Humour-dor, Tuesday 14th May

Well, the weather yet again causes a major case of anonymity for the Cigar Monologues!  Thankfully though, whilst the weather has prevented me from sampling too many cigars for review, I have been quite busy with another venture of my own…

I run a small entertainment company – as a ‘professional hobby’ – which organises comedy nights and corporate entertainment.  (For those of a curious nature, please check out the company’s website: www.thecomedycoalition.co.uk ). A couple of months back I had the idea of combining my two passions of cigars and live stand-up.  I dropped the good people at JJ Fox a line, and the ‘Humour-dor’ was conceived! The vision was comedy as it used to be – viewed through a thick fug of smoke.  The night would be a typical cigar party… Everything included! A Hoyo de Monterrey Churchill cigar, as much aged Scotch as you could handle (served by a beautiful lady on the bar), some canapés to keep you going, and two brilliant comedians!

The night was a success! Attendance was a little low, but it was a great experience, and thankfully those in attendance had a good time – which was the whole point of the evening! As ever happens in these situations, the night continued long after we’d left JJ Fox, and after a few drinks and more cigars at the Stafford Hotel, an stumble through Soho and Covent Garden (via another bar and a casino), it was time for a late arrival at the hotel… Thankfully, one with a 24-hour bar… Cue my good friend (and occasional guest on CM), Mr Ward, and his generosity with the bar’s Cognac!

I’ve included a few photos for those who weren’t able to make it, and I hope that if you’re in London or nearby, you’ll keep an eye out for details of the next Humour-dor event in a few months’ time. (If you definitely want to know the details as soon as they are released, drop me a message via the Comedy Coalition website, or the Cigar Monologues Facebook page.

For the record, the whiskies on the night were: BenRiach 16yo, Clynelish ‘Distiller’s Edition’, Dalmore ‘Tweed Dram’, Fettercairn ‘Fior’ (Ltd Edn), and Kilchoman ‘Machir Bay’.

Happy smoking, and I’ll be back with a new review within a few days.

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Guest Review: LGC Gloriosos and London Herfing

Many of you will have read about my antics on Saturday (see ‘A Saturday of Intrigue…’).  My primary herfing partner for the day was Dan Ward, a fine BOTL who I have smoked many a fine cigar with whilst overlooking Sutton Harbour down in Plymouth.  Dan very kindly offered to produce a write-up of his own for the Cigar Monologues blog, and I’m pleased to say that the following entry is his thoughts of the day and his final cigar, the LGC Gloriosos (2008 UK RE).

Enjoy…

The Guest Blogger

I have been past JJ Fox’s many times, but somehow I always seem to end up there on a Sunday, or after they have closed, so I had never made it in to sample some of the wares.  Upon entering, I was greeted by the sight of a large, well stocked walk in humidor, filled to the rafters with a huge range of cigar shaped treats.  Now what to pick… Do I go for my old favourite (Partagas Serie P No.2), or something a little special to celebrate getting a degree.  Upon Simons recommendation (and remembering my wallet wouldn’t allow for a Siglo VI), I homed in on a La Gloria Cubana Gloriosos (2008 UK RE).  This was a cigar which Simon reviewed last year (click here for original review).  The box from which my cigar came had an extra year of age compared to the example Simon reviewed.  Never having smoked one of these before, the excitement began.

We decided to sit in JJ Fox’s fantastic cigar museum, which for me meant that I was able to sit in Sir Winston Churchill’s chair, which is something I have wanted to do for a very long time.  This chair was actually pretty uncomfortable, doubtless worn down by the gamut of cigar smokers who have used it since the great man himself.  We opened up a bottle of Sancerre, fresh from the fridge at Berry Brothers and Rudd just down the road from JJ Fox’s, the Sancerre later proving to be a very good wine to partner with a cigar (Simon’s suggestion – ed.).

As for the cigar, it started off a little slow, but very smooth with flavours that evoked memories of toasted marshmallows on the beach.  Over the course of the next two hours I found that there wasn’t a single sudden change in the flavours or intensity, each change being smooth and gradual, never taking one by surprise and never becoming coarse.  Perhaps the best way to describe the dynamic of the flavours is to liken them to the dignified progress that a vintage Rolls Royce makes up the hill at Goodwood.  Throughout the cigar, the draw remained near perfect, with a very strong ash that refused to succumb to gravity until I wussed out and ashed it after about an inch.

