Trinidad Funadadores

Ah the Trinidad Funadadores, slightly fatter cousin to the Cohiba Lanceros. Both are long and skinny pigtailed cigars from premium brands, and both have a linage in diplomatic gifts (slightly dubious in the Trinidad’s case). The example I have today wears the old band, which gives it at least thirteen years of age. In the normal course of events when smoking a Funadadores I find myself wishing for a Lanceros – the Trinidad just never gives me the creamy elegance of the Cohiba. Perhaps the years will have softened it, however.

Trinidad Funadadores unlit

I set the thing ablaze, and it begins well, with very light notes of first class tobacco. It has the perfect draw for a cigar like this – just firm enough that you feel it. There’s not all that much flavour, but importantly it doesn’t taste like newspaper like some aged cigars can. Just a simple, elegant smoke. Slightly grassy. Slightly herbal. Slightly sweet.

I was a twenty–year-old moron when I met first Audrey; like most people, she just sort-of started showing up at parties. I didn’t give her much mind at first. I knew enough about her to know that she had a boyfriend, for starters, and also she was a little bit goth for me. Black lipstick, studded leather dog collars, full length fingerless gloves and ratty, shapeless jackets were her look, whereas I was I getting around in dishevelled op-shop suits and overcoats, and wanted an op-shop cocktail dress kind of girl. Of course, the clothes I was seeing Audrey in were her party clothes. I probably would never have seen her in her day-to-day stuff – probably would never have realised what an angel she was – if it wasn’t for Aldo’s wedding.

Aldo was a friend from school who at nineteen had fallen in love with a government certified lunatic. I was at a backyard barbeque with them not long after they started dating, and she had gotten ahold of someone’s baby, and wouldn’t put it down. “Oh Aldo” she crowed. “I can’t wait till I have one of my own!”
“Run” I silently mouthed to him, but he didn’t take my advice, and eight months later she was pregnant and I was best man at their wedding. The wedding was to be held at a resort up in the mountains, about three weeks after the ski-season had ended, and a month before the hiking season began. The bridal party were to arrive on the Thursday and settle in, then we had the rehearsal on the Friday, and then the wedding proper on the Saturday. Being off-season, we had the resort pretty much to ourselves.

I got in late on Thursday night, after the bar had already closed. With nobody around I went more or less straight to bed. In the morning, having missed the grand tour, I wandered the halls alone, looking for action, and found it when I stumbled across Audrey in the library. She was curled up in the arc of a porthole window, reading a fat fantasy novel. She had on tight black cotton pants and a grey cashmere jumper that perfectly accentuated her tiny waste and full bosom. The light was streaming through the window behind her, giving her a halo through her fine, blonde hair. She lit up when she saw me. “Oh, good, you’re here” she said. “I’ve been waiting for someone to come play Scrabble with me.”

She demolished me at Scrabble, of course. She was the kind of nerd that has memorised all the two letter words, and so keeps scoring 75 points with three letters by putting them down the side of something else. Despite the trouncing, when she offered to go again, I gladly accepted. Something much more important than a board game was going on in that library. We were connecting. We liked the same books, the same movies, and we had similar upbringings. By the time we were finished, we had our own private in jokes, and I was staring to fall for her.

Saturday was the wedding, and after the ceremony, conducted in the business centre because of the rain, and after the reception where I gave a meandering speech and made a few too many jokes at the bride’s expense, and after we had all watched Labyrinth, the couple’s favourite film, the few remaining hangers on snuck down to the indoor pool to go skinny dipping. The lights were off, but the moonlight came strong and bright through the plexiglass roof. Most of us were bashful, disrobing fully only in the darkest corners, and then slipping into the water as quickly as possible, covering ourselves until we were submerged. No Audrey. She sat for a while, fully clothed on the edge of the pool, sneering at our antics. Once the party was all naked she walked purposefully to the edge of the pool, disrobed completely in a moonbeam, and then slid her perfect form into the water. Lying on her back she floated gracefully, only her perfect breasts and face breaching the surface, Diana bathing with her nymphs.

