Trinidad Ingenios Edición Limitada 2007

With the end of the season soon upon us and my main series for the year long concluded, The Harem has reached a bit of a doldrums. I hesitate to smoke too dusky a beauty as I feel that the most precious cigars should be saved to burn alongside their sisters in some future series, and yet, the raison d’être of this column is the objective comparison of the rarest of collectable cigars. The net result is this: today’s cigar, the Trinidad Ingenios Edición Limitada 2007, chosen more or less by random chance.

With a 42 ring gauge, the Ingenios is the thinnest Edición Limitada released to date and, if current trends continue, it will remain the thinnest for a long while to come (2014 featured a 58 ring, 2015 has a 56). It’s a lovely looking thing, with a glossy chocolate wrapper and pigtail. It feels good in the hand, an elegant aristocratic smoke. Trinidad is not a brand I’ve ever really come to; for some reason the packaging makes me think of them as light cigars with a sweet, cinnamon and nutmeg bouquet. I don’t know why: that’s not at all what they taste like, but the false expectation nonetheless leaves me disappointed. This one begins very far from that place, strong and punchy, full tobacco with coffee and chocolate from the get go.

Trinidad Ingenios Edición Limitada 2007 unlit

Trinidad, of course, is named for the Cuban town a few hours down the coast from Havana, a place we have visited before in these pages. It’s a seminal town in my cigar smoking life: I visited very early on my first trip to Cuba, and the run down domestic production factory on the outskirts of town was the first cigar factory that I ever set foot in. Behind the factory I bought a newspaper wrapped bundle of corona gordas from one of the rollers for two convertible pesos – a deal both parties were delighted with. Without the paperwork required for export, I had no choice but to smoke three of those cigars a day for the next two weeks, and left Cuba thoroughly enchanted by the leaf. It was also in Trinidad where I met the Australians.

I was sitting in a café with a friend drinking a Malta (a revolting Cuban malt extract soda), and complaining loudly about it in my broad Australian accent when I was addressed from behind by a tourist in equally broad ‘Strine. “That sounds like the mother tongue!” he said. “Where’re you blokes from?”

He turned out to live three streets over from the house I grew up in, and was traveling in Cuba with his British wife. They were about five years older than my friend and I; and quickly became friends, not because of any real shared interest, but because we seemed to run into them everywhere we went. I saw them every day that I was in Trinidad, and then a few days later in Cienfuegos, and a few days after that in Santiago. They showed up at the bus station as we departed for Havana, and we spent eight hours on the overnight coach not two feet away from them. They had become something of a joke between my friend and I: were they ASIO agents, we wondered, sent by our government to monitor our exposure to communist ideologies?

Trinidad Ingenios Edición Limitada 2007 one third smoked

Mid-way through the Ingenios is very mild with a slight milkiness, not quite cream, but it leaves the lactic shock on the palette. There is the barest hint of promised nutmeg and, somewhere in the back there, a shadow of chocolate remains. An excellent smoke.

We had some respite from the Australians in Havana: we still saw them occasionally, but Havana is a big city and there were more places to hide. Things got really weird the next week though when we arrived in Mexico and found them in the hotel room next to us. Up to this point our relationship had been fairly casual: the odd shared drink, the occasional joke, but in Mexico we went sight-seeing together. “What are you guys up to today” the male had asked over buffet breakfast. We told him we were heading off to see the pyramids at Teotihuacán and he asked if they could join us. “Sure, why not?” They seemed friendly enough.

Mexico City sits at a famously high altitude: every guide book warns you to take it easy on your first few days there while your body adapts. It was extremely hot that day, a full sun beating down, and the pyramids at Teotihuacán are a heck of a climb. We were halfway up the Pyramid of the Sun by the time the woman started to complain. Long and loud, she protested, a sing song childish whine. She wanted to go down. She wanted a bottle of water. Eventually the guy gave us an apologetic look and said they’d meet us at the bottom.