Towards the tail end of this cigar, the flavours started to ramp up in intensity, although never becoming as bold as my favourite Partagas SPN2.  I generally go for cigars with more potent flavours than this, but on occasion I like to smoke something that is a little more delicate and a little more subtle – hence going with what I believed would be a subtler cigar.

I don’t like to rate cigars using numerical values.  I believe that being a natural product the variation between cigars can render such rating systems almost useless.  For example, all BOTLs will know that sometimes you can have two cigars from the same box and one will be fantastic and the next will be awful!  As such, the conclusion of this review will be a bit different to what you are used to seeing at the Cigar Monologues.  I always ask myself if I would be willing to purchase another example of this cigar at the same price I had paid.  In the case of this cigar, it would be a definite yes.  More important to me than assigning a number to cigars is purely enjoyment, and in this case, I enjoyed the experience of smoking it greatly.  I was sat in Churchills chair, in one of the oldest and most famous cigar retailers in the world, in the best area of my favourite city, drinking excellent wine and with good company.  To make such an event perfect, one only needs to add in a good cigar and enjoyment is guaranteed.  The very finest in surroundings, cigars, wine and company make for a fantastic weekend.

Plus, I got to sit in Churchill’s chair!

—  DW  —

Thank you again Dan.  If anyone would like to follow Dan on Twitter then check out @gtrcar5.  (Don’t forget you can follow @cigarmonologues too!)

A Saturday of Intrigue…

Yesterday was a pretty good day all told.  I made my way into London to spend a day herfing with a friend and had quite a day smoking, eating, drinking and looking at some real gems from the cigar world.

Sautter's Humidor

The Humidor in Sautter's of Mount St (Click picture to enlarge)

Upon arriving at Paddington I decided that the weather was just fair enough for me to take a morning stroll across to Sautter’s of Mount Street in Mayfair.  I made a quick caffeine stop at the Mount Street Deli before my first cigar (the Deli: good coffee, very slow service).  I moved a couple of doors down to Sautter’s, which is situated opposite the Connaught Hotel, the home of de Gaulle throughout the Second World War.  As I entered, I spotted the familiar face of Nic Wing (Cities in Sound – Cuban Cigar Walk London) who was, if I recall correctly, trying out a Fuente Opus X of some description.  A brief trip to the humidor in search of a Hoyo de Monterrey ‘Le Hoyo’ of some description – an ideal morning range in my opinion – yielded a du Maire, a tiny little smoke, and the only Le Hoyo that is available as a single from Sautter’s well stocked but small walk-in humidor.  It was a nice, light and quick start to the day’s smoking, taking around 30 minutes to smoke – aside from a slightly tight draw, it just about hit the spot.

Just as Nic and the team at Sautter’s started showing off some of the really interesting stock that’s hidden away in the vaults under Mayfair, my herfing buddy for the day arrived.  Just in time for the show…  Two treasures spring to mind.  One was a box of old (70-90 years) Castañeda cigars which seem to have been sent so someone in lieu of gold…  Castañeda was one of the brands which eventually merged to become today’s Fonseca marque.

Two Budles in the H.Upmann Cabinet

The other treasure, and this really was something to behold, was a cabinet of H.Upmann cigars. (Thankyou to Nic for the picture, right).  Here I am referring to the original cabinet – more akin to a cupboard or sideboard than today’s slide-lid boxes…  The date of this cabinet, which originally contained 500 cigars of various vitolas, is believed to be 1897.  Not just pre-Revolution or pre-World Wars, but pre 20th Century!  The cabinet was originally sent to Devon, and there remains just over 300 cigars – one can only imagine the Victorian gentlemen lining up in the gun room to have their post-shoot cigar.  What a welcome return from a possibly miserable, wet shoot in the Devon countryside (which can definitely be an unforgiving part of the country).  An interesting bit of trivia, rumour has it, is that two of the cigar names from this cabinet are front-runners to be the names of the next two UK Regional Editions…

However, back to the cigars of today.  My second cigar at Sautter’s was a Romeo y Julieta Cedros No3.  It was a pleasant smoke as well, and just hit the spot before heading off for a light lunch at Carluccio’s.  Great cigars, great Italian food and some Peroni Gran Riserva beer certainly got the day off to a wonderful start.

