Thursday, 30 June 2011

Weekend Break - Part Deux

With the trauma of the previous days accident taking up most of my thoughts on Sunday morning, it was hard to get motivated to do anything other than feel sorry for poor Johnny, who was obviously still in tremendous pain and hadn't slept much. 

But we all soldiered on, making to best of a bad situation.  Mrs. Doyle (Gill) began preparing the food for the barbecue.  John had more painkillers, and myself and Rolo began thinking about cigars.

Soon, the three of us each had one on the go, selecting the cigars we picked up the day before, mine a Cohiba, John's a H. Upmann and Rolo's a small Cuaba which I think was a Divinos.

The Cohiba seemed more divinos than the other cigars which the boys had a bit of trouble with.  Johns Upmann was robusto sized and went out 3 or 4 times and had to be cut twice, and Rolo had a bit of bother with his Cuaba.  The Cohiba was flawless which is pretty much what I'd expect to be honest.

So with John now on the sidelines, it was up to Rolo to step up and take on the role of head chef and get the barbecue going.  Needless to say, the food was great (thanks Gill) with lots of meat (obviously), crusty bread rolls and salad.  Kaz became the mojito maestro for the afternoon and produced two large jugs of what was to become known as "The Kazmo".  Beautiful.

A few hours of chilling and another Cohiba for me later, we starting making way to Rock-a-field, which is a one day music festival in a field somewhere.

The line up was headlined by Arcade fire and Artic Monkeys on the main stage, with the Monkeys on last.  I thought Arcade fire were excellent but I lost interest with the Monkeys and didn't really pay much attention to them.

With a constant flow of wine and beer, we broke out the cigars.  I actually had two cigars at the gig.  The first was Partagas Serie D Especial Limited Edition 2010.  This is a seriously good cigar and a first timer for me.  Much better than a normal Serie D No. 4 that I'm used to.  It opened up straight away and seemed to last forever.  This one went to the nub and is most definitely on my shopping list for next time.

The next cigar was the Oliva Double Robusto.  This time Rolo and John joined me and by all accounts, they enjoyed it very much.  This made me very happy because I'd selected it especially for them, especially for this weekend.

The end of the night is a bit of a blur if I'm honest and before I knew it, it was Monday and Rolo and Kaz had said goodbye, Gill had gone to work and we were in a taxi with John, on our way to the hospital, then the airport.  John was to have an operation to fix his collar bone and we had a plane to catch.

At the airport, thanks to the wife, I bagged 3 Partagas Serie P No. 2's and 3 Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 1's.

Once back home, I was eager to get the new cigars into the humidor so set about unpacking.

I unzipped my bag, opened it up, and then did a double take.  Instead of looking down upon the lovely colourful Culebra box  I was expecting, I saw women's clothes, a hairbrush and some documents in a plastic cigars...em...this is not good...I actually thought somebody had switched the contents of my bag with somebody else? surely not...I check the bag again...yes, this is definitely my bag alright...or is it...

On closer inspection I realise it's not my bag.  The women's clothes were a bit of a clue but the clincher was the fact that my bag had 2 bits of red tape on the handle and this one didn't.

Now I know it was a dumb thing to do, but let me say this in my defense...the bags were the same colour, made by Oasis about 10 years ago, they had the same broken zip tags (two) and were on the same flight from Luxembourg which only had around 20 people on it.  These bags were practically identical and even fooled the wife.

So basically, minutes after getting home, we had to make our way to Crowborough in East Sussex, a mere 90 minute drive away, to drop off the impostor luggage.  The girl at the other end was lovely about it and couldn't believe herself that somebody would have exactly the same bag with the same faults on the same flight.

We drove the 90 minutes back home in around 80 minutes, empty handed.  Our bag was still at city airport and would stay there until the following day.

The following day, the wife got my bag back and the Culebras are now resting in the humidor.  Phew.

While she sorted things out at City Airport, myself and the Father-in-law were risking life and limb in the biggest thunder storm to hit London in years, on a golf course, under a tree.  We survived.

So that was the weekend over.  A great weekend which would have been a whole lot better had poor Johnny not taken a tumble, but it could have been a lot worse.  Many thanks to the Doyle's for their generousity, and also to Rolo and Kaz for stepping into poor Johnny's shoes and Gill for the huge effort in keeping us full of food and drink.