When we saw them at the base of the monument an hour or so later, her complaints seemed to have escalated into an argument, and we were grateful when they told us to climb the Pyramid of the Moon alone and meet them at the entrance when we were ready to go. By the time we saw them again two hours later they were deep in a full blown domestic.

For most the bus ride through the slums they kept their bickering to muffled hisses, but once we got to the subway, away from the English speaking ears of the tourists, they erupted into an unbridled screaming match. She would say something, a complaint, and he would ignore her. Then she would repeat it, and accuse him of ignoring her, and then add another complaint, and so on until finally he snapped at her, at which point she would wail and scream until he yelled at her, at which point she would sulk for a few minutes before making another complaint and repeating the process ad nauseam. At one stage a camera was thrown. If there had been any plates around I’m sure they would have been broken. My friend and I were mortified, but what could we do? We were trapped on a train, and headed for the same destination. We rolled our eyes at each other at every repetition of the cycle, every carping over of the same tired points.

When finally we arrived back at the Zócalo and immediately made our excuses. “You guys go back” my friend said “we’re going to go get some dinner.”
“Oh, sounds good!” the guy replied. “Where are you going?” My friend looked at me desperately. It was imperative we not spend another minute with these dreadful people.
“Look, if I’m honest, we’re going to find some whores.” I said. “I’ve never been with a Hispanic woman and I really want to do it before I leave Mexico. We’re just going to head to the worst part of town and hang around until they find us.” He took a long look at his wife, and I think honestly considered coming with us: anything was better than the night of bickering he had in store for him back at the hotel.
“Ha, alright, you guys have fun” he said eventually.

The next morning he knocked on our door bright and early. “So sorry about yesterday, guys” he said. “I love her, but she’s just a real bitch sometimes, y’know?” We murmured vague kind of disagreement you murmur when politeness dictates that you have to disagree with something you entirely agree with.
“Hey, I was wondering, do you guys have any room in your bags? Could you take some stuff back to Australia for us?” He proffered a brown paper package about the size of two keys of black tar heroin.
“It’s just a camping stove and some souvenirs… we’ve got another month of trekking in front of us, and we won’t need them anymore. You can open it if you like.” Taking pity on the poor bastard and wanting to get him out of my room, I instantly agreed.
“No problem. No need to open it, I trust you.”

Trinidad Ingenios Edición Limitada 2007 final third

With a bit over an inch to go the chocolate is back in force. The tobacco strength is full, with heavy nicotine, and there is a smoky tar involved, but it’s sweet rather than sour tar. A bittersweet chocolate bomb.

After twenty five hours or so in the air we arrived at Cairns International Airport and when the customs officer saw the Mexican stamp in my passport he sent me straight to the inspection line. The officer on inspection duty was a young, jolly sort of fellow, who I think must have been fresh from training as he did the most thorough job of a bag inspection I have ever seen. Socks were unrolled. The pages of my books we thumbed through. Eventually, of course, he got to the brown paper package.
“What’s this?” The first questions he had asked me were “are you carrying anything for anyone else” and “did you pack your bags yourself.” I had answered “no” and “yes” respectively. I was caught out.
“Ah, it’s just a gift for a friend” I mumbled. All façade of joviality fell away.
“You don’t know what it is?”
“He said it was a camping stove.”
“How well do you know this person?”
“Ah well… y’know… I met them a few times… in Cuba… they’re Australians…” He signalled to someone, and four heavily armed customs officials appeared, taking stations between me and every exit. He withdrew a knife from somewhere and delicately cut along the seam of the package, delicately lifting up the corner of the wrapping. I contemplated what it would be like spending the rest of my life in prison. What do you get for heroin smuggling? Surely not more than 10 years with good behaviour. He lifted the flap a little further, peeking in, and then finally pulled the whole thing open. Inside was a camping stove and, inside that, a block of Cuban chocolate. The customs guy looked disappointed. The armed guards wandered off.
“I can’t let you bring this into the country, y’know” he said. “All food stuffs must be declared.”
“Can I eat it?” I asked.
“Sure.”

