It’s St. Patrick’s Day and Argus and I have just moved some furniture, so naturally the consensus is that we should find a pub and have a pint of the black stuff. We’re simple men in search of simple pleasures, and we eschew the chaos of the local Irish pub (where on St. Patrick’s Day they have music and food and whatnot – in years long past Argus and I made an annual tradition of going there and balking at their several hundred person line) in favour of the local non-Irish pub.
The place is empty, and the publican looks up from his paper with surprise as we stride in, thumping the bar and demanding two pints of Guinness. “Sorry, no Guinness” he says. “It won’t keep.” We survey the selection with some disappointment: Victoria Bitter, Carlton Draught, Cascade Premium Light. “Well, give us the closest thing you have.” He comes back with White Rabbit Dark Ale, which, sure enough, is ‘black stuff,’ but it’s a long way from stout, and a longer way from Guinness.
I had been smoking for a few years when the Montecristo Robusto Edición Limitada 2006 was released (I owned a humidor and kept it stocked), but I had not yet really started to collect. I was aware of the EL program, but I don’t think I’d ever actually smoked one when one of my friends gave me one of these robustos to look after for a while. I remember it sitting in my humidor, a glowering dusky beauty, and I remember its aroma which seemed to overpower everything else in there; a dirty bomb of musk and hard spice. This example has none of that, but it is a handsome brute with a nice, oily sheen.
We take our seats out in the beer garden, and I rifle through my pockets looking for my camera in order to take the inaugural shot for this review, but fairly predictably I’ve forgotten it (I will later find it inside my humidor). The pictures that accompany this entry will be brought to you courtesy of my Nokia 6300. The Nokia 6300 was released in January 2007 (mere months after the Montecristo Robusto Edición Limitada 2006), and I acquired one shortly thereafter. To me it represents the apex predator of the non-smart phone; the last great Nokia. In June 2007 the original iPhone was released and changed everything, and the Nokia 6300 and its like were quickly tossed aside in favour of the smart phone paradigm, but I’ve kept mine all these years. It’s smaller than an iPhone, it’s a lot cheaper than an iPhone, it’s easier to use than an iPhone, and I don’t really want my email to follow me about twenty four hours a day. There is also a certain satisfaction to be derived in owning the pinnacle of an antiquated technology; is a 30 year old Rolls Royce not better than a new Hyundai? (For the record, I drive a 1990 Mercedes-Benz). Perhaps it’s time though. With the Google Glass and the rumoured Apple watch thing being released within the next year, the sun is setting on the smartphone era, and rising on the era of the wearable computer. Perhaps it’s time I bought a smartphone. Perhaps the latest iPhone is the apex predator.
I slice the cap of the cigar and take an experimental puff. The draw is a little loose, and when I light it it immediately becomes apparent why: there is a hole down the middle of the cigar. At its mouth the hole is almost 2mm across, and it extends probably 15mm into the cigar. It’s not really a concern, but were it not for its position in the exact centre of the cigar I would probably wonder if it was a tobacco beetle’s exit wound rather than the product of an oddly shaped leaf or dubious roll. The cigar begins very well, with nuts over medium tobacco, and just a whisper of heavy cream. First class.
Argus has ordered us a packet of chips, paying the dollar premium for Red Rock Deli Sea-Salt over Smiths Original. Even the bartender was sceptical – “they’re basically exactly the same,” he told him. I’m always wary of eating something salty like this with a cigar, as I don’t know what effect it will have on my taste buds. On the surface the taste of the tobacco is much stronger, but it seems like salt might manifests itself in different ways, swamping the palette or shrinking the taste buds or some such. Beer and chips: I’m really not taking this tasting review too seriously. Salt on the palette deserves further study.
Nonetheless, the cigar is quite wonderful, very rich, with cream and cocoa. The burn is a little uneven, but nowhere near requiring a touch up, a vast improvement of burn quality over its 2000 brethren.
The beer is very light tasting for its colour, and honestly much more appropriate for a sunny summer afternoon than Guinness would have been. It’s a little burnt and hoppy, but not overpoweringly so. There is a trick with the standard beer jug used in Australian pubs where you can pour two glasses simultaneously by titling the jug slightly and letting it spill over the lip on one side. I’ve been doing it for years as a party trick, and it generally seems to impress, despite the fact that it’s actually an incredibly simple thing that anyone can do on their first attempt. I do it on this occasion, dividing the fifth pot between us, and as I do I quip “like King Solomon, I cut the beer in half.” “No, no,” Argus protests, “I’d rather see it go to you than see it split.” I chuckle and tilt the jug a little, giving him the lion’s share. “Then you my son are the beer’s true owner.”
Toward the end the cigar tars up a bit, and grows bitter, but it’s bitter cocoa and espresso, over obviously top shelf tobacco, and not at all unpleasant. I take it till I burn my fingers.
There is a criticism among cigar aficionados that all the more recent Edición Limitadas taste the same, and perhaps there’s some truth to that, but I’m not too bothered. For my money this cigar is the superior of the both the Millennium Reserve Robusto and the 2000 EL, not to mention the Monte 4.