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.
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.
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.”
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.