Friday, 18 May 2012

Those are Fake Cigars

Jordan is a great place that everybody should visit at least once in their lives. It has Petra, Wadi Rum, the Dead and Red Seas, the place Jesus was baptised, the pillar of salt that became of Lots wife, and it's also the home of Ali Baba and the forty thieves.

The one thing it's doesn't have though, is a Casa del Habano or equivalent, which is a bit disappointing seeing as Aqaba is a tax free zone, with electric goods, cigarettes and alcohol in plentiful supply.  Cigars however are not.

I tend to walk around with my eyes closed and as such it's possible I might have missed something, but the wife sees and knows all, and so it's unlikely she would have missed it too.

The one and only shop we did find sold me Ricki cigars (Ricki Lake - Fake), so this post is on that subject, and the products purchased from Ali Babas.  I have to take some of the blame I suppose, because my greedy eyes were focused purely on the bargain price, and not on the tell tale signs.  So while I thought I was getting a bargain, I ended up with egg on my Ricky (Ricky Gervais - Face).

First off, my advice when travelling the world is to bring your own cigars, so if you haven't already got one, get yourself a travel humidor.  Mine holds ten cigars, but the humidifying sponge bit can soak into the cigars it covers, so I put tubed or small cigars in the middle, or nothing at all.

Secondly, bring more than you think you need.  If you don't smoke em', you can always take them home again, but if you run out, and can't find a shop, you have nobody to blame but yourself.

Travel tip number three is to keep old cigar tubes so you can pack more cigars in your Brendan (Brendan Grace - case), should your travel humidor become full.  I never check-in my travel humidor, but if you're bringing Cuban cigars into places Cuban cigars are not allowed, make sure those cigars are in your checked in luggage.  Cutters, matches and lighters should also be checked in and not shoved down your Adam and the Ants.

So, on to the evidence.

Before I paid for them, I examined the cigars for damage and firmness, and although the Behike had a pigtail, I remember thinking it was a bit on the small side.  This visual clue should have had the alarm bells going but it didn't.  I also remember thinking the cigar had a darker wrapper leaf than I remember, a lot darker, but once again, I was blinded by the price.

The other fake Cohiba bands have obvious flaws too, some more obvious than others, but in all cases, you don't need a degree in Cuban cigar bands identify them as fake.  They all have something askew, misaligned or smudged in different places.  Another giveaway was that cigars that were supposed to be the same, were different lengths.

Anyway, I was robbed, so I'll leave you with the photographic evidence of the impostor cigar bands.

The first one has flaws with the embossing where you can see the gold print is not flush with the embossed letters.  This fault was consistent across all the bands.

The Behike band is all over the place where the golden head is in the center.  This looks dirty but the other big tell is the gold rectangle box which doesn't quite surround "Habana Cuba".

The last picture shows hows the the gold box around "COHIBA" is not exactly square with the white square dots.  Real Cohiba bands would not be flawed in any way.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Two weeks in Jordan

I'm guessing those of you in the U.S of A won't be thinking of the same person everybody in the UK & Ireland will be thinking of, when I say the name Jordan.  I'd say about 99% of all Americans will immediately think of the greatest basketball player that ever lived, and not a former glamour model who's now a best selling ghost written author.

Please God nobody on either side is thinking of the irritating little pointy beard Leprechaun who used to own a Formula One racing team.

I'm not actually talking about a person called Jordan though, I'm talking about Jordan the country, which is where myself and the wife just spent two lovely weeks holidaying, and for those of you who don't know where Jordan is, here's a little map I drew in mspaint.

A five hour flight, with Air Jordan.  Only joking, it was with Royal Jordanian, followed by a 45 minute drive from the airport, and we arrived in the Dead sea, where we'd be spending the first week of our holiday adventure.

A quick run through of Jordan, the country.

It's hot.
It has lots of sand.
Also lots of rocks.

It's has a population of exactly 6.5 million people.

It borders Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Syria, so they're smack bang in the middle of the action.  See the excellent map above for more details.

In case you're wondering about the map, the yellow is sand, the blue is sea, as is the red, but the Red sea is not red in real life, I was just trying to be clever there.  Iraq is also full of sand, but I forgot to colour it in.

The average temperature was 35 degrees, with highs of over 40.

