have been better.

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Kevin Shah‘s new place, “Holy Smoke”, opened a few weeks ago. Themed after the cigars he loves so much, the decor of the place is amazing: there are a couple of Harley Davidson’s lying around, and the walls are packed with cigar memorabilia — rare prints, cigar photographs, and old Habanos brand labels. It’s like being transported into world’s most obsessed cigar den! Check out the photographs of the place (FB album).

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La Escepcion Habana RE Italia 2011

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Every herf has a party (donkey) cigar — this would be it. An unforgettable cigar for all the wrong reasons! 🙂

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Dinner, ribeye steak, well done

The pleasantries of food out of the way (i had a tasty mini ribeye steak), it was down to the serious business of cigars! My pick of the night was the new Hoyo de Monterrey Grand Epicure LE 2013: a very recent arrival to Malaysian shores, it was a cigar that i had heard a little about and was very curious to try it.

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The cigars come packed in a small cedar unvarnished coffin — quaint, but strikes me as a little bit boring and lazy on the part of Habanos SA. Whatever happened to pretty dress boxes? Have those gone out of fashion? The cigars themselves are lovely — dark rosado wrappers with a fine texture; not impeccably smooth like some, but beautiful nonetheless. The wrappers are made from leaves from the top of the tobacco plant grown under shade. The aroma at cold is sweet; small hints of honey and spice. It’s an impressively constructed cigar with obviously top quality tobacco, weighing in at ring gauge 55 x 130 mm in length. A mini super robusto.

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Dave Ching

A quick cut and light, and we were away. The first few draws were very spicy! I looked over at Dave Ching, and raised my eyebrow in appreciation: he winked back with a smile. The cigar was from his box, and he knew what i was getting in to. Draw was lush and ample, perfect. The first third immediately reminded me of the H Upmann LE 2009s, even the wrapper texture and colour looked alike. Spicy, peppery and bitter sweet. It was quite a blast, and would probably overwhelm a new smoker.

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Kevin Shah

The second half came as the herf talked and laughed about a variety of topics: from how women looked with cigars, to politics, to business and various cigar industry gossips. Kevin Shah is a bit of a cigar baron here in Malaysia, owning the famed La Casa del Habanos franchise here in Malaysia, and several stores across the country — he has insights on ALL the news. Quite a fun guy to tap on when you want the latest news about the cigar world.

The cigar by now was still performing strongly. Some may argue, too strong. Smoke volume was billowing and flavourful, and it was doing a very good job to put me on my backside. The spiciness had receded by then, replaced with a nutty overtone laced with bitter coffee bean crunch. It is quite a raw cigar: a lot of power, and not too much refinement. The tannic bite was pronounced by now, and an obvious marker than it isn’t really a “smoke-now” cigar. Give it 5 years, allow it to mellow out and meld, and the proposition will be very different.

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A striking resemblance

The final third was still full on power. Normally, when having a cigar in a group of chatty friends, i am able to tune out the cigar somewhat if i want to. But this is one of those rare occasions when the cigar won’t let me. Almost like a stallion that only knows one speed: full gallop. The spiciness came back and by the end my lips felt as though they had died a death of a thousand pinpricks. What a ride. What a ride.

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Verdict: 86/100. This cigar has potential. It won’t be a hit LE like the Cohiba 1966s, at least not now. So it’s very likely that you’ll still be able to find it in the open market 2-3 years from now. It’s definitely worth the wait. I’d wait 2 years at least before taking the plunge with a couple of boxes of these. Given 4-5 years, this LE may become incredibly delicious. For now, it’s one-dimensional (power 3x) and raw.