Romeo y Julieta Romeos Réplica de Humidor Antiguo 2008

Regular readers will know that I have had a bit of a mixed experience with the Replica Ancient Humidor cigars. As a release I don’t really believe in them: more so than anything else Habanos comes out with they are pure collector’s pieces, and in my book, cigars are for smoking, not collecting. The Romeo y Julieta version is more interesting than most, only because the cigars within are an old discontinued production size, that also crops up occasionally in other special releases. It will give me a few interesting points of comparison. Named the Romeos, they are a great fat perfecto, the classic cigar of the 1920’s cartoon millionaire. Mine is a pleasant looking thing, with a rich red wrapper. I’m pleased to observe that it continues the long tradition of crappy printing on the bands of ultra-premium cigars.

Romeo y Julieta Romeos Réplica de Humidor Antiguo 2008 unlit

Set alight, it begins very mild, with a light, almost buttery spice. The beauty of a perfecto is that you can have the draw any way you like it, and mine is perfect. After about a centimetre, the smoke thickens and sweetens, rich honey with a herbal note – the tang component of oregano.

I’m smoking this cigar on the deck down at the Groom Compound, and I’m joined by two companions. One is Stevespool, an old school friend who has featured several times before in these pages, and the other is Troung, who has wound up on the deck because he’s dating one of Stevespool’s wife’s girlfriends. It is the first time that either of us have met him, and it is with some surprise that we discover that we all attended the same high school at the same time. We run though names of friends and teachers, trying to establish where we all fitted in the school’s social hierarchy, when suddenly something clicks in Troung’s eyes. “Wait” he says to me. “Were you the People’s Champion?”

For the first two years of my high school education – years seven and eight – I attended an elite private school. It was an expensive education, but worth it in my parents’ eyes, because of the vast array of extra-curricular activities afforded the students – orchestras, plays, a closed circuit television station, a vast array of sporting teams and so on. My parents’ son, unfortunately, did not see the same value. In my first two years I begrudgingly sang in the chorus of a few musicals, and mimed my way through the duties of third cello in the string orchestra, but beyond that, I did as little as possible. For me, playing video games with my friends took much higher priority than anything school could offer me.

So it was that at the end of year eight they offered me a choice: participate more in the expensive private school, or leave and attend a cheap government school, where I could waste as much time as I liked. I chose to leave.

The school I wound up at was Melbourne High, which is unique among high schools in my part of the world in that rather than take students from the local area, the sole criteria for admission was an entrance exam. Because of this, in a city where about 7% of the population comes from an Asian background, more than half of the student body at Melbourne High was Asian. How much the races interacted depended a bit on what classes you took – if you were a white guy who did physics, accounting and specialist maths, then you probably wound up friends with a few of the Asian guys. If you were a white guy like me who took theatre, media studies and literature then you more or less attended a school that was 100% white. This is why, despite having spent four years together in the close confines of a high school, Stevespool and I had never heard of Troung.

It was an interesting change for me, arriving at such an academic high school. At my previous schools I’d always been two things – the smartest guy in the room, and the biggest nerd. Not any more. At Melbourne High I was suddenly kind of a jock. I still remember orientation day – I was chatting with Raffaele, a guy I had met a few times before at a friend’s birthday parties, when he suddenly got up and walked over to some little Asian dweeb with glasses who was eating a bucket of hot chips. Raff took a chip out of the kid’s bucket without asking, ate it, and sneered “thanks for the chip.” The dweeb looked on silently, filled with impotent rage. I looked on in awe. “Holly shit,” I thought. “At any other school that would have been me getting picked on. In this place I’m one of the bullies.”