After an hour or so I tired of the horseplay, and headed for the showers. No sooner had I entered the men’s change rooms then Audrey appeared behind me, her glorious form resplendent in the uncompromising florescent lights. “Do you have a towel?” she asked. I handed her one, and watched in a pitiful impersonation of a casual manner as she strode into the showers and washed herself, leaving the cubical door open. When we were both done, I walked her back to her room and lingered for a moment outside the door. “Well” she said. “Goodnight,” and kissed me wetly. “Goodnight,” I replied, and went back to my room. Like I said, I was twenty and a moron.

Trinidad Funadadores with an inch smoked

By the midpoint of the cigar the sweetness has gone. The tobacco has thickened ever so slightly, and behind it has bloomed a floral note. Cream is notable mostly for its absence. It’s a subtle cigar, but the heater is warm, my beer is cold, and I don’t mind a bit of subtlety. Elegance is still this cigar’s watchword.

The next morning, Audrey and I both caught a lift back to the city in the same car, next to one another in the back seat. As the car rocked back and forth down the winding mountain roads she slipped out of her safety belt and lay her head down in my lap. I folded my arm gently around her shoulders, praying that she didn’t notice the erection that lurked bare millimetres below her ear.

Of course, even the biggest moron eventually comes to his senses and, a few weeks later, Audrey and I became lovers. Her boyfriend was still around, something she seemed nonplussed about. “Oh, I’ve cheated on him loads of times” she told me. As we got closer the state of their relationship became clearer. They had been together for seven years, but broken up periodically whenever she met someone she liked better. Basically, she hated to be alone, and he was spineless enough that he was willing to be the default bed-warmer she called when there was nobody better around. Or at least he had been. When they got back together after her last foray, he had set her an ultimatum: “This is it,” he proclaimed. “If we break up again it’s forever.” A pre-engagement ring had been presented.

And so, I was relegated to the position of a part-time lover. She liked me, but he was default position, and she wouldn’t leave him. As I fell for her harder, this was increasingly a problem. I was addicted to that angel, and Groom wears the cuckold’s horns for no man. I hatched a plan.

It was simple enough. I knew that she was going to a barbecue that weekend, and that her boyfriend would be there. One of my friends, a vague acquaintance of her boyfriend, would also be there. One of her sexual predilections was to have her neck kissed and bitten, and so on Friday night, during a particularly vigorous coital session, I indulged her, leaving a prominent purple mark above her collarbone, an unmistakable lover’s branding. As she brushed her hair in my bathroom the next morning she laughed about it. “I’m going to have to wear a turtleneck.”

Once she was gone a text went out to my Iago. “Hey bro,” I wrote. “Tell him to get a look at her neck. She’s wearing a turtleneck to hide a hickey.” In the evening she called me in tears. “Kip broke up with me,” she sobbed. “He found your bloody hickey.” I smiled the smile of the victor.

Of course, a year later I was done with her and she went back to him, but that’s another story.

Trinidad Funadadores half smoked

In the final two inches the cigar thickens up as six inches of accumulated tar starts to combust, and the flavour profile changes to notes of earth and wood and gun-smoke. The gentler soul might toss it at this point, but for me it’s the perfect way to end a subtle beauty like this one. Flavour country. I smoke it all the way.

The Trinidad Funadadores? Very decent with fifteen years on it.

Trinidad Funadadores nub

Trinidad Funadadores on the Cuban Cigar Website

Trinidad Short Robusto T Edición Limitada 2010

The Harem is well known for its verticals, my comprehensive evaluations of every cigar in a brand or line, but we have never completed a horizontal until today, when the Trinidad Short Robusto T Edición Limitada 2010 will join its EL 2010 sisters, the Montecristo Grand Edmundo and Partagás Serie D Especial in conflagration. Consisting of only three cigars, I admit that the horizontal is not one of my most impressive achievements; I have a vague plan to someday smoke my way through an entire year’s regionals, but I can’t quite face the idea of all those 50 ring Ramon Allones in a row.

