An international visit to the Sociedad Lung Kong in Havana…

Additional photos courtesy of Tom MacDowall / "tmac77" and John Winston Reiner / "cigarsurgeon"

Ah, the joys of being in Havana, and bringing some good cheer to others.  That was basically the first order of business for us as part of this year’s trip for the Encuentro de Amigos de Partagas.

A little over a year ago, good friend Nino Munoz brought some info to light to many of us about this Cantonese society in Havana.  It started with a gentleman by the name of Mr. Pok Chi Lau happening upon meeting a lady by the name of Caridad, and her relating to him the story of her adoptive father, a Cantonese opera performer, and her adoption as a little girl in the Barrio Chino in Havana oh so many decades ago.  What evolved was a lovely documentary that Mr. Lau put together, illustrating the frustrating confliction of a zest-for-life and also the desparation that’s faced by many of the Chinese diaspora in Cuba.  The write-up and documentary videos, found here on Nino’s blog, are heartwarming and enlightening.

This was followed by many of us in the Canadian cigar community from FOH, and more specifically by many in the Toronto area directly, wanting to participate in some way.  Many of our members and friends are Asian, some have Asian spouses, and the Chinese community in the Greater Toronto Area, at just under 500,000 people, is the largest outside of China and Hong Kong themselves (take THAT San Francisco and Vancouver!!!)

In November of last year then, during last year’s Partagas Encuentro, a number of the Canadian travellers were able to meet the society members there, and bring some gifted donations.  Unfortunately, I missed that trip, but I heard from all the others about the continuing need.

So, in February/March earlier this year, a few of our Toronto area cigar-smoking-circle friends wanted to participate further, Edward and David.  They were able to meet up with Nino, and go to see Graciela Lau, the President of the Lung Kong Society there in Havana, and bring some more gifted items and cheer.

Onwards and upwards it would continue.

This past spring, when co-ordinating the planning for this past summer’s 2014 Toronto MegaHerf IV, it was agreed to by Art, Tom, Frank and myself that we would split the proceeds going towards charities, and include the Lung Kong Society in Havana to a 50% share (with the other 50% going to FOH friend Rob Schildt’s Nicaraguan Children’s Feeding Mission, a charity that we have provided for since the inception of the Toronto MegaHerf charity event).

So, as this August’s MegaHerf IV raised many thousands of dollars, we had some good will to bring last week to the ladies and gents of the Lung Kong.  Many suitcases were stuffed to the brim.  A generous benefactor from Hong Kong (thank you again, kind sir), who has donated in the past and has an emotional connection to the people we’re helping, even assisted us in providing some traditional Chinese items and assisting in shipping arrangements to Nino so that we could hand these items over in Havana.  Tom and Ed here in Toronto co-ordinated a gargantuan task of sourcing out needed and wanted items – a vast conglomerate of stuff from within the Chinese shops and communities in Toronto, kitchenwares, foodstuffs and seasonings, medical items, etc. – and they then led the co-ordination with other trip participants to ensure everything was transported safely and effectively.  Enough can’t be said of these two, and the pathway that they have led for the rest of us in this venture, as their heart’s are tied to the cause incredibly so.

And so, Nino (with his travel-mate-cum-partner-in-crime Yannick) assisted us in being welcomed by Graciela and the ladies and gents of the Lung Kong Society on the Sunday afternoon, after arriving in Cuba the day before.  We were treated as slightly-embarassed guests, welcomed at a head table, honoured to be allowed a little window into their daily lives, and able to bring some much needed items.

They are continuing renovations on their society’s building, in the hopes of opening up a small restaurant to become a somewhat self-sufficient revenue source for the society.  We were invited to their shrine, and requested to light incense sticks in honour of both the gods above and of elders gone before (both theirs and ours – miss you Dad).

It was an enlightening visit.  A stark reminder of the frustrating contrasts that exist in Cuba – of the happiness that Cubans (of all ethnic groups, ages, and persuasions) can have no matter how much or little they may have, and then, on the flip side of the coin, simply how little they do have to even be happy about.  I was exposed to these ironies many years ago while working as a missionary in the Dominican Republic while in high school, but these little reminders help to keep one grounded in today’s evolving world.

I’m happy to be a part of this small bit of cheer that we could bring to the Lung Kong.  I was able to witness the pleasure that our visit brought to them, and how much it seemed to energize them.  Prouder still that I was allowed a peek into this interesting side of Havana that was first opened to us by Nino and Ed and Tom, etc.  And as Tom stated so eloquently, and Nino assisted us in translating, we feel happy to help as much as we can and did, but sad in that it’s only a small piece of what’s needed.

I will say this…those ladies and gents have a great sense of humour as well.  They refer to Nino as “Santa Claus” – it seems somewhat unfathomable to them that some white-haired crazy gringo from a northern land of snow, and outside of their social or ethnic circle, would be simply gifting them with resources and items from their traditional culture.  So, it surprised me when I, lucky or not, got given a nickname as well – hell, I was simply a passenger on this visit, more so to be there to document all the work that Tom and Nino have put in for this.  But somehow (potbelly aside, I have no idea why – well okay, maybe I don’t have much hair left either), Graciela and a few others took to calling me “Buddha”.  LOL.  She said it was because I was part of a great group of givers.