Troung was one of the bad boys of the school, the Asian gangsters. They hung out down behind the library, smoking only semi-covertly. I guess they must have still been doing their physics homework, because the school had a pretty rigorous expulsion policy for guys who didn’t make the academic standard, but at the time it seemed like they were just about hair gel, smoking, and (allegedly) dealing drugs. The only evidence I ever saw of it was that I once caught Allan Cho surreptitiously slipping a pill bottle full of brown liquid into his bag and he told me to “keep my fucking mouth shut.” At the time I assumed it was heroin, but in retrospect one doesn’t usually carry 200ml of heroin in solution, so I guess maybe it was decanted whisky, or perhaps a nice dark rum.

Romeo y Julieta Romeos Réplica de Humidor Antiguo 2008 two thirds remaining

At the mid-point the cigar remains mild, light tobacco with nutty undertones. It is really quiet excellent, a delicate, elegant smoke, that is perfect for relaxed afternoons in the sun like the one that I am having. My first beer is still in front of me, while my compatriots are both well advanced in their second. Beer would only tarnish the delicate flavours of the Romeo.

By year 11 I had settled into my clique of vaguely arty kids, and was generally labelled as a stoner. I had had maybe two puffs of a university cigarette at that point in my life, but I was going for a sort of bohemian vibe, so I was happy to play along. I had long, boofy hair and a laid back attitude. On casual clothes days I wore trench coats and a lot of army disposal gear. I carried a Chairman Mao pocket watch.

The Student Representative Council President was elected in the final weeks of year 11, after the year 12s are off doing their exams. For reasons I don’t fully recall, I decided to run. It might have been a dare. The first step was to get approved by the faculty, which involved a letter to the Vice Principal, Mr. Woodful. I may have been a mediocre student, but I knew how to write an obsequious letter, and my application was long and heartfelt, speaking of the three generations of my family that had attended the school before me, and telling the story of my mum’s cousin, who had dropped dead during the fun run in the 1960s. I was delighted when I got called to the office: my candidacy had been accepted.

I got my first look at my opposition when I attended a briefing with Mr. Woodful, and he tried to instilled in us the seriousness of what we were doing. He told us that the SRC budget was $150,000, and that our peers would be devastated if we squandered it. There is a long tradition of embezzlement in the SRC, and he wanted us to know that it wouldn’t be tolerated in our year. Looking around at my fellow candidates, I started to wonder if maybe I had a shot at winning. There were five of them, and they looked like every other SRC candidate that I could recall, which is to say they were the dorkiest bunch of Asian dweebs imaginable. One candidate was clearly the establishment choice: Willard Hong, an A+ accounting student who had been heavily involved in SRC for years, and was the incumbent Vice President.

The week of campaigning launched on a Monday, with a special assembly for the speeches. The first to speak would be Willard, and then Brandon Chow (maybe not the least popular boy in the year level, but in the bottom five), and then me. The hall was packed that day: three year levels, nearly 1000 boys and teachers. Every seat was taken, and the overflow was sitting in the aisles. I hadn’t been on a stage since I stood on the back row of the chorus in Oliver, and I had never spoken in front of more than about thirty. I don’t think my heart has ever beat faster than when I was waiting my turn to speak.

Willard spoke softly and confidently, recounting his record as a faithful administrator. His sole election promise was to put a suggestion box in the cafeteria. Brandon read flatly from his prewritten speech, and lost the crowd completely about five sentences in, and soon couldn’t be heard above the cacophony of boys chatting. Mr. Woodful had to cut him off while he yelled at the school to pay attention. Brandon wrapped his speech early and slunk back in disgrace. It was my turn, and as I walked to the mic my leg was shaking so hard that I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to stand on it. I leaned heavily on the podium, took my speech out of my blazer pocket and dramatically tore it up (it was all theatre – had someone collected the scraps of paper they would have found the first line – “tear up speech”). About three sentences in I got my first laugh, and from there it was plain sailing.