And so I did. A whole block of rich, dark Cuban cooking chocolate, straight down the hatch. And that’s what the Trinidad Ingenios tastes like. Although it doesn’t make me feel sick like that did.

The end of the cigar is rich and smooth. Yes, it is bitter, but it’s not unpleasant. I don’t feel any need to spit or rinse my mouth out or anything like that. In the final analysis, the Ingenios is probably not as good as the Torre Iznaga, but it is a very good smoke, and one of the better Edición Limitadas.

Trinidad Ingenios Edición Limitada 2007 nub

Trinidad Ingenios Edición Limitada 2007 on the Cuban Cigar Website.

Partagás Serie C No. 3 Edición Limitada 2012

Chief among the many oversights of my 2014 Partagás campaign was the omission of the 2012 Edición Limitada Serie C No. 3, a cigar that was (and remains) easily obtainable in any semi-decent cigar store. Thanks to a female friend who frequents a hair salon next to a La Casa del Habano, and thanks to her dye job taking longer than anticipated, it is an oversight that I will now rectify.

The band is ruined, courtesy of Australia’s brutal plain packaging regime. These days it is a little better: cigars are sold with a plain paper band that is cut to size and then taped over the existing band or bands. In 2012 though, it was still the early days, and the bands were covered over with a standard issue sticker. In the case of doubled banded cigars like this one, one band was removed. I tried to peel the sticker off the surviving band but ruined it in the process.

Partagás Serie C No. 3 Edición Limitada 2012 unlit

The cigar begins excellently, mid tobacco with a rich, burned espresso flavour. Behind it there might be some wood, but it’s hard to tell, so dominate is the coffee.

In Australia, and Melbourne in particular, we take smug pride in a few very dubious prepositions: firstly, that we are more serious about everything than those slackers up in Sydney; secondly, that we are more sophisticated than the Americans; and thirdly, that we have the best coffee in the world. The ultimate gratification of this collective conceit came in about 2008 when we ran Starbucks out of town. The corporation had arrived in force a few years earlier, opening stores in every major shopping strip across the city overnight. There they were, with their bright green branding, but I guess nobody went; I certainly never did – I couldn’t understand their sizes. When they shut up shop, closing all but a handful of venues at transportation hubs and tourist attractions (places where Americans tend to congregate), it was met with great fanfare. “Mission accomplished” the banners read! The media pounced on it with glee: Melbourne, the only city in the world to vanquish Starbucks.

I bring it up mainly because there is one thing in which Australia should take no pride: the iced coffee culture. Admittedly it’s mainly drunk by school children, but when you order an iced coffee in Australia you get a mess of ice-cream and whipped cream and sugar: a coffee milkshake more or less. When you order an iced coffee in America you get black coffee with ice in it. There was a period when I was in New York during their stinking wet hot summer and I lived on the things. Mostly from Starbucks. And that’s the coffee note that this PSC3 has; diluted, mass-market Arabica.

Partagás Serie C No. 3 Edición Limitada 2012 lightly burnt

At the midpoint the cigar extinguishes itself, something it will do repeatedly for the remaining few inches. I blow the smoke out of it before I relight, and it comes back very well, with rugged, burnt chocolate. The coffee has faded somewhat but is still present on the backend. A great cigar.

It was a dreadful summer, really. I had gone to New York in pursuit of my lady love and fucked things up completely within twenty four hours of wheels down. I had booked for six weeks. A more right thinking individual would have left, would have rented a car and wandered middle America, or headed home, or to Hawaii, or Cuba, or anywhere other than there, really, but I was heartbroken and desperate and hanging on for any slight chance of a reconciliation, and so I stuck around, alone. The temperature was 30°C+ daily, humid and sweaty. My room at the YMCA (which for some reason had exposed pipes a few inches below ceiling level, perfect for a noose) was un-air-conditioned and slightly more unbearable that the street. I couldn’t deal with real restaurants (too much human interaction, and besides, I couldn’t understand the tipping etiquette), so I lived exclusively on street hotdogs, pizza slices, and Starbucks iced coffee: foods that could be ordered with little more than a grunt from either party. I would have developed scurvy if not for the ketchup on the hotdogs.