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Well, as my wife would say, it wouldn’t likely be because I was “the enlightened one”!

Cheers all.

Texts from Drunk Dave…

Featured image courtesy of Marc Hubler.

So, “Texts from Drunk Dave”.

I’m hoping that most of you have had the enjoyment in the past of stumbling across the “Texts from Dog” Tumbler page.  Basically, for those who haven’t (and please click on the link – I’ll give you a shiny nickel if that page doesn’t make you smile), it’s pure comedy gold.  It’s set on the idea that a guy gets his dog a cell phone so they can communicate over the great man-versus-dog language barrier.  It’s a bunch of screen-grab pics of those various little conversation snippets, played out in cell phone texts.  Great in its execution and set-up of some of the jokes.

Then…there’s Drunk Dave.

Drunk Dave is the evil Doctor-Jekyll-and-Mr-Hyde arch-nemesis of David, a new guy on our group trip of Canadians down to the Encuentros Partagas last week.  Big tall guy, crazy marathon runner, churro lover like myself and Marc, out for a good time in Havana with the ladies, and able to recover from a night of drinking like nobody’s business.  This, then, led to David frequently becoming Drunk Dave.

He starts off the week with us all going on an arrival-night bender til the wee hours of the morning – and then running a 10k-variant of a planned 1/2-marathon with the Havana Marathon going on the next day.  Caps it off by getting slugged again the next day.

2014-11-15 22_25_13
Courtesy of John Winston Reiner

Rarely passed up a chance to fill his pockets with cans of Cristal, never turned down a mojito, and frequently twisted the arms of the rest of us (oh so hard, I know, LOL) into doing bottle service with lots and lots of rum.

But then it happened.  He had no “wingmen” for an evening.  He did end up going out with one older gent, but it wasn’t enough for Drunk Dave.  While the rest of us tried to have one single night of decent sleep during the week, and to try to prep for the mad dash which would become the last few days, Drunk Dave was in full swing.  At the bar.  Alone.  With a cell phone.

And so, with me going to bed at the completely unreasonable-to-Drunk-Dave time of about 10:40 pm, it began.  He started texting me.  Trying to get us to come out to the bar.  I tried to send him a tongue-in-cheek, shrug-it-off way of saying fuck off and let me sleep, but oh no, that wasn’t good by Drunk Dave.  As I snored away after switching my phone to silent mode, the texts continued…until damn near 2am.  LOL…





But lord love him, he can recover from a 5am-ending night like Superman shrugs off a mosquito bite.  And like me – he loves a damn good super-loaded-full-of-rum pina colada.

Honey – for the record, he didn’t see shit.

Nice try, Dave – I know better than to store stuff like that on my cell phone.  Unlike others.  Ahem, ahem, ahem, Monsieur Dav-id!!!!!

Long live the Drunk Dave.  Here’s to next year’s trip.  I better start training now to keep up.  LOL.

Cheers all.

Cigar Review – La Flor de Cano Siboney 2014 RE Canada, Sep 2014 “OEP” box code; Final Score – 82

So, when down at last week’s Encuentros Partagas, I and a number of other Canadian bloggers, vendors, and passionate consumers got to participate in an invite pre-release tasting panel of the “new” 2014 Edicion Regional for Canada, the La Flor de Cano Siboney.  I say “new” in that it’s the 2014 RE, yet it still hasn’t been released to market (expected release date to the Canadian market, per Havana House personnel there at the event, puts the release date somewhere in the January-February 2015 timeframe).

A few weeks before we went down for this event, I was able to get teed up with Damarys and Roger from Havana House (the official Habanos distributor in Canada), and they were generous in their invite details and planning in letting myself and a number of other Canadian travellers to participate in this event.  No matter the outcome of the cigar tasting, Roger and others there were generous hosts, and we had a great roundtable discussion on some various points that afternoon.  It was nice to see a number of the other ladies and gents there that day, including seeing Jose Lugo again after a number of years (formerly with Havana House in Canada).

But for the cigar – it wasn’t a good day…

Our tasting took place in the Piano Bar room at Club Habana, in the Miramar area west of Havana.  I’ve gone to Club Habana before but mostly for shopping trips to the LCDH store there to see Jorge and load up on Monsdales, or to have a beach-side lunch with the international menagerie of trouble-makers.  But for this private tasting event, the Piano Bar room made for a great setting – ornate carvings and artwork throughout, giant Caribbean full-frame throw-open windows, and a beachfront view.  The tasting setting could not have been in a more tranquil and wonderful setting.

The day itself was the exact opposite however.  Prior to the tasting event, while at a great lunch at a new-to-many-of-us paladar in the Playa neighbourhood, the torrential rains had begun.  It became an exercise in Cuban perseverance to obtain a private cab to the function, with the weather what it was, with the driver not even having a clue what or where Club Habana was, and with me and my travellers having to explain to him in our poor and broken Spanish (due to him not speaking a lick of English).  Then the amazing feat of 1950’s vehicles maneuvering through flooded streets truly began – driving in those conditions, never before have I felt such an urge to put on a seatbelt in vehicles that just simply don’t often have them.