The crux of my argument was that every SRC was always the same: no matter what we got eight sausage sizzles, three casual dances, and one formal. At the end of the year the year 12s got a t-shirt. There wasn’t enough responsibly in the position that anyone could really fuck it up, so you might as well elect someone with a bit of style. It wasn’t much of a case, but it didn’t matter because I made jokes, and more than that, I got the crowd a bit pumped up. “We will have a sausage sizzle!” I yelled, waving a finger in the air. “We will have some dances! And, yes” I said, turning smugly to Willard, “I’ll even give you a suggestion box!”

By the end of my speech the crowd was on their feet, stamping and cheering. The next three speakers were booed off the stage. I was ecstatic. I was going to win.

The rest of the week was campaign time. Officially we were allowed seven A4 sized posters on sanctioned notice boards around the school, and each one had to be stamped by the coordinator. I came up with seven different designs, had those stamped, and then photocopied them, blanketing the school. My slogan was “the same, but different.” Inspired by Mussolini, almost all of the posters featured my face on them somewhere. Willard Hong’s posters (he stuck to the regulated seven), featured the word “WHO?” in big bold letters, and in tiny font underneath, not visible from more than two meters away, “Willard Hong One.” Next to each one I hung an A3 blow-up of my face, answering his question. It was glorious.

I spent all my lunchtimes that week walking around, shaking hands and kissing babies. For four days I was king of the school. Wherever I went crowds formed around me while I fielded questions and signed year books. The vote was cast  during first period on Friday, and at recess I wandered up to the Vice Principal’s office to scrutineer, as we had been told in the briefing that we could. Mr. Woodful intercepted me at the door. “Sorry Alex,” he said. “You can’t come in right now. Come back later.” Over his shoulder I could see that the count was in progress.

I came back later, but the office was empty. By mid-afternoon the rumours were flying. Willard had won, with Brandon second. Boys were coming up to me, some offering commiserations, the others taunts. “Bullshit” I told them all. “Maybe Hong won, maybe I didn’t anticipate the Asian vote or something, but there’s no way I came in after Brandon Chow.”

On Monday morning the results in the school bulletin made it official: Hong for President, Chow his vice. Almost in tears, I went to see Mr. Woodful, demanding to see the votes. He told me they had been destroyed. “There’s just no way, Mr. Woodful,” I said. “I just don’t see how I could have lost.” He closed the door conspiratorially. “There’s something you need to understand about democracy, Alex” he told me. “Sometimes the right candidate isn’t the one people vote for.” I looked at him, puzzled. “Are you saying you guys rigged the vote?” He opened the door, showing me out, smiled obliquely, and turned his palms skyward. The universal gesture of ‘who knows?’

Filled with impotent rage, I declared myself The People’s Champion, and for the next year I wrote an anti-establishment column of the same name in the school paper. It got a few good laughs, but nothing more. The was one epilogue though that gave me some satisfaction: at the end of the year I happened to be in the school, having just finished my literature exam, and I walked past the packed auditorium where the SRC President speeches were in progress. I stuck my head in. At the lectern a boofy haired white guy gesticulated wildly. On the chairs behind him slouched five other white guys, each with boofier hair than the last.

Romeo y Julieta Romeos Réplica de Humidor Antiguo 2008 one inch remaining

Right to the end the Romeo remains mild, with not a hint of tar, an astonishing feat in a smoke of these dimensions. In the final inch the predominate note is toasted caramel and butterscotch, with just a little vegetal chardonnay on the back of the throat. A really quite excellent cigar, that will number amongst the very best Romeo y Julieta has to offer. Much better than a Petit Coronas.

Romeo y Julieta Romeos Réplica de Humidor Antiguo 2008 nub

Romeo y Julieta Romeos Réplica de Humidor Antiguo 2008 on the Cuban Cigar Website

H. Upmann Tacos Imperiales Réplica de Humidor Antiguo 2006

The first half of the Dusky Beauties season is always a lot of fun; the days are warm, the nights are long, and I have the full spectrum of whatever series I’m working on before me and can pick whatever suits me most at the moment of combustion. When I begin publishing in January I have a hefty buffer of completed articles ready to go, and so for the first few months there is no pressure to write each week; if the weather doesn’t comply, or if I’m busy, or just don’t feel like it, I can always run one of the buffer. The second half of the season is miserable. The only cigars that remain are the ones I never had time for before and, my buffer exhausted, I have to find the time to smoke no matter what the weather. Inevitably I wind up spending four hours a week wedged into some nook, sheltering from the driving rain while I choke back a Salomones II.