Needless to say, I'm now bronzed and have sexy tan lines in places you'd expect.

The Dead Sea area has 4 hotels and nothing else.  Thankfully, the Movenpick hotel complex is excellent, and they kept us well fed and entertained throughout the week.

They have one of the best spa' in the world (apparently they won a competition once) and to be fair to them, they've done an outstanding job on the place.

A week at the Dead sea was a million times better than I thought it was going to be, and it's my holiday destination tip of the year.  Stay at the Movenpick or Kempinski only, although they wouldn't let us into the Kempinski.

The Dead sea was followed by a week in Aqaba (see map), which was made famous by Lawrence of Arabia and the Arab revolt.

The hotel this time was the Kempinski, and once again, we found ourselves in a fantastic hotel and had a great time.

Cigar shopping in Jordan is rubbish.  I asked the hotel if they stocked cigars and they said no, so I asked where I could get some, and they kindly produced a map (obviously not as good as the one above) and marked some shops, but when we got there we found nothing.

No to worry, as I used the power of Google, and found a cigar shop in the not-to-distant port of Talabay.

Talabay is a fancy boat marina with a few hotels and apartments.  A taxi would have been £20 each way, but the Movenpick hotel in Aqaba do a shuttle bus service to the Movenpick in Talabay, so we took full advantage, and got there on the cheap.

The cigar shop was called "Cigars & More" but that should really have been "No More Cigars" as it was shut and empty, with only a few scattered display humidors on the floor.

Things were not looking good.

However, all was not lost.  The Movenpick had about twenty Cuban cigars on display.  The prices were a little bit on the high side, but as I had only one cigar left, the wife convinced me to get a couple to see me through to the end of the week.   As I scanned the price list, I noticed a 7" Cohiba on sale for £22, which was the same price as a Cohiba robusto.  This couldn't be right so I bought the last two and made good my escape before they copped on.  I compared the price later and it was a typo that saved us £40.

Things were looking up.

Earlier that day at the hotel beach, I noticed a guy sat behind me smoking a large cigar, so I politely asked if he knew of anywhere in town selling them.  He said, yes, but couldn't tell me exactly where, so I thanked him and left him to enjoy his cigar.

A few seconds after that, I saw him head back to the hotel, and as I was telling the wife what he said, he appears at my side, holding a bit fat Vegas Robaina, telling me he had one spare and please would I accept it, which I obviously did.

Now I know all cigar smokers out there love to share the experience and would happily share a cigar with a stranger, but apart from being a true cigar lover and a most generous man, he was a Jordanian, and the collective charm, friendliness and smiles of the Jordanians were what made the holiday special.

The next night and we set off to find Ali Baba' cigar shop, which the hotel reception had since told me about.  There we found boxes of cigars and some single Cohiba' for sale.

Long story short, the cigars were fake.  I picked up two Behike and four other Cohiba, but as soon as I lit one of the Behikes up, I immediately knew something wasn't right.  I checked out the bands on the other cigars and realised they were all fake.

The cigars were actually not that bad.  Good burn, smooth, decent smoke and well rolled but they were certainly not Cohiba.  Probably not even Cuban.

Anyway, lesson learnt.

The next day and I was standing at the hotel bar waiting for a drink, when I noticed a big wooden display case at the far side of the bar.  I walked over thinking that this surely couldn't be a humidor, and low and behold, there sitting in it were four different types of Cohiba, some Hoyos and a few other Cubans.  So if you're every staying at the Kempinski hotel in Aqaba, the hotel does stock cigars, even if they tell you they don't.

When we left Jordan, I was happy to find a pretty good walk-in humidor at the airport, and picked up some Ramon Allones Extra 2011 and a few Cohiba Robustos, which thankfully were not fake. 

I had some great cigars during the two weeks, the two Cohiba Esplendidos from the Movenpick in Talabay were excellent.  The gifted Vegas Robaina was great but my favourite of the trip was Sancho Panza from Madrid.  This was a beautiful creamy smoke and by far the best and most satisfying cigar.  I've never been disappointed with the Sancho Panza Coronas Gigantes, and they're definitely now one of my favour cigars.

I'll leave you with some photos of the sun, sea and cigars.

Movenpick Dead Sea

Best Cigar of the trip

Fake Cigar

Real Cigar

Another Fake