These conditions, super rainy, humid and damp, actually began a number of days previous to the tasting.  It was an incredibly constant and rainy couple of days, and with the cigars barely a month-and-a-half young, no doubt led to the tasting being what it was, unfortunately.

This was obviously the first of these, and one of only a very few handfuls of LFDC cigars I’ve even smoked.  I don’t really have a “brand profile” for these in mind, so I’d like to think it was as neutral of a one-up tasting for this cigar that I was able to do, without this being a fully-blind tasting.

Reviewed Cigar:  La Flor de Cano Siboney, 2014 RE Canada

Box Date:  Sep 2014

Factory / Manufacture Code:  OEP (we were informed that these cigars were rolled at the old Montero factory.)

Packaging:  25-box, semi-boite natural box, numbered boxes (box # 0000 of 2000)

Price per cigar:  Expected Canadian retail price quoted to be in the $18-$19 per stick range

Length:  4 3/8″, or 110 mm

Ring Gauge:  42

Format:  Minutos / shortened petit corona

Weight:  Unknown (felt extremely light for the size)

Construction/Appearance & Pre-Light:  I was handed my sample by Roger of Havana House, and was also given a tasting sheet, and we were off to the races.  This particular had a somewhat rustic-looking wrapper.  Nice, mild Colorado colour tones, but missing what I like to see with this tone of wrapper – it was lacking a good sheen of oily richness.  Overall though, the cigar itself was actually quite beautiful for how small it was.

This cigar was a very firm cigar.  The cigar, for it’s size and light weight, was extremely firm with a well-packed foot.  After clipping the head, taking some cold draws, and gaspingly, not in a good way, the draw was incredibly easy for how tight and firm the cigar itself was.  All of us at the tasting were somewhat taken aback by this.  Raisin flavours at cold.

Opening Impressions:  After a lighting up and initial draws, the opening had an easy burn and draw.  Very light wispy smoke.  Not viscous in it’s consistency on the palate at all.  Sour tinge.  Wrapper didn’t want to get going.  Touch up with the torch a bit, and keep on carrying on.

First Third:  Into the first third, the story continued along, unfortunately.  Thin smoke.  Big, giant, gaping expanses of smokey mouthfuls when pulled on, but faint wispy smoke.  As one of the other gents stated, “much ado about nothing”.  Sour raisins.  Some white peppery notes in the background.  Very flat finish on the palate.

Looking for something to be hopeful there, we were all unfortunately getting very similar hits of one main element – sour raisins.  A bold, strong flavour, but with no underlying complexity or “goodness” about it, and something that just landed flat on the palate without a carrying-tune of accompanying flavours or viscous, creamy smoke.  Not what any of us were hoping for or expecting.

A few relights / touch-ups, but the burn was quite nice overall – wasn’t actually burning like it was a “wet” cigar.

Second Third:  Into the second third, getting a fairly big nicotine hit.  Continuing with the one-note sour raisin core.  Tart, potent, and too much strength for the lack of depth.  One gent said it very well – take the label off, and this seems like a cheap, power-bomb, non-Cuban cigar.  Tangy coffee tinge sliding in and out ever so mildly.

At the start of the second third, I really tried to slow down my smoking of this cigar.  Some tasters really noted that the cigar “seemed to burn itself”.  My example didn’t seem too bad in that respect – I honestly wanted it to be done sooner, in that it was such a bold sourness and unfavourable tasting cigar.  So, I did my damnedest to slow down my smoking it, to almost smoke it like a PL Montecarlos or a LGC MdO 1 or 3, etc., to try and “weaken” the flavour profile somewhat, and to make it more palatable.

Nope.  Then…

Final Third:  Further nope.  Just couldn’t do it anymore.  Had to set it down to die.  Honestly, if not for the tasting / review, this thing would have been chucked into oblivion within the first 10 minutes or so, only into the beginning third.  This cigar was simply too harsh, nicotine filled, and heavy-handed strong with a sour single-note song to play.

Finishing Comments / Overall Impression:  This LFDC Siboney just either isn’t ready, or isn’t blended right.

Though I slowed my smoking rate for it right down, the 40-minutes it took me to go through the first two-thirds of this stick was a long voyage.  It unfortunately wasn’t worth the time investment.

The sour raisin tones, non-Cuban twang, and other aspects of this made for a quite unpleasant cigar for us.  As of now, this is a definite no-go, for me at least.  Granted, I freakin’ hate trying to make a sure guess when a cigar doesn’t even have 6 months of age on them.  However, when such a treat in Havana-cigar-smoking is smoking cigars with 6-weeks or less of age on them, such wet cigars like fresh-from-the-rolling-table customs, it’s also hard for me to think it’s 100% the cigar’s lack of performance.  Maybe it just simply is not a good blend.  As it currently sits, the blend, if that’s what it is, frankly sucks.  I smoked quite a number of other sticks that week, with lots of age and none, and everything smoked how it should, wet and humid conditions or not.

I’ll give it another go in 6 months.  For whatever reason, I just can’t completely write it off – most Canadian RE’s have been quite great, with some very well reputed (Boli Simones and B2’s, VR Anniversarios, etc.).  I’m truly hoping that it was just a bad couple sticks that we (all) had, and is perhaps a too-fresh or too-wet thing, and not a bad-blend thing.  So, I’ll try another one in 6 months or so.