This afternoon seemed sunny, and as sunny days are an increasingly scarce commodity in Melbourne this time of year, I thought I’d get the H. Upmann Colección Habanos Magnum Especial review out of the way. It’s one I’ve been nervously anticipating, as I reviewed it last year with the rest of the Colección Habanos and it was garbage. Would a second example be the same, or was that one somehow contaminated? I pulled the cigar from my exotic singles humidor, headed down to a nearby park, photographed it, rinsed it, cut it, and was just applying the first flame when I observed that the cigar had a ring gage of at most 50, practically a Lanceros by Colección Habanos standards. Of course, I had made my first mistake: it was not the Magnum Especial at all, but rather, the Tacos Imperiales: the 2006 replica antique humidor cigar.

H. Upmann Tacos Imperiales Réplica de Humidor Antiguo 2006 unlit

It begins very nicely, with a great sweet, nutty cream and salted toffee, a high end dessert in a good restaurant. The ash is a very deep grey, almost black. It is, in fact, probably the darkest ash I have ever encountered and highly unusual in a nine year old, super premium cigar. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that my second mistake was coming out here this afternoon. The day may be sunny, but the long shadows of the approaching sunset fall increasingly on my little table, and the icy wind that blows off the polar icecap and into Melbourne has numbed my necessarily bare fingers.

I’ve spiked my ginger beer with a hefty dram of Buckeye Rum, the cheapest dark rum available in Australian liquor stores; “Buckeye Rum, a classic Caribbean rum,” the bottle proclaims, and then in smaller text “made in France.” Mixed it’s not bad at all, but when filling my flask earlier I accidentally got a little on my fingers: pure methanol, with the chemical sweetness of gasoline.

The barbeque area in which I am seated is gradually filling up. On the bench to my left a man in a beanie plays with his phone while enjoying a surreptitious beer that he carefully withdraws from and returns to his side pocket between draughts. On the right hand bench a couple, he in fluorescent green shorts, her in thin leggings, snuggle together sharing a cigarette. We are all of us vice worshiping exiles, cast out from society and into the frigid wilds of an inner city park at dusk.

H. Upmann Tacos Imperiales Réplica de Humidor Antiguo 2006, partially smoked, with a bottle of Bundaberg Ginger Beer

At the halfway point the cigar is thickening up a bit, a hint of cream still apparent but the sweetness largely replaced by a complex herbal tang, with notes of straw and oregano.  It goes out while I’m faffing about with the photos, the first sign of anything remotely wrong with the burn, and with my numb fingers and the wind, relighting it with my Bic lighter it proves almost impossible. I have a jet lighter with me but as usual it’s out of gas. For a moment I almost consider giving up, an absolutely criminal act with a cigar this rare. Eventually it comes good.

The lovers have left, but my friend with the beer has found another can in his other jacket pocket and soldiers on. I wonder why: his is a vice that could happily be indulged in any number of warmer places than this. Periodically he switches phone hands, rubbing the relieved one heartily before jamming it deep in his pocket. From the very dimmest corner of the park, that grim land beneath the railway viaduct, the sharp odour of marijuana smoke drifts by. I glance over to see two young men in business suits sharing a joint. A passing derelict gives them a pained expression.