Wanting to make the most of my ‘holiday,’ I looked up a list of the fifty best tourist attractions in New York City, and gradually dragged myself to each one of them. At the Empire State I stood in line for more than an hour, in Central Park there were topless girls, but the most notable incident was the small security scare I caused at the United Nations. The ground floor of the UN has an art gallery that (after scanning your bag and your person) you can wander for free, but Guernica was on loan, and the thing you really want to see, the General Assembly chamber is off limits unless you pay $16 for a tour. I stopped by the tour desk to investigate, but the next tour was 45 minutes away, and there was a sign saying that it would be abridged as the Security Council Chamber was closed for renovations. In my weakened state I was incapable of making decisions – wait the 45 and pay the 16, or leave and go see the Brooklyn Bridge – so I was wandering the gallery aimlessly when a set of elevator doors opened nearby. A perfect, blonde, Scandinavian family, each bedecked with security lanyards, embarked and, on a whim, I followed them. A middle aged African American elevator operator beamed at us. “Welcome to the UN.” Seconds later, we were in the General Assembly Chamber, completely unsupervised. I wandered down the aisle and up to the lectern. The Scandinavian youth smirked as I mock ranted from it, raising my fist like Mussolini. Afterward, I headed down a corridor, and before long found myself in the Security Council chamber, which had a few ladders scattered about, but didn’t appear to be under any serious renovations. I sat in the Russian delegate’s chair and spun around a few times. There were some papers there, but I couldn’t read the Cyrillic script.

It was only after I was finished and standing on the mezzanine outside the General Assembly Chamber inspecting a model of Sputnik suspended over the void that someone finally approached me. “Excuse me, Sir” she said “can I see your security pass?” I shook my head.      “How did you get up here?”       “I just came up in the elevator.”

She shook her head. “Fucking elevator guys. It’s not your fault. They should never have let you up here.” She pulled a radio off her belt and called somebody. The word ‘intruder’ was used. With a smile that brooked no mischief I was escorted back to the elevator bank. A pair of security guards would meet me at the bottom to duck-walk me off the premises, but before that I had a moment alone in the lift with the same middle-aged African American fellow who’d welcomed me so cheerfully to the UN not an hour before. “Who let you up?” he asked, and without waiting for an answer added “Must have been the new guy. Damn new guy, no respect for procedure.”

Partagás Serie C No. 3 Edición Limitada 2012 final third

In the final third the cigar gets a bit bitter, but a cheeky exhale expels the evil. At this point it is verging on strong, with rich earth notes, woody, and still a strong undercurrent of bitter coffee and bean notes.

Overall it’s a great cigar that sits at the high end of the EL series. For my money I’d probably take the Selección Privada today over the PSC3 at three years old, but there’s not a lot in it. It’s a long way better than the PSD4.

Partagás Serie C No. 3 Edición Limitada 2012 nub, with a John Boston Golden Ale

Partagás Serie C No. 3 Edición Limitada 2012 on the Cuban Cigar Website

Cuaba Piramides Edición Limitada 2008

very season of The Harem needs a whipping boy, a cigar that I can lambast as tasting of burning garbage or as having the acrid notes of chemical spill – it helps to preserve my reputation as an unbiased critic that doesn’t buy into the hype. Well, if there is to be a whipping boy this season, this might well be the one: the 2008 Edición Limitada from the loathsome Cuaba. Then again, perhaps not: of all the Cuaba cigars, this is the only one that I don’t recall ever hearing a bad word about.