As it currently stands, I gave it an 84 at the event, but upon further thought and re-reading my own review, it only maybe deserves an 82 – and I believe I’m being generous there.  But honestly, if not for the overall strength of it, and hoping that it could perhaps develop into an 86-89 cigar in the future maybe, I indeed would have chucked it at the one-third point, and only given it a 76-80.  Frankly, this cigar, blend improvement or not, does not have much of a future I’m guessing.

It’s a minutos.  It’s going up against other minutos and perlas, such as Party Short, RASSC, Monte 5’s, SCDLH El Principe, Trini Reyes, etc.  When you have that kind of a flavour variety, and for such reasonable prices, why in the hell would you pay the Canadian expected market prices of $18 to $19 a stick?!  IF this cigar improves in either blend or performance in very short time, with this thing focused on those looking for a very short cigar for a quick little flavour bomb in colder-weather-months, it’s STILL going to be a hard sale unless that price point is changed.  Hell, one of my favourites, the RA Extras EL 2011 retail for roughly $22 CDN a stick.  With a special vintage-look band.  And aged / special EL tobaccos being used.  And a much larger smoke (probably about double the overall amount of tobacco used per stick).  Why in the hell would anyone want to pay $18 to $19 a stick for this cigar, in normal boxes, with nothing special to offer, and seemingly with such a bad blend???

Gawd, fingers crossed, I’d love to see this succeed.  Cigar smoking in Canada, much less the world, doesn’t need any more shots across the bow to dissuade any interested newfound smokers – tasting this cigar as a new smoker, you’d think all us cigar veterans are crazy.

I also want to stress that a bad review of the cigar does not reflect my opinion of the event itself, or of Havana House graciously hosting us all.  We had a great time nonetheless, and Roger and the other Havana House and H S.A. personnel there also were courteous in doing a little sit-down to answer some of our various questions about the RE program and such.  So, I truly hope that when I do a revisit of this cigar in six months’ time or so, I’m able to eat crow on this review, and it scores much better.

Final Score:  82

Total Smoking Time:  40 minutes

Date & Time Smoked:  November 20th, 2014; lit up at 4:40 pm, done at 5:20 pm

Paired Beverage:  Mojitos

Last Meal:  “Tic-Tac Boquitas”, hamburger-bacon-and-onion and shrimp-and-blue-cheese bocazas, 2:10 pm

Smoking Conditions:  Super humid, windy, rainy, 26 degrees Celsius, 92% RH

Thanks for reading my review.  Hope you enjoyed it.

Cheers all.

And so the travesty in Ferguson, Missouri reaches it’s tragic denouement…

Watching CNN right now.  The prosecutor isn’t even done reading his statement.  Within two minutes of stating “no indictment for Officer Wilson on any of the five counts”, the crowd is already unravelling.

Video snippets are already being shown of crowds of protestors running down the streets, already starting to cause mayhem, with the police already forming their riot lines.  Aggressive and tactical posturing is beginning on both sides.

Thoughts and prayers go out to the true residents of that small city, and the general area.  The looks of “professional protesters” are appearing to make this into an ugly and unfortunate climax.  As if the whole situation wasn’t bad enough, people are already starting to take advantage, yes advantage, of the situation as it is.  Peaceful protesting it is not.

Even with what the prosecutor is reading appearing to show that Michael Brown did in fact charge at Officer Wilson, and did appear to try to disarm the officer (which is a threat of serious-bodily-harm-or-death, directly armed or not, and not the completely innocent “little boy” that some try to proffer), people will look at it as a 100% race-against-race issue, and not for what it is – resentment and distrust, on both sides of the coin, leading to the destruction of two families and a community enduring the national embarrassment of the tragedy of social and racial disparities.

Good luck to them all.  Patience, understanding, racially-unbiased-justice and better temperaments are needed.

Back from Havana in one piece…relatively…

So, another trip to Havana has come and gone.  Lots of ups and downs, some food poisoning and weather issues, some interesting news tidbits and a very few nice finds.  More posts will come in the following days, but here are some of my highlights…