H. Upmann Tacos Imperiales Réplica de Humidor Antiguo 2006 final third

With an inch or so to go the cigar has strengthened and roughened up a bit, the taste now heavy burnt tobacco with a note of forest fire (as distinct from the rubber fire of an inferior cigar). The aftertaste is strangely thin and almost seems to disappear on your tongue like Tab cola. I have smoked this cigar quicker than I would like, a hair under two hours: on cold, windy afternoons there is no time to linger on fine Havanas. In any event, the Tacos Imperiales is a really good cigar. She’s not up to the standards of some of the really fantastic Upmanns, but she is better than her sisters in the Replica Ancient humidor series, which I have previously lambasted as mediocre cigars in fancy packaging. I may have to reconsider.

Finally, of course, she’s much better than the H. Upmann Petite Coronas.

H. Upmann Tacos Imperiales Réplica de Humidor Antiguo 2006 nub

H. Upmann Tacos Imperiales Réplica de Humidor Antiguo 2006 on the Cuban Cigar Website

Partagás Sobresalientes Réplica de Humidor Antiguo

I’m on the waterfront, the docklands, Melbourne’s great urban renewal project of the 1990s. It’s widely derided in Melbourne as a failure, a soulless ghost town, and a disaster of urban planning, but failure is a relative term that rather depends on what you set out to accomplish. The docks, after all, were renewed, were they not? Luxury apartments and frozen yogurt shops have definitely taken the place of the cavernous warehouses and the greasy chip shops that the stevedores of yesteryear frequented. The main criticism is that nobody comes down here, that the streets are empty, but I’m sure the young professionals who live in the luxury apartments here aren’t too bothered by the rural serenity of their inner city suburb. To me, about to enjoy a Partagás Sobresalientes from the Replica Antique Humidor on my own private pier on a wonderfully still, cloudless day, the lack of foot traffic doesn’t seem like such a bad thing at all.

Partagás Sobresalientes Réplica de Humidor Antiguo unlit

I open the end and puff a few times with the cigar unlit, testing the draw. It is very loose, right on the cusp of unacceptably so. I bring a flame to the foot, and after a few sour puffs it turns quite velvety, with a heavy, herbal taste that is reminiscent of a good quality gin. There is a light dusty dryness in the aftertaste.

An old blanket is draped on the slime covered rocks below my position, and has been there so long that it appears to have become one of them, soaked in the same mud that has coloured the rocks, and sharing the same patina from the tides and the same slime pattern. I watch a dozen or so bright orange crabs as they move about, grazing on the muck. There is something going on under the water as well: for the first few meters off the shore it is punctuated by columns of air-bubbles rising to the surface. I can’t imagine what from – they seem far too regular and vigorous to be the work of crabs or photosynthesizing algae, but there’s so many of them that if they’re from a leaky pipe or tunnel then somebody has a big problem on their hands. A black swan, tag number G10 swims sedately by. He spies a floating apple, and, smart enough to pick it out from the non-edible flotsam, has a go at it. It’s too big for him, and after a dozen or so attempts he gives up and drifts away. He leaves the crabs unmolested.

When I lived in Shanghai I always used to marvel at the subsistence economy that existed on banks of the Huangpu and its tributaries, undoubtedly one of the most polluted waterways in the world. I’d often walk the banks of the river during my lunch break, and when the tide was low the rocks would be covered in scavengers, picking them clean of crabs and mussels and other shellfish. When I was a boy it was not unusual to see bodies floating in the Huangpu, presumably belonging to onetime scavengers who had lost their footing on the river’s slimy edge. By the time I returned to China as an adult the corpses were a lot rarer, presumably fished out at one of the gargantuan new dams upstream (or perhaps ground up in their power turbines).

Partagás Sobresalientes Réplica de Humidor Antiguo, two thirds left, with a coffee and some Ray-Ban Aviators

Part way through and the cigar is very mellow, a light tobacco flavour with a lot of wood and straw. There’s not a huge amount to it at this point, especially for a cigar of this ring gauge, but it’s an extremely pleasant, mild and elegant smoke, and perfect for an afternoon like mine. I was enjoying a cup of coffee with this but I finished it a little quicker than I meant to and am enjoying the later part of the cigar on its own – my main observation is that it would go extremely well with a dry, non-threatening cocktail, or perhaps a light white wine.