Poor Johnny

Rolo and his Cuaba

My 1st Cohiba of the day

Rolo the Chef

Cohiba number 2

Nice Partagas


Oliva Double Robustos

A box of 3 boxes of Culebra

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Weekend Break (ahem)

The most anticipated weekend of the year happened last weekend.  Myself and the wife were off to Luxembourg to enjoy music, drink, laughter and craic, cigars, dancing and singing with the Doyle's, Raul the wise and his lovely wife, Kaz the Acrobat.

The story starts on Friday then continues through Saturday and Sunday, to a grandstand finish on Monday, so because it's a bit of a long one, I'm going to break this blog into two pieces.

There were ups and downs along the way, with the downs being gravity related, which is never a good thing.  There was bruises galore, music galore, beers galore, rum galore, champagne galore, not sure if there was whiskey galore but I do remember the Mojitos galore.  There was food galore and of course, there were cigars galore. 

So Friday night, and we get to the Doyle's around 9:45pm after being chauffeured from the airport by Mr. Doyle in his lovely Merc.  Rolo and Kaz were already there and so was Barney and Rima, but they didn't stay long, as Barney had to fly to Hong Kong the following day (for 4 weeks).  Jealous? Who me? I'm not jealous.  Barney wasn't supposed to be there so he missed out this time.  Next time I'll bring something special just for him, if I'm ever invited back that is.

As far as the cigars went, I only brought a few cigars with me as I knew we'd be cigar shopping the following day, so all I had were 3 x Oliva Serie V Double robustos and a Cohiba Siglo 6 for myself.  Doyler had some VegaFinas and Rolo brought some R&J's No.2.s.

We went for the VegaFina Sumum edicion especial 2010 as the first cigar of the weekend.  These cigars came tubed in a nice big square box, with a metal effect.  The cigars were flawless to smoke, looked good and smoked good.  A good cigar to start off the weekend and a winning selection by Mr. Doyle.

Before the cigars, we were treated to some lovely chicken fajitas prepared by Mrs. Doyle.  So with food, a cigar and some alcohol inside us, we followed the ladies (who had deserted us) to see Grandmaster Flash in action at the Luxembourg Philharmonie.  We got there just in time to see the great man dish out the rules of the night...

Rule Number 1 - Put your hands in the air
Rule Number 2 - Make some noise
Rule Number 3 - Sing along if you know the words...

So with the rules out of the way, we proceeded to jump around to the merry tunes of "99 Luftballons", "Come on Eileen" and other disco classics such as "Ice ice Baby".

To be fair, he did play some great tunes, (99 Red balloons is a classic after all) but the good ones would last seconds before the Grandmaster shouted at us to put our hands in the air like we didn't really care.  Some people (Rolo) didn't really care and stuck something else in the air instead.

After GMF, we retired back to the Doyle's and after a few more drinks (I think) and some proper tunes, we called it a night.

Saturday began with mild hangovers and a hearty breakfast courtesy of the Doyle's and the glorious food brought over from Ireland by Kaz and Rolo.

Fed and watered, we headed off into town.  The mission for the day?  Cigars for the boys, shopping for the girls.

Opposite the bus stop, Doyler suggested we take some of those hire bikes available in most good cities, so we did.  The girls, on the other hand didn't.  They took the bus.  A short time and no accidents later, we were all back together again and making our way to the shops.  We picked up some cigars along the way, in a nice little shop with a small walk in humidor.  I went for a Cohiba, Doyler a H. Upmann and Rolo a Cuaba.

Soon the girls were kissing us goodbye, and we were on our way to a bar, when Rolo suggested we pick up a Partagas Culebra, one of those strange looking cigars that are bound together.  Well that seemed like a master plan so we picked up a box and then made our way to the pub.  Sorted.

The Culebra has 3 cigars wrapped together, bound in a red ribbon.  The cigars came out with a touch of green mould which brushed off and is probably normal.  They simply look fantastic when bound but once taken apart, individually they look like a something I might have rolled myself and then sat on for a few days.  Despite the look however, the smoke was perfect.  Generous, lovely smoke that stayed exactly the same from start till finish.  A mild cigar but not weak in any way and an absolute pleasure to smoke.  I think it's safe to say it that the three amigos loved every second and at around €16 for the box of 3, it's a steal.

The girls arrived back about mid way through and after the cigars were gone, we headed off for some food, but not before heading back to the cigar shop where I picked up another 3 boxes of Culebras and another big stick that made it safely through the weekend, so I'll save that for another day.

After food and a glass or two of wine, we set off once again on the bikes and the girls set off on the bus.

It's thirsty work, pedaling bikes around the place so we stopped off for some refreshments before we were due back at the house.  We probably stayed a bit too long as Mr. Doyle noticed he had missed 5 calls from Mrs. Doyle so with a couple of beers inside us, we resumed our journey home.