  • Epic boxes to be found of some common production stuff.  Still too few and far between, but some great gems could be found.  Not much love felt lately for many cigars and brands outside of the “big stuff” (Montecristo, especially the Open line, Partagas, tons of RyJ, HdM, fair amount of Trinidad, etc.)
  • Almost nothing found of outside-of-the-norm or vintage stuff, aside from a few partial boxes or hidden gems.
  • NO appearance of new RE’s or LE’s that I saw anywhere, until finding a newly-arrived-but-not-yet-opened mastercase of Cohiba Robusto Supremos at a LCDH on the last day of the festival week (bad business move by H S.A. yet again – why skip out on a busy week for cigar fans with the festival?!!?!)
  • Higher-than-normal appearance of tobacco beetles being found in production boxes at the LCDH’s.
  • Minimal amount of tobacco available to custom rollers still being felt.
  • LOTS OF RUM!!!!
  • Next to no Cubita coffee to be found, no Cafe Serrano at all (a shame, being that’s my favourite), but some other miscellaneous brand was found everywhere, but explained to me by a couple of store clerks as Cuba’s “no-name brand” and best to steer clear of.
  • A great visit, graciously organized and assisted by Nino Munoz, for us to see the ladies and gents of the Lung Kong Society in Havana, where we brought a number of gifts to help them in proceed of the funds raised during this past summer’s Toronto MegaHerf IV.
  • Two new series of exclusive jars from San Ramon Producciones to be released in February 2015 during the next Habanos Festival, and which will be discussed here in full detail later this week.
  • A special tasting event was held courtesy of Havana House for the 2014 RE Canada, the LFDC Siboney.  It’s due to be released February or so, and it does not look favourable as it currently stands.  A full review will be up later on this week (now completed and can be found here).
  • A new friend and fellow Havana-goer from Canada, David, has exposed us all to the newfound joys of both normal David (which is a term I use loosely, LOL) and then “Drunk Dave”.  Many hijinks were had.  David, I think I may still have some of your money in my pants pocket.
  • MUCH higher prevalence of the “money exchange scam” being run.  It’s always been occurring at the Cadeca exchange at the Varadero airport, in moderate amounts.  But, travellers in my group, myself included, noticed it going on everywhere and very constant and consistently, including even at the Cadeca exchange AT the Hotel Nacional!  That’s usually a very safe place, especially as “cigar central” during these weeks, but it was definitely prevalent more than usual this week.
  • Some great times shared again with Nino, Rob Ayala and other Aussie, Canadian, Euro, American, etc. FOH members, Rob Fox, Amir Saarony, Hamlet, Jose Candia, La China, etc., meeting again with Jose Lugo, and a chance to finally meet up with a number of other notables (Bart, Aussie “Motorhead-Lemmy”, some more Havana House and H S.A. people, etc.).  One great thing is that the overall group of us managed to make everyone’s favourite “one-eyed cat” jazz club, otherwise known as the “Irish Embassy”, into the “Commonwealth Consulate”, as nearly every night it seemed the various menagerie of us managed to pack into that sweaty little spot.  As always, great times were had.
  • Got to help Hamlet sell some boxes at the Partagas LCDH, as he was busy prepping for the closing gala.  Got to go through bunches of Sir Winnies, Mag 46’s, La Fuerza’s, etc.  Even, when he got tied up and spinning with so much going on, starting picking out boxes for various people in the store, with Hamlet then giving final approval of the boxes I picked.  Just a fun time, and unique to have me picking out boxes for others, with Hamlet 100% happy and approving of my picks, with his usual drawl of, “Mang, now that’s a nice box, buddy!”

So, more will be forthcoming later on this week.  Needless to say, by the attached photo, I did find enough to fill my luggage at least, LOL.  Bit of a hit by Customs on this end though, but still a well-worth-it stockpile.  A selection of some of the goods:

  • Hotel Nacional ashtrays for myself and some friends
  • Couple boxes of Partagas Culebras
  • Glorious box of SCDLH La Fuerza
  • Partial box of Montecristo EL 2010 Grand Edmundos
  • Partial box of H. Upmann EL 2012 Robustos
  • Monsdales, Monsdales, and more Monsdales!!!
  • A couple choice customs from other miscellaneous rollers
  • Partagas “Serie Club” 10-pack, as the “premium leader in the small cigar market“, LOL, or so the badly-translated H S.A. propaganda from the opening dinner would have us believe
  • More aged Cohiba Siglo V’s from 2005 that I managed to hunt down and scoop up
  • Custom jar for a good friend
  • And, last but not least, just a wee bit of rum

Still fighting off the hangover recovery from the overall toll that the week takes on me.  Definitely not as young as I used to be.

Better start training the body and mind for the next event then!

Cheers all.

Off to Cuba again!!!

So, I’m off to Cuba again, to enjoy some much-needed-time-at-rest-and-play in La Habana.

Looking forward to meeting old and new friends alike.  Sounds like we’ve got lots of interesting things ahead of us with some big parties, the Partagas Encuentros opening dinner in Plaza de Armas (it’ll be a great venue for it!), some deep-sea fishing, a few private tastings, and meeting up with a lot of the usual suspects.  Hell, the FOH party alone looks to have just over 50 people there!

Lots more great cigars, tastings, reviews, photos and good times to come!

See you all on the flip side!

Cheers all.

Cigar Review – Partagas Piramides EL 2000, Nov 2000 “RAR” box code; Final Score – 88

Got another review here today.  This is a traded stick from a great BOTL, and a fellow CF member to boot.

He and I have done a number of trades now, and these were included a couple times before.  These Partagas Piramides were the first of H S.A.’s Edicion Limitada program, and as was the standard at the time, were cigars that were not in the normal portfolio of the brands chosen (the top 5 Habanos brands), and were made using wrapper leaves aged at least 2 years (which is longer than normal, and in later years of the program, this changed to being all leaves being used aged to this minimum).