The Shanghai waterfront was anything but deserted. Once, late at night, I was in need of a romantic spot to canoodle with a girlfriend, and with Melbourne’s desolate waterfront in mind I headed for the river. It must have been one in the morning, and it wasn’t even a weekend, but the place was teeming: a thousand other canoodling couples were there, occupying every bench, bollard, and railing. They were serenaded by cacophonic street musicians and serviced by a range of food carts and several hundred hawkers who zipped back and forth on LED lit roller-skates, each flogging the same selection of laser pointers, electronic toys of the yapping, back-flipping dog variety, and glow-in-the-dark toy helicopters. One particularly stubborn girl selling roses latched onto us, following us for five minutes along the embankment, repeatedly trying to force a rose into my pocket despite my increasingly irate protestations. Eventually driven to breaking point I yelled at her, and made to throw her product into the river, and she skulked away. My girlfriend grew cold on me after that: she denied it at the time, but I suspect that she secretly wanted a rose.

Partagás Sobresalientes Réplica de Humidor Antiguo, two thirds smoked, with a coffee and some Ray-Ban Aviators

The cigar remains mild to the last, never turning bitter, but also never offering the dirty old Partagás flavour of the better Partagás exotics, or terribly much else of note. It’s a very pleasant cigar, a mild, cruisy smoke for mild, cruisy days. It’s totally inoffensive, and better than a PSD4 and some of the lesser limiteds. If you have a box I wouldn’t treasure them. If you don’t have one I wouldn’t seek one out.

Partagás Sobresalientes Réplica de Humidor Antiguo nub, on a coffee cup

Partagás Réplica de Humidor Antiguo on the Cuban Cigar Website

Montecristo Double Corona Réplica de Humidor Antiguo

The Replica Antique Humidor series is an annual release of a few hundred humidors: one brand per year; fifty cigars in each box. The cigars are generally large, a trophy smoke, but nothing too spectacular: normally it’s a repeat of something that appeared a few years prior in an LE or commemorative humidor. The humidors themselves are always very beautiful, classically styled things, supposedly modelled on ancient humidors, although the provenance of these has never been explained to my satisfaction. Are they custom humidors from private collections? Old special releases? I’ve wandered around the Tobacco Museum in Havana, I don’t recall seeing an old humidor and thinking “that looks just like a replica antique!” I like to think that there’s a humidor sleuth, travelling the garage sales of the world, looking for a particularly choice old box to bring back and copy.

I often think that the market for these things is people who want to buy themselves a nice humidor rather than cigar collectors. As releases they’re not that significant, but the humidors are beautiful. I’ve had the pleasure of inspecting a few firsthand: exquisite marquetry. Set fire to those pesky double coronas and you’d have yourself a very nice desktop.

Montecristo Double Corona Réplica de Humidor Antiguo unlit

I set fire to the pesky double corona, and find the draw on the firm side but very acceptable. It opens mildly, dry paperbark tree over light tobacco, a hint of earth and dusty haylofts.

I’ve mixed myself a rough mojito; a few leaves of mint from the garden (placed in a palm and heartily slapped – releases the menthol), a spoonful of sugar, and a few chunks of old fridge-dried lemon (I didn’t have any limes or even fresh lemons), macerated together, then topped off with a free poured slug of rum and about twice as much soda. It’s surprisingly not bad. Not bad at all.

The rum in question is a cheap Cuban rum that appeared in Australian markets with the rum boom of the last few years, named for Santiago de Cuba, an industrial shithole on the opposite end of the island to Havana. When travelling in Cuba I tracked the price (and mainly subsisted on) Cuban ‘pizza,’* and found that it decreased linearly the further I got from the tourist towns. Nowhere was it cheaper than in Santiago de Cuba.