Trinidad Short Robusto T Edición Limitada 2010 unlit

I set the cigar ablaze and from the first puff it is obvious that this will present the standard Edición Limitada profile of chocolate and cedar. Aficionados often decry this profile and the Edición Limitada program in general, claiming that every cigar tastes the same. I see where they’re coming from, but I’m not too fussed because to me they all taste delicious, and besides, there’s always a little nuance between them. The other, perhaps more valid, criticism of this particular cigar was its price: the regular production Trinidad Robusto T, released to acclaim only one year earlier, provided a very obvious comparison point; the Short Robusto T was 20% shorter and 30% dearer. They were not fast sellers.

Nonetheless, it is precisely the diminutive length that has drawn me to this cigar today. The sun is shining, but Melbourne is exhibiting its trademark winter nip: an icy wind, straight off the Antarctic. As my old running mate in China, a cockney brawler named Simon, used to say, “it’s a bit Pearl Harbour out here.”

It was Christmas Eve and a light snow was falling, catching in the obsidian hair of the Chinese girls and gleaming like so many costume tiaras as they swarmed across the square and into the subway station. They walked with an odd, bow-legged gait, placing heel and toe flat simultaneously: the stone of the square was interspersed every few meters with panes of glass that were treacherous when dry, and murderous in these conditions. I was in a foul mood. Eight months in China will do that to a man, but today was worse than usual. In Australia Christmas Eve would be a fun day in the office: the beer fridge might get opened after lunch, and people would leave early, everyone excited for the break. In China it was just another work day, and the 25th would be the same. To top it off, my assistant had informed me that a package from Australia, presumably containing gifts from my family, had been destroyed by customs. Allegedly it contained a knife.

I was headed for the New York City Deli, a favourite watering hole for me and my degenerate crew. It was run by a Chinese guy called Eddie, who had started the place after visiting New York in the early 2000s. Unusually for Chinese theme bars, the food was actually pretty good, and not too disloyal to its inspiration, trafficking mainly in cured meats on rye bread. My friends and I were regulars chiefly because of their Friday night lock-in policy: whoever was in the bar at 8:00pm on a Friday night was charged ¥100 (about $15) and set loose to eat all you could eat and drink the bar dry. By about 9:00 Eddie would have passed out and the regulars would be behind the bar, drinking out of the beer taps, practicing flair bartending, and generally enjoying the sensation foxes feel when let loose in the hen house. Tonight was the lock-in Christmas special: a full bird with all the trimmings.

Trinidad Short Robusto T Edición Limitada 2010 two thirds remaining

At the mid-point the cigar is very pleasing, chocolate dominating over a buttery finish. A short while later the chocolate becomes less sweet and gradually changes into coffee. The butter remains. A friend of mine who follows a diet composed almost entirely of fats and oils takes his coffee with butter in it, and this reminds me a lot of that. It leaves a slight oiliness on the tongue. Strength is light-medium but growing.

Simon was the first face I saw when I walked in the door, slouched at the bar, well into a beer that didn’t look like his first. He was the same age as me, but looked five years older (and I’m not exactly a baby face), having the grizzled features of a hard life. He always wore a baseball cap, and I knew him six months before the tout outside a girl bar had playfully snatched if off and revealed his baldness. “’Ello Shag,” he said when he saw me, and with a wink he lowered his voice. “It’s going to be a white Christmas.”
“Yes.” I smiled, brushing the snow off my shoulders. “Merry Christmas.”

It was an hour later when it became clear what he meant. The doors were locked, the blinds drawn, my belly was full of rich food, and all around were friends. I was sipping on a little Jägermeister – an after dinner digestif – when Simon started cutting lines of cocaine out on the bar. With a smile he proffered me a rolled up ¥100 note. “Here you go, Shag. Get some of this up ya.”

It’s quite something, that cocaine. The tingle in the sinuses. The bitter drip down the back of the throat. It gives you at once a feeling of invincibility and a boundless energy and enthusiasm. It also sharpens the brain to the point where alcohol seems to have no effect, which was a good thing because we were in a mood to drink heavily. It was about 10:30 when the Skittle shots came out: half a packet of a single colour of Skittles, dissolved in the cheapest, most methylated Chinese knock-off vodka. The first one hit the top of my stomach and sent me to the toilet to throw up. I was cool about it. A quick yak then back to drinking. By midnight I had lost it twice more, and we’d cleaned out every drop of liquor in the place.