Past their prime though?  Let’s see…

Reviewed Cigar:  Partagas Piramides LE 2000

Box Date:  Nov 2000

Factory / Manufacture Code:  RAR

Packaging:  25-box, standard dress box

Price per cigar:  N/A (trade; from Bahrain Ritz-Carlton)

Length:  6 1/8″, or 156 mm

Ring Gauge:  52

Format:  Piramides

Weight:  14 grams / 0.5 oz

Construction/Appearance & Pre-Light:  These are a slightly rustic, mangy looking cigar.  They have that circa-early-2000’s Partagas wrapper – leathery, wrinkled, bark-like in appearance, but with a lovely toasted tobacco aroma.  These early EL’s don’t seem to have quite the level of wrapper that’s been used in more recent years.  That said, the wrapper on this one wasn’t too bad – it was slightly dull and matte-looking, but this piramide was nicely symetrical and had some beautiful bunching to it.  There were some slighly veiny spots, but no soft or hard spots – the weight and construction of it felt quite nice.

After clipping the head, the draw on this was slightly more resistive than I wished for.  At cold, there were hints of old wood, all-spice, and a tinge of anise root / black licorice.  Hmmmm – interesting…

Opening Impressions:  After a lighting up and initial draws, the draw was actually quite nice when lit.  There wasn’t a ton of smoke with this, and it wasn’t overly viscous on the palate.  Slightly citric-acidity there on the taste profile.  Smell of fine and overly-dried herbs burning.

First Third:  Into the first third, this showed some hints of pepper on the couple of retrohales I gave this cigar, but it was extremely finite.  This cigar was very minimal on the powerhouse presence of pepper that my last one of these had (to the best of my recollection – my Cigar Dossier is packed up somewhere).

Frankly, I was already a bit disappointed with this cigar at this point.  I was hoping for a bit more.  It seemed to be looking at me, longing to be smoked, leaving me eagerly anticipating that which would come to pass.  But…meh.  There was a dark, old wood tone in there – almost like an old chunk of walnut wood was slowly being burned.  A fragrant-ness that was there, but not of the blowing-your-socks-off-kind.  And, since that wasn’t there, that aged refinement that some cigars get, gloriously aged LGC, QdO, old-school Monte or HdM, this cigar just simply didn’t have that there either.  Almost like the seco leaf, which imbibes that in a cigar that’s aged for a decade or longer, almost like it was forgot to be put in this cigar.  There was none of that perfumey, tea-like, aromatic class to this cigar.  And, being a Partagas, I was really hoping for one or the other.

Second Third:  Into the second third, things somewhat continued.  I began to notice that the burn was not impeccable.  I had to do a number of relights, and if I left the cigar alone for more than a minute, it easy petered out.  Got me thinking it was kinda like a hot date gone wrong – and if I left her alone for more than a moment, she’d wither away and die on me.  Got to be that feeling that it was almost a chore to keep her entertained.  Gawd, I hate that!

But then…

Some improvement!

About mid-way through the cigar, started to get a tinge of candied orange peel.  That citrus, sour, orange rind tone, being smacked back and forth on my palate by some wet, aged, old leather.  The smoke’s lack of viscousness continued.  Beautiful, rich, white ash.  Minimal smoke between puffs, but a decent amount with each pull.

And suddenly…

White pepper.  Ahhhhhh!  Just a few hints of it, fading in and out, but it was there.  Not the dense pepper that I was hoping to get, but it was showing up for the event finally.

Final Third:  Into the final third, it just kept growing and carrying on from the middle of the cigar.  White pepper, sour preserved orange rind, dark walnut wood smoldering in the fireplace, some wet leather drying over the hearth.

Damn, this was starting to get better and better.  Then…it was done.

Finishing Comments / Overall Impression:  I wish the whole cigar was like the 2nd half.  This was almost a night and day cigar; like two cigars wrapped in the same wrapper.  I was thinking in the first half about how 14 years might have been too much for this blend, how it’s Partagas essence might be all but evaporated into the hands of time.  But then, the 2nd half of the cigar made me a believer again.  If it was all like that, man, with the aged refinement hopefully coming into play more, it could have been wonderful.

Alas, it was just what it was.

Final Score:  88

Total Smoking Time:  1 hr and 35 minutes

Date & Time Smoked:  November 9th, 2014; lit up at 3:50 pm, done at 5:25 pm

Paired Beverage:  Havana Club Anejo 7 Anos and Coke

Last Meal:  Meat & cheese cracker plate lunch, w/ elk meat summer sausage, 12:20 pm

Smoking Conditions:  Climate-controlled garage, 21 degrees Celsius, 72% RH

Thanks for reading my review.  Hope you enjoyed it.

Cheers all.

Cigar Review – Ramon Allones Grandes 2008 RE Espana, Oct 2008 “TEB” box code; Final Score – 93

So, as I needed to get the swing of things rolling again, I’ve got another review here – a wonderful stick, the RA Grandes, which was the 2008 Regional Edition for Spain.

It’s a delicious behemoth…

I enjoyed this during a visit with some good ol’ buddies of mine.  A couple of guys that I’ve known for more than two decades now – we all go way back, grew up separately initially but found each other in high school, have since stood up at each others’ weddings, have got into WAY too much trouble together, etc.  I’ve always been told to make sure I have good friends outside of my work environment – guys that I don’t have to worry about “talking shop” with, and moaning about little things, etc.  Guys that I can rely on to get my headspace out of the sights, sounds, and smells from work, and get me back to civilization / “normal” reality in my off hours.  Guys that I can just be myself with.  Guys that help keep me grounded and sane (yes – it can be a full-time job sometimes).

