MARK Twain once said he would only go to heaven if they smoked cigars there. If he were alive, he would only need to go as far as the Cigar Divan at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Owned by cigar aficionado David Tang, the Cigar Divan started as a joint venture between Cubatobacco and Mr Tang. It stocks the largest range of cigars in Hong Kong, with 17 brands and 97 sizes. Although the Divan is tucked away behind the lobby of the Mandarin, it is like Cuba of the 1950s. One room houses the cigars, and in the other patrons can sit and smoke one with manager Abel Gonzalez Ortego, a Cuban who came to Hong Kong to run the Divan. For real cigar diehards, the Divan hosts a Mandarin-catered dinner for 12 on the first Friday of each month. During the course of the night, diners can smoke as many of the cigars in stock as they can. The price for this smoke-as-much-as-you-can dinner is $1,000. The Cigar Divan stocks only Cuban cigars, which are considered the best in the world. Making a cigar is a complicated process done in 93 stages over 100 days, but contrary to the popular myth, cigars are not rolled on the thighs of maidens. Famous cigar smokers include Sir Winston Churchill, Mark Twain and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Jean-Claude Van Damme, action-movie hero and all-round tough guy, keeps his own stock of cigars at the Divan. He has even had a special band made bearing his image. Field-Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery once said to Sir Winston: ''I don't drink, I sleep a lot, and I don't smoke. That's why I am in 100 per cent form.'' Sir Winston's riposte was: ''I drink like a fish, I sleep little, and I smoke cigar after cigar. That's why I am in 200 per cent form.'' The British bulldog's preferred cigar was the Romeo Y. Julieta double corona, of which he would only smoke half before lighting up another. Another great cigar smoker was the late president John F. Kennedy, who had his aide go out and buy 2,000 Romeo Y. Julietas the day before he signed the decree banning Cuban cigars from the United States. The ban continues but an estimated 10 million Cuban cigars find their way into the US each year. Davidoff, another well-known brand name, is sold in three stores in Hong Kong: at the Regent Hotel; the Landmark; and the flagship Peninsula. Davidoff stopped making cigars in Cuba in 1988 and moved production to the Dominican Republic. Johnny Yau of Davidoff said the market was moving towards milder, lighter cigars of the type produced in the Dominican Republic. Last month, Davidoff brought one of its master rollers to Hong Kong to demonstrate the art of making a cigar. In many people's eyes, the Dominicans' cigars cannot be faulted - they produce a smooth, light and soothing smoke - but purists will still claim the Cuban Davidoff's are better. The Cigar Divan holds about 200 Cuban Davidoffs, but they are private stock held by Mr Ortego and Mr Tang. It takes years to master rolling a cigar. Cuban cigars are divided into two groups: those that are exported; and those for local consumption. The export cigars tend to be lighter and milder than the traditionally strong, almost black cigars preferred by the Cubans. There are 17 factories licensed for export. The largest houses include Partagas, Monte Cristo, Romeo Y. Julieta, Upmann, and Cohiba. For the aficionado, the finest cigar is the Cohiba, the brand preferred by Fidel Castro before he gave up smoking under the orders of the Ministry of Health. The Cohiba Cigar comes in nine sizes, the most expensive being the $198 Esplendido. The cheapest cigar sold at the Divan is the Quintero Panatella, which sells for $27. No matter what your preferred brand or experience in cigar smoking, the same rules apply as for wine drinking: try as many different brands as you can until you find one that pleases you most.