Tempers were starting to run high. Simon had locked horns with some young Brit over football teams or something, and was repeatedly inviting him to come outside and have “the shit kicked out of him,” an invitation that young man was hastily declining. When I went over to intervene he turned on me. “You better watch yourself, Shag. Fucking Australians, no respect for their heritage.” Fortunately I knew how to placate him. “C’mon mate, the bar is dry and we’re out of coke, let’s go to Bund.” He liked Bund.
“Oh, Bund” he smiled. “Lovely.”

The big problem with cocaine is that it doesn’t last very long – only half an hour or so – which doesn’t seem like a problem until you stop taking it and all your crimes catch up with you. Bund was the best club in Shanghai, occupying the top floor of an old bank right on the river; a beautiful space with high ceilings and a shark tank running the full length of the back wall. To get up to the club you ascend a sweeping marble staircase to a cramped bouncer’s station, and if you pass muster he lets you into the elevator. When my motley crew arrived there were six of us – myself, Simon, the young Brit (they seemed to have patched things up), and a few hangers on – each of us with twenty standard drinks inside him. The bouncer was not happy. At first he flatly refused admission, but everything in China is a negotiation, and soon Simon had him down to a ¥300 per head cover. Simon was willing, but the comparative value proposition between this and the NYC Deli lock-in raised my ire. I pushed into the bargaining position. “No, no, no” I said “we come in free.” The bouncer shook his head solemnly, so I raised myself up to my full height, took a step back for emphasis, and yelled “don’t you know who the fuck I am?”

The back step had placed my heel precariously on the edge of the marble step, made slippery from the tramped in snow of and evening’s guests, and my proclamation lingered in the air for a beat before my footing went from under me. Step by step I rolled down the grand staircase, eventually winding up face down in the lobby. I began to chuckle, struck by ridiculousness of it all. Eventually Simon’s voice drifted down from on high. “Oy, Shag… you alright?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine, just a little tumble.”

I hauled myself to my feet and bounded back up the stairs. “Three hundred quai, was it?” I asked, holding out the money to the bouncer. He smirked and let us in.

As far as I’m concerned, the next thing that happened was I woke up in my bed. It was 10:30am, I was covered in bruises, my head felt like someone was forcing a blunt power-drill through my temple, and I was very conscious of a black spot in my evening. Simon later told me that we had had many more adventures: a bottle of Grey Goose at the club, and then to a girl bar in Pudong. When he saw me last I was heading home, throwing up out a cab window. I didn’t recall a second of it. I dragged myself to the shower and threw up blood, both brown, old blood from the stomach and red, new blood from my throat: throwing up so many times in one night had opened up sores in my oesophagus that would take months to heal. I tried to call my boss and tell him I wouldn’t be in, but my voice was completely gone, nothing but a dry, high pitched rasp. It took me until about 4:00 to recover enough to send him an email. I signed it off with “Merry Christmas.”

Christmas in China. Not recommended.

Trinidad Short Robusto T Edición Limitada 2010 smoked just above the band

In the final third the butter departs the cigar, leaving only bitter espresso, which after a time turns into pure cocoa with a strong cedar back. It is strong and bitter, with more tar than you’d expect from a cigar this small. It gives a good nicotine buzz. The Trinidad Short Robusto T will probably never be worth the money, but if money is no object and you only have an hour or so for a smoke, you could do a lot worse than this one. Recommended.

Trinidad Short Robusto T Edición Limitada 2010 nub

Trinidad Short Robusto T Edición Limitada 2010 on the Cuban Cigar Website

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.

Trinidad Torre Iznaga Colección Habanos 2006

An autumn night under the full Easter moon and not even the slightest breeze is blowing. I’m in a seaside town on a Wednesday night, and only the very occasional purr of a car on the distant highway serves to indicate that I’m not the last man on earth. The air is crisp, but it’s nothing a light coat and some fortified wine can’t handle. The next port on my voyage through the Colección Habanos is 2006’s Trinidad Torre Ignaza, named after a tower, and appropriately so, as it’s a 52 x 170mm fat-boy. Trinidad is a brand I’ve tried to like, but I’ve never really come around to it. I have high expectations of it, as I think of it as a sort of Cohiba Jnr: they both have the same lineage, being born out of the diplomatic gift circuit, and they both feature my preferred style of cigar (long and thin) very prominently in their line-up. I’ve smoked a lot of Trini’s, however, and they almost always disappoint. How will this, a cigar that is about ten ring points overweight, and from a series that has thus far proved to be pretty hit-and-miss, fair? My expectations may be high, but my hopes are not.