Fun fact about Cuaba: Habanos occasionally cribs words from the Taino Indians (the pre-Columbian inhabitants of Cuba, functionally extinct thanks to some fairly vigorous genocide by Christopher and his colonial crew). One such word is Cohiba, the term for their proto-cigars; another is Cuaba, the term for a burning hunk of wood that they would yank from a fire to light their Cohibas. It remains a fairly apt descriptor of the best use for most Cuaba cigars.

Cuaba Piramides Edición Limitada 2008 unlit

The piramides begins reasonably: a little bitter at the outset, it quickly mellows into something that, while not smooth, is not totally unpleasant. It’s a rough, vaguely grassy mid tobacco. The cigar seems to have a lot of trouble staying lit, and I have to relight it four or five times within the first inch. I have no idea why, as 2008 is long past the era of fireproof wrappers that marred the early 2000s, and this particular example has spent a few days in a dry box that should have taken any excess humidity out of it. The draw is perfect and, when it is burning, the smoke volume is heavy, discounting a plug or anything of that nature. I did give my standard rinse before lighting, but that has never seemed to do burns any harm in the past.

I’m drinking Pusser’s navy rum, a very amicable drop with a nice orange aftertaste. For three centuries the British Navy issued its sailors a daily tot of rum – a practice that was ended (to the consternation of many a hardened mariner) in 1970. Pusser’s rum is supposedly the same stuff that was served to seamen, being rums from Jamaica, Barbados, the West Indies and the British Virgin Islands, all blended together to the Admiralties’ ancient recipe. It’s a slightly dubious distinction: is the fact that a drink was enjoyed when served free to generations of men barely over drinking age really a mark of quality? Perhaps so: a few years ago I passed through Edinburgh and spent an hour or so wandering HMY Britannia, the Queen’s old sloop, and took note that there were six fully stocked bars on display therein: one for every class of sailor and a few extra for the royal family. If anyone takes their drinking seriously, it’s the British Navy.

Cuaba Piramides Edición Limitada 2008, a little smoked, with Pusser's Rum

By the midpoint the Cuaba Piramides is actually a good cigar. It has mellowed out to light tobacco with dusty straw. There is a very mild woodiness, and something of the armour of sap. A generous man might attribute some leather. It leaves a distinctly salty taste on my lips.

The first bar I encountered on the Britannia was in the captain’s private dining room, a small wood panelled chamber at the top of the ship. I came in just as a tour group was leaving and, having ridden the elevator up alone, I knew that I would have at least a few minutes to myself before anyone came in behind me. Sitting on the bar, only a foot or so beyond the velvet rope, was the distinctive spiked decanter of a bottle of Louis XIII cognac. The first thought that went through my head was that any job where you are issued with a presumably limitless supply of $2000 brandy is not such a bad lark; the second was that I was obligated to lift it. I glanced around for cameras and saw none. I went to the window and checked the gangway: nobody was coming. I stuck my head out the door and saw that the last of the tour group were already in the next room. Finally, confident that the coast was clear, I violated the sanctity of the velvet rope and reached for the bottle. My hand on the decanter, the criminal act came to a swift end. The bloody thing was glued down. No doubt it was filled with tea. My caper aborted I slunk off down the corridor to the officer’s mess, and kept my thieving hands to myself for the rest of the tour, but it wouldn’t be the last time that an unsecured bottle of Louis XIII proved too great a temptation for my criminal heart.

It was about a year later and I was staying in the business wing of a Chinese Holiday Inn. I’m not sure why I was booked in the business wing – I guess by some definition I was a business man – but the main distinction of the business wing is that it’s not as good as the regular hotel. You do get access to the business centre, and the Wi-Fi is free, but you lose access to the pool and the restaurant is in a whole other building. The chief advantage as far as I can tell is the private bar area which, on a good night, is filled exclusively with people travelling on business and looking to have one-night stands with like-minded strangers. At the time of my stay however, the bar was closed, defended by a velvet rope to which someone had sticky taped a “closed for renovations” sign. I gave it a cursory glance, but no renovations were evident.