After lunch it was a stroll along New and Old Bond Streets, gazing longingly into some of the wonderful shops which line those streets, towards St James.  A quick stop in Berry Brothers to pick up a bottle of chilled Sancerre was our only diversion from JJ Fox, our intended destination.  Unfortunately, we were slowly running out of time, so our planned post-dinner Churchills had to go by the wayside – and I was so looking forward to a H.Upmann Sir Winston…  I decided to finally give the new UK Regional Edition a test run, so picked up a La Flor de Cano Short Robusto.  I was certainly three-for-three on the day though, as the LFdC was a very pleasant smoke, with lots of buttery richness; the only downside was a slight lack of progression as the cigar developed.

The Day Ends at JJ Fox

As I made my way back to Paddington, I was glad that I’d made the trip across from the West Country – some good company in the form of Nic Wing and Dan Ward, some good cigars, some good food and a very nice bottle of wine.  Little did I know that my dodgy knee was going to be so painful once I’d got back home!  I hope you enjoyed the read, and don’t forget that over the coming days I’ll be posting reviews of all three cigars that I smoked, so keep checking back.

A Few Good Cigar Videos

I think I promised something along these lines quite a few months ago…  Apologies for the wait.  Here are a few irreverent, interesting, and informative cigar videos I’ve enjoyed recently.

Cigars and Tertiary Education – The Key to Higher Fees?

We will start with a bit of Freud, and some exceptionally attractive young ladies.  Now, I’m all for women smoking – something nice and appropriate, like the new line of Julietas from RyJ; but do find women smoking large cigars somewhat strange.  (Now, as an aside, I have to admit to finding the new Julietas kind of sexy in their sleek aluminium packaging – should I be worried?)

All of the above aside, I provide, for your delectation, a wonderful advert for the Estonian Institute of Humanities…  (I’m packing my bags as I type!)

For the record, my slap dash attempt at translating the video goes something along the lines of:

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar (Freud)
Sometimes a university is not just a university…
(not Freud – ed.)

A nice thing about this video is that even if the studious sisters of the leaf didn’t do it for you, there’s always the wonderful soundtrack: Tony Bennett’s The Good Life.

Friends of Habanos

There we go – straight to the point with the sub-title!  I don’t think there are many BOTLs who spend hours reading tosh such as the Cigar Monologues who haven’t come across our bretheren from down-under.  Many years ago, during the reign of George III, the British had the eminently sensible idea of shipping off reprobates to some far-flung place.  Unfortunately, they chose Australia, which took spin rather well, resulting in some annoying chap called Shane Warne (you know, the one with rather thin hair…)  Australia is also home to some pretty decent weather, and a small number of really interesting guys beat the genetic lottery to arrive on this planet as BOTLs.  The Friends of Habanos YouTube video library alone consists of 140 videos and counting.  The vast majority of which are ten minute long reviews by at least two of the amiable team.

I’ve decided to share with you the FoH review of one of my all time favourite sticks, the Party Short.  Enjoy.

Alongside the YouTube video feed is an accompanying community forum, which is all liked to their shop.  So, here’s a bit of free advertising for the guys at Cigar Czar in Brisbane – they certainly deserve it for all the effort they’ve put in to provide us with some excellent resources!

Cigar Aficionado

The behemoth of the cigar magazine world, Cigar Aficionado (or Golf Aficionado as it is occasionally known), brings us reviews of virtually every major cigar known to the North American public.  They also do some interesting lifestyle features, an inordinate amount of golf coverage and book length interviews with occasionally interesting people.  Despite sounding like the leader of some kind of anti-CA League I actually really like the magazine, I even subscribe.  There can be no denying the knowledge of the editorial staff, who all come across in their writing (and their videos) as typical cigar smokers – passionate and amiable.  I do think that the loss of James Suckling is a shame, but they will survive.  I should say, incase a Mr Shanken happens across this post, that I would be delighted to take over James’ Cuban coverage at very reasonable freelance rates.

CA’s video library is added to on occasion, and the range of videos is really quite excellent.  I particularly enjoyed the Cigar Wars series of videos with James Suckling and David Savona – in these videos they pitted Cuban and non-Cuban greats against each other (often with some surprising results).  There are also some great videos on pairing drinks and food with cigars, as well as a recipe for your own perfect home-made egg nog for Christmas!

Here’s the link: http://www.cigaraficionado.com/videos

Any Other Thoughts

The above three suggestions are but a scratch in the surface of the cigar video world.  Does anyone have a particular feed on YouTube that you always keep an eye on, or a single video which really just sums up cigars for you?  Let me know if you do, I’d be very interested to check them out myself if I haven’t already.