Trinidad Torre Iznaga Colección Habanos 2006 unlit

 

I peel off the pigtail and apply a little heat. The draw is loose, but the flavour is excellent, medium tobacco with a great, full taste of freshly turned earth, cedar and subtle nutmeg spice. Half an inch in and the earth leaves in favour of roasted chestnuts, the meat greasy on the tongue. The smoke is thick and blue, and the night is so still that it wafts skyward in a column that is uncompromisingly straight.

I’m sipping a Seppeltsfield Para Grand, the $25 entry level tawny in a range that includes Australia’s most expensive wine, the world’s only annually released 100 year old vintage, which is to say that starting in the nineteenth century, someone had the foresight to set aside a barrel every year with the intention of opening it only after a century had passed, and that those barrels somehow managed to survive unopened through three generations of ownership changes, wars, recessions, fires, floods and fiscal crises before they started tapping one per year in the late-1970s. That 100 year old is a bit expensive for my blood, but its poor cousin is quite acceptable, a generic sweet wine that you can put half a bottle of inside you without really thinking too much about it; a good after dinner drink for the closet alcoholic.

Trinidad Torre Iznaga Colección Habanos 2006 one third smoked

At the halfway point the cigar turns on me for just a minute, the fantastic flavours fading to nothing but dirty ashes, but just as I delightedly prepare to write this off as another disappointing Trinidad it comes back, the ash disappearing and leaving a very light tobacco, clean new-wallet leather and roasted bean.

I had the pleasure once of participating in a blind taste test of Graham’s four aged tawny ports, at 10, 20, 30 and 40 years old respectively. There were four of us blind that night, and we were in total agreement as which port was which. We were also all totally wrong, nominating the 10 as the 40, the 20 as the 30, the 30 as the 20 and the 40 as the 10. I can’t speak to the logic of the others, but for my own part I based my decision largely on smoothness. All the wines were great, and once the labels had been revealed I revisited them all, meditating on the flavours. The truth that I took away from the evening is that as tawny ports, when first put into the barrel, essentially taste like Ribena: they are sweet, and smooth, and I imagine would be consumed with no complaints if an irresponsible parent were to serve them at a ten year old’s birthday party. As they age they certainly become more complex – a complexity that the aficionado no doubt appreciates – but with that complexity comes a strength of flavour, a sharpness, an alcohol burn, the tang of citrus rinds, the tannins of wood and so on. I like to think that were I to present a novice smoker with a Torre Ignaza and a more humble cigar, they would choose the Torre every time – its quality is self-evident and unmistakable. With the Graham’s port I suspect that a novice drinker would prefer the 10. And that 100 year old Seppeltsfield must be bloody awful.

Trinidad Torre Iznaga Colección Habanos 2006 final third

The Torre Ignaza ends with a slight bitterness, more good espresso than bad tar – I don’t feel even the slightest need to spit or cleans my palette after a puff, which is my dividing line between ‘good bitterness’ and ‘bad bitterness.’ The burn has been mediocre throughout: I’ve had to relight three times and touch up a handful of others. Smoking time was a hair over three hours, and for the past two I’ve felt intensely relaxed, the cold of the night and the ever present threat of mosquito bites wafting from my mind like so much fine tobacco smoke. When all is said and done, this is a fantastic cigar, supremely balanced, incredibly elegant, by far the best Trinidad I’ve ever smoked, and one of the better entries in the Colección Habanos. It’s hard for anything at this end of the spectrum to ever live up to its price tag – for the cost of one of these you could easily get five top notch sticks from the regular production – but if you’re the kind of person for whom a $100+ cigar can ever constitute value, then I don’t think you’d be disappointed in the Trinidad Torre Ignaza.

Trinidad Torre Iznaga Colección Habanos 2006 nub

Trinidad Torre Iznaga Colección Habanos 2006 on the Cuban Cigar Website