Some great buddies.   Its always great times when we’re hanging out together.  And we shared some wonderful cigars…

Reviewed Cigar:  Ramon Allones Grandes, 2008 RE Espana

Box Date:  Oct 2008

Factory / Manufacture Code:  TEB

Packaging:  10-box, varnished 8-9-8 box, numbered boxes (box # 8888 of 12000)

Price per cigar:  $22.50 USD (online vendor, 2012 purchase)

Length:  7 1/8″, or 180 mm

Ring Gauge:  49

Format:  Pacos / double corona

Weight:  16 grams / 0.6 oz

Construction/Appearance & Pre-Light:  This is my first of these.  Bought these a few years ago, and honestly forgot about the box until recently.  Picked the first one I saw, middle at the top.  This cigar was just amazing looking.  A beautiful cigar.  Oily, dark silky wrapper, stellar looking cap, wonderful bunching at the foot.  There appeared to be a few veins, but it seemed to be just some oil streaking to the wrapper leaf from the bunched up folds of the binder leaf below.  There was a noticeable soft spot, right smack dab in the middle of the cigar, about an inch in length.  I was going to keep my fingers crossed, therefore.

After clipping the head, noticed that there was that impeccable “divot” that are frequently present in well-rolled larger-format cigars.  The draw at cold was dead on and with just the firm resistance I was hoping for.  Soft spot be damned!  Tasty too – at cold, there were hints of fresh leather, rich, dark molasses, and extremely dense rich tobacco tones.

Opening Impressions:  After a lighting up and initial draws, the draw continued to be just perfect when lit.  This thing belched out loads of fragrant smoke – wow, what a wonderful experience on the first puffs!

First Third:  Into the first third, the story continued along, building like a grand orchestra crescendo.  The smoke had a dense, velvety texture on the palate, almost like a creamy Greek yoghurt that coated your taste buds with a tangy sweetness.  This thing was full body, full flavours.

Looking for that RA core of “stewed fruit” or christmas / rum cake.  Not quite there.

Getting hits of damp leather, rich tobacco.  Some fruitiness there, maybe???  A few relights…

Second Third:  Into the second third, the burn was wonderful.  Needed some cosmetic relights here and there, but the smoke quality and flavour cornucopia was spot on.  Just wonderful.  This was gearing up to be a wonderful experience.

Then, a few hints of a carbon, or pencil-lead tone.  Yuck.  Realized I was smoking my way through the soft spot.  Smoke volume and creamy density was still nice.  Some more touch-ups with the torch.  Thankfully, this sour spot was only fleeting in time and negative flavours…

At the halfway mark, once through the soft spot, it really opened up.  Started to get a sweet wood tone, almost like a nice cherry-wood smoked meat.  Just a richness and voluptuousness to this cigar that was hitting the spot for me.  Even my smoking companions were saying, “Damn, that smells good, what is that?!”

Final Third:  Into the final third, it just kept building.  Smooth, rich, dense, and flavourful.  Big bold hits of rich leather.  Started to feel the sweetness almost blend with a light cocoa tone – almost rolling into a cherry-tinged chocolate truffle.  Cream flavours and texture rolling around again.

Finishing Comments / Overall Impression:  This thing was a long voyage, and well worth the price of admission.  I took my time and really savoured this cigar, smoking it right now to the spicy and hot nub, until I was forced by the heat to put it down.  The creamy texture and flavour to this, with the leather and woody sweetness, made me savour the time that I spent with this, accompanied by my buds.

It took me forever to get through it, but never did I feel like I was rushing it, nor taking it too slow.  This was a cigar that kept giving in spades, and let me truly get to my chi place and “become one with the tabac”.  It was great.  These are harder to find now, and are a princely-costing stick.  But, the enjoyment, the size, the sheer smoking time enjoyed out of it, makes every part of it worthwhile.

These already have some great age on them, but with the richness that’s there, the oily-squishiness that’s still exhibited in these sticks, these have the legs for many, MANY more years to come.  I think it will be amazing to see what these do at the 10-year mark, and think they’ll be epic once they’re in that 12-15 year timeline.

Final Score:  93

Total Smoking Time:  3 hrs and 5 minutes

Date & Time Smoked:  November 8th, 2014; lit up at 9:15 pm, done at 12:20 am

Paired Beverage:  Havana Club Anejo 7 Anos and Coke

Last Meal: Hamburger helper & garlic bread w/ cheese, 5:30 pm

Smoking Conditions:  Climate-controlled garage, 23 degrees Celsius, 68% RH

Thanks for reading my review. Hope you enjoyed it.

Cheers all.

Time to get back to “normal”…

So, it’s been a couple weeks now.  October 20th and 22nd, 2014.  For Canadians – and especially those of us in the military – those dates will remain infamous in their connotations.

Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent.

THOSE are the names that need to live on.  Not those of any perpetrators.