Late on the evening of my third and final night in the Holiday Inn I arrived back at the hotel a good deal worse for wear. My Chinese colleagues had thrown a banquet in my honour, and I had already had a decent amount of beer when my boss half-jokingly suggested that I had to do a shot of baijiu with every member of the party. I could have gotten out of it; I had seen the same suggestion made to several others, and they had all nominated a designated drinker, or poured themselves half shots, or offered to do it with beer instead or made some other excuse. Not me though. My blood was up, and the only thought in my mind was “I’ll show these Chinamen what Western Imperialist drinking power looks like.”

Baijiu is horrible alcohol, as strong as Chartreuse, and even at the topmost shelf the best you can really hope for flavour wise is watered down mineral turpentine. When I staggered out of the elevator that night in front of the shuttered business wing bar, I was looking for something, anything really, to take the taste of wretched baijiu out of my mouth. It was like a sign from the heavens: on the top shelf of the bar the crystal decanter was illuminated softly green by the neon light from the Holiday Inn sign outside the window. It was an unsecured bottle of Louis XIII.

I didn’t hesitate for one second. I hopped over the rope and strode straight behind the bar. I looked around for a glass, but the racks were empty, their glasses removed during the renovations. There was nothing else for it: I upended the bottle and suckled straight from the $2,000 teat, two quick pulls of about a shot each. I think it was nice, but I was far too loaded to appreciate it, and my tastebuds were ruined from an evening drinking light gasoline. I returned the decanter and headed for my room. From conception to flight the crime had taken less than thirty seconds.

In any event, the moral of the story is that crime doesn’t pay: the hasty double broke the camel’s back and I spent the next hour or so throwing up in the bath.

Cuaba Piramides Edición Limitada 2008, mostly smoked

In the final third the Piramides begins to betray a few notes of that classic Cuaba flavour: tar, ash, and rubber, but it never gets too bad and I wind up taking it all the way to the hilt. Not a great cigar, and definitely not a great limited edition, but it is an acceptable mid-range and by far the best Cuaba I’ve ever had. We’ll need to find another whipping boy. I’ll try and dig out one of their regular production.

It’s a league better than the Salomónes.

Cuaba Piramides Edición Limitada 2008 nub

Cuaba Piramides Edición Limitada 2008 on the Cuban Cigar Website

Partagás Culebras

The Nicaraguan cigar industry, plagued as it is by small independent producers scrabbling to distinguish themselves from each other, produces a lot of novelty cigars; a quick perusal of any US based online cigar store will reveal cigars as long as your arm, cigars with two-tone barber-pole striped wrappers, cigars shaped like onions, square cigars, and a never ending quest for thicker and thicker ring gauges and darker and darker wrappers. Cuba, on the other hand, with its virtual monopoly of the premium cigar market everywhere outside of the States, doesn’t feel the same drive, and stays more or less entirely within the same basic shapes and sizes it has been producing for five centuries. As always there is one exception: the Partagás Culebras.

Once manufactured by a few different brands, the only surviving Cuban Culebras is the Partagás one (and that has been announced as discontinued more than once, although stock seems to keep appearing). It’s an odd duck, with three heads and three feet, and a twisted mess of tobacco in-between them.

Partagás Culebras unlit

I try to open it with a cutter, but can’t manoeuvre the thing in properly, and so wind up using my fingernail. Lighting is actually easier than you would expect; the feet aren’t quite level, so a narrow, precise jet-flame and a steady hand can light each one individually without blacking the side of another. I wouldn’t recommend trying to light this one with a match. Straight away I discover that it’s impossible to toke from all three heads at once – you can’t create a seal with your lips and end up just drawing in outside air. It is easy enough to draw on each one individually, however, and I quickly fall into a rhythm of puffing from one and rotating the cigar. This would probably be a good choice for the smoker who puffs too often and causes his cigar to burn hot; the staggered inhalations keep each coal relatively un-stoked. One head has a slightly looser draw than the other two, but all fall well within the bounds of acceptability.