A short time later, and only minutes from home, disaster struck.  The Doyle was down and out.  Thrown from his bike in what can only be described as a freak accident.  His brakes must have failed as he glanced my back wheel, sending him flying to the ground with enough force to break his collar bone in two.  I stopped as Rolo carried on, no doubt to ensure parking spaces were available for us further down the hill as this was our primary concern before Doyler hit the deck.

Doyle was in a bad way, so much so that his face turned green then grey then green again.  A trip to the hospital was all we could do.

A few hours later and Doyle was back home, in pain, on painkillers, not blaming anybody for what happened.  Brave man.

That was pretty much that for Saturday.  Everybody was tired and worn out by events and we had a big day ahead on Sunday.  A barbecue and Rock-a-field, more drinking and more cigars to get through, we needed our rest.

I didn't sleep.  Doyler didn't sleep.  While he struggled with the agonising pain of a broken bone, I was kept awake by the nagging feeling that I might be partly to blame... 

...anyway, that's pretty much it for part 1.  Part 2 should be done in a few days.

At the time of writing, Doyle has had an operation to fix his shoulder and is doing well.  So no harm done.


Hand modelling by Rolo

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Longest Day

The longest day started off with a trip to the garage to drop off the car for a good seeing to and a bit of body work.

Car deposited, it was off to work.

By lunchtime the garage had called to break the news of how much would be owed.  Not much comprehension from me to be honest but thankfully my grasp of Chinglish was good enough, and I got the general idea that some money will be owed.  How much and for what exactly is still unknown, but I like a surprise.

That phone call was followed just moments later by an some Australian sounding mad-woman, who started shouting some rant down the phone at me.  Still reeling somewhat from the last call, this one caught me completely off guard.  "Uh...Sorry?" I said.  "Pictures...Framing...Read-dee..." she replied.  "Oh right".

So after a quick feed of lunch, off I went to pick up the framed pictures that were ready, apparently.

A few hours later, back at the house and the pictures have found a nice place to hang.

Frame number 1 is a 2008 Masters flag signed by Trevor Immelman.  This found it's way to me via my Dad, who was given it by an American guy who played golf with Trevor and apparently knows the man well.

I have this flag a couple of years and have been meaning to get it framed for ages, so I'm glad I finally had it done.  I think it looks good.

The real artwork though is by John Donohoe.  John generously gave us 3 paintings as a wedding present when we met up with him last Christmas.  The 3 paintings are stills of Tilda Swinton in some movie.  I think John did around 50 of them, all hand painted, spanning a few seconds, with white lead based paint on acetate.  So the 3 paintings were put side by side on a black background, with a red border and a silver frame.  I put a good 30 minutes into the framework.  I can only imagine how much time John put in each one... Thanks John.

To celebrate all this and the fact that today is the longest day of the year, I thought a cigar would go down well, something new perhaps.  It was sunny out but a bit breezy so I tried to pick one that might hold its own in the wind, a Te-Amo World Series Honduras Blend for instance.  It certainly held it's own and wasn't bullied by the wind.  A strange smoke this one.  Definitely had flavour to it but nothing that held out for very long.  It changed every few minutes, which kept me wanting and never really satisfied.  The burn was OK, the smoke was good but it all happened a bit too quickly, even though the wind had gone elsewhere by 5 minutes in.  A good looking cigar, slightly square pressed which was springy to begin with when squeezed, but it did become very soft towards the final third and a bit harsh too.  An OK cigar I suppose but I'm itching for something better so next time, it's a Cuban or nothing.


Sunday, 19 June 2011

Fathers Day Surprise

I knew today was Fathers day, but I always think of my own Dad and not of myself, even though I am one.  So when I woke this morning, I was told my card and present were waiting for me in the humidor.  The wife didn't bother getting me a card, but thankfully my son had made one in creche during the week.  He also bought me 10 lovely cigars which was a very nice surprise, but not as nice as the card, obviously.

This is setting the bar very high for next year, and for Christmas...and my Birthdays...and anniversaries...St. Patricks day...the Queens Birthday (official and unofficial)...Valentines day...and so on.

I'd better give my Dad a call.


Cohiba Coronas Especiales
Rocky Patel Robusto Vintage 1990
Te-Amo World Selection Series - Honduran Robusto
Romeo y Julieta Duke Limited Edition 2004
Sancho Panza Sanchos 1998
Puros Indios Corona Gorda
Oliva SVDR
Quintero Panetelas
Rafael Gonzales Lonsdale

Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Great British Summer

Yesterday, the heavens opened.