Their tragic endings are most unfortunate.  The recent spate of occurrences are having drastic consequences on us as a society.  Granted, many more have perished needlessly in previous incidents around the world – the London subway attacks in July of 2005, the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, the 2014 knife attack at the train station in Kunming, China that killed or injured 176, and of course, 9-11.

But, as much as western media likes to thrive about it, it’s not about body count.  It shouldn’t be.  It’s about the impact that an incident has on a culture’s soul.

There are those of us, living in uniform, be it military, police, fire, etc., who have understood for years that this is the new reality of our world.  That something fanatical-/terrorism-based hasn’t excessively happened in Canada previous to these occurrences is, honestly, surprising.  People, society as a whole, like to keep their collective heads in the sand.  We watch the nightly news, and we see all that’s wrong in the world, all the bad stuff that’s happening…somewhere else.  Sure, we’ve had bad things happen here occasionally.  The shootings of RCMP officers in Mayerthorpe, or more recently in Monction, are a case in point.  The “lone wolf” actions (or “stray dogs” as they can be called as well, due to their misfit and seething nature leading them to find a home with fundamentalist propaganda) have always been on the fringes of the radar.  But, we were fighting terrorists (there’s that word) “over there”, over in the sandbox – not on our pristine shores.  The incidents earlier last month led people to wake up to the notion – yes, stuff like this can happen within our borders.  Fanatical people, coming from overseas or our own citizens inspired from online groups, could do something like this, in peaceful, quiet, world-loving Canada.  It was a shock to people to even have an understanding that this could occur.

I’ve had a tiresome couple of weeks with this (gawd, I need a good cigar!)  New levels of caution are out there, especially for those living in uniform.  Media coverage is running the gamut.  Some news stories and stuff from both inside and outside of Canada – it’s amazing to see.  While I don’t think it’s funny, I do laugh at the relative naivety of society as a whole – “in Canada??!!!?!” and “if it can happen in Canada, it can happen anywhere!”, etc.

Is religion to blame?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  I’d say – probably more yes than not; but not religion exactly – it’s the perversion of it by those wishing to control others.  But…don’t put the blame on true religous believers of Islam.  Who am I, or who are any of us, to judge others on that?  Of course, similar to 9-11, I’ve heard many discuss how “the religion of Brotherly love” is leading to the recent unforgiveable slaughters of many innocent people.  However – Christianity is no better (looking in historical context).  Neither is nearly any other religion out there.  In my mind, the overall history of organized religion is no better than any corrupt big business or mafia.  Hell, as is oft quoted and discussed – many more people have died in humanity’s history solely due to religion and religious beliefs, than over all other geo-political reasons.

All I know is that Canadians as general, especially with this happening in the run-up to Remembrance Day on November 11th, are definitely more acutely aware of our pretty country not being invulnerable to such heinous acts.  Something that some of us in uniform all knew and understood, but that with society’s blissful ignorance let “our guard down”, so to speak.  The national consciousness has now somewhat woken up to these possibilities.  Some will still choose to put their heads back in the sand.  The rest of us will move forward, always “on guard for thee”, remembering those that have unfortunately been taken from us.

To our future tomorrows, and that there be many more…time to have some good cigars again.

Cheers all.

Further MRN 2nd Edition Encyclopaedia delay details from Gino visiting Hong Kong…

So, it’s been relatively two weeks since I’ve posted anything here.  Various things have been happening that have precluded me from doing so.  But, that’s another post for another day.

But for tonight, Gino from Italy (aka “Mr Japan” from online forums) has messaged me regarding the upcoming Partagas Encuentros in Havana, but also asked me to pass this news along regarding the upcoming MRN 2nd Edition.  Gino’s good people, and a past president and patron of AmiCigar, the Italian cigar brotherhood, so a kind shout-out to him and his group…

New Logo Amicigar

Earlier today, Nino also posted about this news on his blog.  It concerns further details on the delays of the 2nd Edition of the MRN Encyclopaedia, and some fairly in-depth pictures.  Gino’s currently visiting with MRN in Hong Kong, so it’s another little insight on the upcoming Encyclopaedia.  As requested by Gino, I’ll post the text here, but please visit Nino’s page (or Gino’s and/or AmiCigar’s FaceBook page) for further pictures.

Cheers all.

“I am in Hong Kong and I like to share some important news about the second edition of the Encyclopaedia.

The delay is due to several factors that the author did not like, the main are :

1) Instead of 6 volumes x 400 pages there will be 2 volumes in a slip case each volume containing 200 pages.

So total are 12 volumes x 200 pages that will be easier to consult.

The presentation will be exactly the same.

2) Believe or not the outside of each volume will be cloth bound and it’s also water proof ….. actually it’s been tested also as champagne proof by myself :-)

3) There is a piece of thick nylon cloth glued totally between the hard cover and the double reinforced Smyth-sewn main book block, making the joining impossible to break apart.

4) When the book is open the double pages can be open totally flat to enjoy better reading and photos.

5) The bamboo bookcase will be totally colour matched.

Of course to inform myself about all the above details I had to sit and enjoy sipping some Veuve Cliquot Rose from 1985 … some Gosset 1999 …. Riesling Dr Loosen 2005 … and a few sticks of vintage cigars as you can see.

The party still goes on.