The cigar is very mild with light earthy notes. Deeper in there is leather and coffee. It’s a basic, nice quality light Partagás profile – not as rich as a D4 or any of the banner cigars. Maybe the start of a Lusitania.

The fire is still a good millimetre above the first ribbon when I notice it (the ribbon) beginning to melt. I untie it as quick as I can, but it leaves a thin line of melted red plastic on the cigar. As it burns off I avoid inhaling, stoking the fire by alternately exhaling through the cigar and blowing directly onto the coal. Here’s a piece of trivia for all you aspiring aficionados out there to file away: Partagás Culebra ribbons are 100% polyester.

Partagás Culebras two thirds remain

As the cigar tightens in on itself the three coals become one, and each puff flares the entire coal. I slow my toke speed to match. I have been finding myself spending a lot of time following the paths of the cigar up, trying to figure out which end leads to which, but now that the cigar is tight and it’s all one coal, it doesn’t really matter. The flavour is still very light, mild tobacco, although the earthy tones have graduated to more of a grassy, woody note. It doesn’t offer all that much, but it is a very pleasant, no nonsense sort of cigar.

I’m about two thirds of the way through my second beer, a White Rabbit Dark Ale, when my manservant Davidé polishes off his fourth and proposes a run to the bottle-shop for some hard liquor. In a moment of weakness I toss him the keys to my cabinet upstairs and tell him to get himself a bottle of Jack Daniels. He returns ten minutes later with the most expensive scotch in the place, a Glenfiddich 125th Anniversary Edition that I bought duty free a couple of years back, having deemed the Daniels, along with various Johnny Walkers, bourbons, and the odd Islay Single Malt, unworthy of his distinguished palette. He promptly pours himself a double.

The beer, for what it’s worth, is excellent. I don’t have a palette for the stuff, but Davidé tells me it’s extremely chocolaty, and I tend to agree. It complements the cigar very nicely.

Partagás Culebras final third

Although I have been puffing on the triumvirate equally, the looser drawing pathway in the cigar is (fairly predictably) burning a little quicker than the other two, and as the cigar starts to tighten for a second time it begins to become a problem. I remove the main band and push the miscreant up so that the coal is level with the others. The unfortunate side effect here is that one head is now impossible to puff on. Hopefully the proximity of the others will keep it going but, if not, I suppose I can always relight. Overall the cigar is excellent, burning very cool and presenting not the slightest hint of tar, even at this late stage. The notes are lightly herbal with a faintly earthy finish. I retrohale and get a creamy note for a minute that is far above this cigar’s pay-grade.

I finish off the beer and pour myself a small dram of the Glenfiddich as Davidé helps himself to another full tumbler. The swine is shitfaced, and slumped in his chair he gurgles with wet mirth as I make snide comments about the forty dollar’s worth of whiskey he has just inhaled. It’s an odd duck, the 125th Anniversary, with a shocking amount of peat for the Lairds of smooth Speyside. It’s not quite the tar pit of a Laphroaig or Lagavaulin, but there is a distinct iodine note in there. I’ve never been a fan of smoky whiskies with cigars as I find that they tend to bring out the worst from the leaf, exacerbating the bitterness of the tar. Fortunately, in the Partagás Culebras there’s no tar to exacerbate.

Eventually I reach the inevitable point and have to untie the final ribbon, causing the cigar fall apart. Disassembled, it resembles three petite coronas, two in the final inch and one few centimetres longer. I smoke them down to three separate nubs, puffing in rotation.

In the end this is a very easy going, no-nonsense sort of a cigar. Were it a straight parejo it would no doubt be a sleeper favourite amongst Partagás fans. As it is it is a fun, perfectly smokable cigar that deserves more than novelty status. In fact, I really feel that should be more Culebras in the world: if you’re in the business of commissioning regional edition cigars, I strongly recommend you order up a paper-wrapped Fonseca Culebras, or at least a Ramón Allones one, because I certainly enjoyed this more than a PSD4.

Partagás Culebras nub

Partagás Culebras on the Cuban Cigar Website