Top Tip on Importing Cigars

Sorry it’s been a ridiculously long gap between entries to the blog, it’s been a funny old few months, with not nearly enough cigars to see me through them!  Unfortunately not a review today, that may have to wait (I lost all my unpublished reviews when my Blackberry, along with my good self, took a dip in the Solent a few weeks ago…)  Hopefully you will find this equally as interesting, and possibly more useful.

Thanks to EugeneSax of the UK Cigar Forums for bringing a very interesting point regarding duty and VAT to public attention.  I hope he doesn’t mind my passing on his valuable message.

When importing cigars it is absolutely vital that you check the paperwork that comes from the delivery company.  Let’s imagine that you are a UK based BOTL trying to get your hands on some of the vast non-Cuban range available in the States.  You’re a thoroughly decent chap who wants to do everything by the book, and you pick a retailer who appropriately labels the contents of your package.  Your package arrives, complete with invoice from the delivery company for the duty, VAT and any other taxes which you are liable to pay.  Some companies (such as Parcel Force/Royal Mail) tend to keep your package until you pay upfront, others (in this instance FedEx) deliver the package and invoice you for the charges.  Anyway… you take a look at the invoice and the whole thing seems a little on the pricey side.  You put it down to our excessive duty on tobacco (yes, it’s excessive, but it’s not as excessive as your invoice might suggest).

In the case which EugeneSax brought to everyone’s attention, FedEx had paid and invoiced for tobacco duty on the whole package!  Yes, that’s right, he was paying duty on the tobacco (fair enough), but also the humi pouches, jiffy bag, padding and protection, and (if I recall correctly) in this case even a humidor!  That was more than twice the duty!  An average robusto comes in at around £2.50 duty, so a box of 25 will be over £60 worth of duty.  Bad enough, but you don’t want to pay as much again for something which isn’t even liable for duty!  Then, you have the increased value of the VAT as a result… it all adds up.  So take a good look at the invoice and check that the figures add up, if they don’t, make sure that you only pay what you’re liable to to pay – it’s not your fault that the courier buggered it up!

P.S. As seems to be the way these days, I should probably clarify that I in no way encourage the dodging of duty, VAT or any other taxes.  Which I’d have thought from the post was pretty clear!

My Top Three Cigar Websites

Well, the weather’s still very grey, a bit dank and generally not all that appealing down here in the south-west of the UK. Unfortunately, a fine cigar, as appealing as it would be, doesn’t quite have the allure to compensate for conditions. In order to keep the site moving along and a bit fresh (no more two month absences…) I thought a little overview of my favourite stogie-related websites would be a nice way to while away the time.

3. Nino’s Flying Cigar

There can be no denying it… Nino’s Flying Cigar website is legendary amongst online BOTLs. Nino spent much of his career as a Purser aboard Lufthansa Airlines and produced a wonderful website combining the joys of travelling with cigars. Excellent articles and photos from herfing around the world, alongside some excellent reviews makes this a truly engaging website. I hesitate to call it a blog (it’s far too complex and developed for that), but it maintains all of the plus points which blogging provides – a personal touch, and a feeling of a true passion for the subject. Nino’s retired from flying now, but the website is still updated regularly, and I think we are all truly thankful for that.
flyingcigar.de

– – –

2. UK Cigar Forums

Everyone with a hobby or passion needs somewhere to share it. Herfing is obviously the best option with cigars – a great chance to get together with like minded individuals and compare notes on cigars as you smoke them (and an opportunity to generally put the world to rights). However, there is so much more to cigars, so much to discuss, so many bits of paraphernalia, and techniques and rituals to debate… There’s just too much to talk about over an hour long robusto. So where do you go to continue to the discussion? An online community of course, and there can be none better than UKCF (of course, I may be a little biased, being a long-standing member and having a lot to thank Deano and the other members for). It’s a friendly and international community and everyone has a passion for cigars – maybe that passion is for different aspects of smoking or different cigars and for different reasons, but the passion still shines through in the well-informed debate.
ukcigarforums.com

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1. Trevor’s Cuban Cigar Website

I don’t really need to say much about this website, once you’ve visited it and had a look around you will know why it is so bloody good! Trevor Leask has developed possibly the finest online resource for BOTLs with an interest in Cuban puros. It’s a treasure trove of information about almost anything you could think of… Ever wondered which year a certain cigar was discontinued, or whether it was hand-rolled or machine made? Want to know what REs were released in which year, or when the bands on RyJ Churchills changed? You can find out just about anything to do with Cuban cigars on this website, and it is jam-packed with photos and more information than a normal human-being could possibly digest.
cubancigarwebsite.com