Santiago de Cuba was once the seat of the Bacardi Empire – there’s a Bacardi museum there, and a statue of their patriarch, and I think I saw the old family home. On the waterfront is the old Bacardi rum factory, atop the pinnacle of which is a giant bottle, visible from all over town. The factories have been nationalised, of course, and I had always assumed that they were making Havana Club in there; Havana Club, after all, seemed to be the national rum, and what else would they produce in their nationalised rum factories? I realise now that that assumption was incorrect. I realise now that they were producing Santiago de Cuba.

Montecristo Double Corona Réplica de Humidor Antiguo one third consumed, with Santiago rum

In the middle the cigar has thickened up into heavy tobacco, bit of tar. Bitter coffee is certainly present, and some note of vanilla.

It was Saint Valentine’s Day the day I first set foot in Santiago de Cuba – I was having dinner with a male friend, and I remember that we’d remarked on the date in passing (he’d mentioned trying to call his girlfriend back home later on when the time zones were right). Unlike Havana, Santiago doesn’t get a steady trade of tourists, and English speaking private restaurants are few and far between, and rather than seek one out we decided just to take the easy way out and dine at the main tourist hotel, a beautiful old place on top of the hill.

The waiter was overjoyed to see us, and ushered us into an intimate little dining room where he seated us at a lace covered corner table, a single rose between us. We ordered a bottle of red and two steaks, and while we waited the entertainment came over, two elderly Cuban men, one with a violin, who serenaded us with Spanish love songs. The wine that arrived was a good deal sweater than we’d anticipated, and a perfect pale rose pink, and was served in very dainty glasses, and the steak, when it came, had suffered the unfortunate Cuban treatment of being battered with cheese and ham. The other treatment the steaks had received was slightly less usual: they had been cut into love hearts. We ate quickly and quietly, and summoned the bill as soon as the last morsel had been swallowed, but the waiter wouldn’t bring it. Dessert, he told us, was on the house. One slice of cheesecake. Two spoons.

Montecristo Double Corona Réplica de Humidor Antiguo one third remaining

We quickly skulked away after dinner, down the hill and into the dimly lit streets, looking furtively for somewhere where we wouldn’t look quite so much like a homosexual couple on a special Valentines date. We followed the sound of music and voices to a dank little low ceiling club, where the kids were smoking unfiltered cigarettes and grinding against one another. It would do. “Dos mojito, por favour.”

The bartender was sceptical of my convertible pesos, but eventually we reached an accommodation and two mojitos arrived, served in old jam jars. They were rough mojitos, free poured, with old limes, undissolved sugar, flat soda and too much rum. They were surprisingly not bad. Not bad at all. A lot like my mojito today.

Maybe it’s the rum.

The double corona is a good cigar, but in the field of Montecristo super exotics there is little to distinguish it. The tobacco is obviously first class, and it presents a good Montecristo profile, but there’s not a lot to distinguish it in either direction. It’s better than a Monte 4, and the C, and D, and the others that I had problems with, but it’s not up there with the greats like the Maravillas No. 1 or the Edmundo Dantes.

Montecristo Double Corona Réplica de Humidor Antiguo nub and ashes

*Allegedly, Fidel Castro’s favourite foods are pizza, ice-cream and Coca-Cola, a facsimile of all of which is universally available on the island. The Coca-Cola equivalent is Tu Cola (English: Your Cola), and tastes kind of like Pepsi Max; the ice-cream is sort of watery soft serve (I only had one, it tasted like rose water); and the pizza is a thick, doughy slice of bread with melted cheese on top. Very occasionally you find it offered with ham or some other additional topping at a higher price. The standard procedure is to fold the slice in half and pour about a cup of scalding hot cheese oil from the fold before eating; you usually burn your mouth anyway, but it helps. Prices ranged from twenty five local pesos in Havana (one euro, approximately), to five pesos in Santiago de Cuba.

Montecristo Double Corona Réplica de Humidor Antiguo on the Cuban Cigar Website