The H. Upmann Magnum 50 first appeared in 2005 as an Edición Limitada, and in 2008 it made the rare leap into general release. The cigar I have with me today is the penultimate single from a box I purchased in 2009, on the recommendation of a merchant who proclaimed them to be “fantastic right now.” He was right, as twenty three of this cigar’s incinerated sisters can attest; they’ve never let me down once.
Upon ignition the very first notes are harsh and bitter, asphalt and burning plastic. It takes a little longer than usual – almost a centimetre of cigar – for the bitterness to depart, and a delicate, creamy, light tobacco flavour to emerge. Some grass. Very nice.
I’ve made myself a cheeky Pimm’s Cup to go, that resembles nothing so much as the glass jar of tea leaves that every Chinese construction worker has slung from his belt at all times. Well, I say Pimm’s Cup – it’s really a very poor rendering of the drink: a few shots of Pimm’s, a tray of ice, half an orange (sliced), a few dashes of ginger syrup, and topped up with ginger beer. If I lived in a home with a better equipped refrigerator it would also contain lemonade, strawberries, and most critically, cucumber, but alas, it isn’t to be. The cucumber is key. It gives it the ‘fresh’ taste.
At the midpoint the cigar has thickened slightly to medium tobacco with a light spice, and a nutty sort of undercurrent of almonds and the occasional cashew. An element of cream still remains.
As long as I’ve been a drinker I’ve always been a bit of a Pimm’s man: there’s nothing finer on a summer’s afternoon. Back in the day when we were insecure nineteen year olds I would get a lot of funny looks when I would show up with a bottle; it was widely considered to be a drink for old ladies, and was certainly the antithesis of the masculinity that our standard drink of the day – the warm Victoria Bitter tinny – represented. Once I poured out a few cups though it wouldn’t take too long before we were all sipping Pimm’s in the sun and having a gay old time.
I had one bad experience on the stuff. I was in my mid-twenties, and was invited to spend the afternoon at a friend-of-a-friend’s place, the pre-party to a house party elsewhere that evening. I arrived my customary two hours late, Pimm’s bottle in hand, and found only two other guests in the place. I knew my host only a little, and his friends not at all, and I quickly found myself on the outer as they reminisced about old times to which I had nothing to contribute. My lips unoccupied with conversation, they occupied themselves with sipping, and Pimm’s sips very easy. By the time my friends arrived, which was more or less when everyone was getting ready to move to the house party, I had gotten myself on the outside of more or less the entire bottle.
The party was banging, with a hundred or so people, all in elaborate costume. It was centred on the lounge room where a DJ was laying it down for a packed, sweaty dance floor. I wasn’t really in a dancing mood, and it was much too loud for much chit chat, so I was just sort of standing in the centre of the dance floor, perhaps tapping my toe enough to seem appreciative. I finished the final slug of my current cup – there was just a little swill left in the bottle, perhaps enough for one more – and glanced over to the stairs where my bag (and bottle) was stashed. Crouched on the landing overlooking the room, and focusing a hefty digital SLR, was a boy dressed as Wally (Waldo, American readers). He seemed to be focusing it directly on me, and so without much thought, I tossed my now empty plastic cup at him. He gave me the finger and I laughed.
A few minutes later I retrieved my bottle and made the final Pimm’s cup before returning to the dance floor. I stood around a while longer tapping my toe, and again my unoccupied lips made short work of the elixir. Ten minutes later I tossed back the last mouthful, glanced around the room, and, spotting Wally over by the kitchen counter, I tossed my cup in a fine ballistic arc, right into the side of his head. Furious, he marched straight over. “What the fuck is your problem?” he demanded. I didn’t have much of an answer, so I shoved him, and when he shoved me back I tried to throw a head-butt. I messed it up, and some people pulled us apart, told me I was being an arsehole and bundled me quickly into a cab.
“What was I doing” I asked myself in the clear light of the morning after the night before. I think at the time I thought I was being funny, but in retrospect, it was pretty obvious: I was trying to start a fight, something I have never done before or since. What a liquor to bring out your fighting drunk! Pimm’s! The Queen drinks Pimm’s (although if she’s not a bit of a rowdy behind closed doors I don’t know who is). Not whiskey nor tequila, not vodka nor absinth, not bathtub gin, nor any other liquor exclusively designed to make you unafraid of the police, no, for me, the one elixir that can turn me into an animal, is a Pimm’s No. 1 Cup. These days I treat it with respect.
Towards the end the cigar has comes to full, spicy tobacco and rough, mildly bitter tar. A bit of a breeze has picked up and I think it’s burning too hot. I put it on the seat in my lee in the hope that it will cool down a little, and sure enough it does, ending with a very crisp, clean, full tobacco and light straw.