– – –

In addition to the top three, which are truly remarkable online resources, I feel that I should just add a couple of mentions for some websites of friends and smoking acquaintances too. Dave’s Fist Load blog is interesting and wide ranging – alongside some excellent mini-reviews, there are comments on wines and spirits, not to mention his thoughts on ‘other stuff’ – well worth a look. Then there is Yiorgos’ Cigars.ie blog which is an excellent resource, it’s full of top notch reviews and it also acts as a co-ordinating point for herfing in Ireland. A new site, and one which can only get better is Cigar Bands, from ‘watkins’ on the UK Cigar Forums – it will, I suspect, develop into a magnificent gallery of cigar images.

I hope you have an interesting time having a little look through these websites, and if any of them are new to you then I hope you find them even half as interesting and useful as I do. I think that the next feature will have to be a look at some of the internet’s best sources of cigar related videos, and there are a few of them floating around at the moment… Next Sunday perhaps?

Now, and more importantly, to decide which cigar is worth braving this current miserable weather for! Happy smoking.

A month of absence…

Well, I’m very sorry for my long absence and lack of reviews or thoughts on the cigar world.

Unfortunately I have been suffering from illness for a while, so have not been in the frame of mind to sit down and thoroughly enjoy a cigar. However, the last week has been a pleasant return to the cigar fray.

I made a trip up to London this past weekend to meet up with a good friend for his stag-do (catching the rugby at Twickenham then a night out). On the Friday, when I was on my own, I made a very enjoyable trip to JJ Fox, as I usually do when I’m in the capital. When I arrived, we were locked out of the humidor, owing to a slight oversight which saw the key being locked into it… Still, they had some Partagas Shorts which had been saved… As I love this particular cigar, I bought one, lit up, and waited for the entertainment of the locksmith with great anticipation (enjoying the company of some other friendly customers whilst we waited). Then I bumped into an acquaintance I had smoked with at JJ Fox back in May, a very interesting guy, and a fellow ex-Royal Navy man. An excellent afternoon of conversation and escapism ensued, which was just what I needed – the first time I’ve had a clear mind for a long time… The power of fine cigars and fine company. For the record, I followed up with a Punch Petit Punch – which was unbelievably sweet following the powerful, but perfectly enjoyable, two-year old Party Short.

Saturday morning saw me make an early visit to Sautter Cigars, opposite the Connaught hotel. It was the first time I had actually made use of their facilities for a cigar, and enjoyed talking to the various people working in the store. I decided to plump for a Hoyo de Monterray Epicure Especial No2 – a cigar with which I had not previously had good experiences (despite its almost unerring popularity). This was much better, no bitterness or tar, smooth and rounded flavours – overall pretty good, if not exceptional. However, the burn was dreadful, as with every other Epi2 I have tried – I sometimes wonder what on earth they do to them!? I also picked up a couple of La Aurora Bristol Especiales, with plenty of age, for a fiver each. They’ve got quite a few non-Cubans on offer at the moment as they are looking to go down the Cuban-only route, well worth a little look, you may pick up a bargain too.

On Monday afternoon, as I was a little bit bored, I bribed someone to join me at the pub with the offer of a free cigar… Well, I say free, but it was an exchange for a pint (still a good deal I think). We both lit up a Zino Classic Premium Selection No1 Tubo –  a good looking Lonsdale. We both enjoyed it, and, whilst not a spectacular or especially interesting cigar, I’m certainly glad I have one more in the humidor to kick back with at a later stage.

Finally, to bring my week of vice to a close: on Thursday, in the very early hours of the morning, I celebrated the first session of this season’s Ashes series with a nice little cigar. Breaking my no smoking in the house rule, I lit up an El Rey del Mundo Choix de L’epoque (UK RE), which smoked nicely and is a nice improvement over the last one I had (which was pretty fresh off the boat).

I hope these ramblings have at least livened up the view when you open up the blog. I have a huge desire to get reviewing again – indeed I have a huge desire to get back to normal again – but a lot of that may depend upon whether I can grow a pair of balls at some stage in my life and learn to express emotion when it actually means something to me…

PS. I have been informed that it is currently Mental Health Week (although it does appear to be erroneous information), so would just like to ask everyone to take a moment to consider anyone suffering from a mental illness, whether temporary or permenant. I was always sceptical of concepts such as depression until I found out first hand just how dibilitating they can be, so please, light up a cigar and ponder for a moment. Thank you.