Today, the heavens are still open but not so much as yesterday.  Today, it's a bit like God is turning a giant tap on and off and on again.  He's playing games with me.  Just when I think it's safe to go back into the garden, woosh, down it comes again.

Yesterday, we went out for a meal.

The lovely wife booked us into Aspleys at the Lanesborough Hotel, Hyde Park Corner.  A swanky hotel for the rich and famous.  And us.

London was flooded as we splashed our way past the Top-hatted clientele who stood in the doorway awaiting their carriages.  Rolls Royces and other large automobiles queued outside, one by one picking up their rich masters who dashed the 3 feet in the rain to the already opened car doors. 

On we went, but alas our table was not ready.  "Would Sir care to wait in the bar..?" A cocktail for the lady and a non-alcoholic fruit juice for me although why I bothered getting a £13 non-alcoholic cocktail is lost on me now.

Aspleys is billed as a Heinz Beck restaurant who has 3 Michelin stars.  He might oversee Aspleys, he might put his name to it and he might have trained some of it's chefs, but 3 stars it ain't.

We had a top table booking so for £45 a head, we were treated to a glass of champagne, starter, main and desert.  We went for a bottle of the cheapest wine on the menu, at £30.  Some bottles on the menu were listed at over £2,500 which seem a bit excessive for a night out so we sprang for something a little cheaper.

As it was a top table deal, the menu was limited but as there were only the two of us, we went for something different for all courses which basically covered the menu.  Unfortunately, neither choices were much good.  The food looked good on the plate but didn't taste like anything special.  Afterwards, the wife said I could quote her in my blog.  I'm not entirely sure what she said but the following comes to mind..."quote unquote" and "Rubbish".

The main reason my lovely wife booked Aspleys, was not so much the food, or the 3 Michelin stars but the cigar bar which is set at the side of the hotel, in a covered and heated area, full of comfy chairs, a roaring fire which was roaring away in a massive fire pace.  The Garden Room have a very well stocked humidor which is on shelves that you pass on the way in.  This contains all the mainstream Cuban brands and sizes found in most shops but further inside, they have another humidor, a walk in humidor, full of exotic, ancient, aged, rare, and expensive cigars of all shapes and sizes.  Pre-embargo and private cabinets sit proudly in this perfect little room with a smell that was like nothing I'd ever smelt before.  Beautiful. 

The cigar sommelier was a lovely fella but I forget his name.  He was polite and enthusiastic and knew his stuff.  He even offered to show me the around the walk in humidor, pointing out rare cigars, old sticks made by Fidel's personal torcedor, a Cohiba cabinet where each cigar is worth £2000.  That cabinet was sold, awaiting shipping to some lucky sod.  This really was a treat and I was every bit the kid in a candy shop.

Back to the patient wife and my cigar was cut and lit for me.  I went for a Cohiba Robusto which is easily the most beautiful cigar I have ever smoked.  I know I've been going on a bit about the Oliva Double Robusto, but this was in a league of its own.  No comparison.  I really wish I'd bought some of these for the trip to Luxembourg but I can always pick up a few when we're there next week, so no dramas.

We had a caipirinha to start, then I went for a 7 year Cuban rum.  Lovely.  While we enjoyed ourselves, the cigar sommelier came back to us for a chat and showed us photo's of himself in the Cohiba factory, rolling himself some cigars.  He pointed out that the Cohiba factory is closed to the public so this was a rare thing.  Fair play to him.  He also recommended where to stay when visiting Cuba, saying October would be perfect.  So, maybe this year will be the year.

This is certainly a place to bring the Doyles.  Not for the food but for the whole cigar experience which was great fun.

We arrived home shortly after midnight.  I went up to bed at 1am and fell soundly asleep.  Two hours later and my phone goes beerp...a message...from work...somethings wrong...4am and I was sat at my desk trying to sort it all out...12 hours later and I was back home and back in bed. 

Back to now and the weather is like the food last night, rubbish and disappointing and all I want to do is have a cigar.  Oh well. There's still time and with the U.S. Open on the telly, things could be worse.  Comon' Rory!

To sum up, The Lanesborough is overrated for food but great for cigars.  

The Cohiba Robusto modeled by my wife

The view from Southwark Bridge at 4:30am today

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Mixed bag

With the weekend drawing to a close, the sun is well hidden behind a thick dark blanket of angry clouds, being pushed along by an aggressive wind.  Not nice.  Not warm.  In fact, we put the heating on it's that cold.  Apart from the weather being a disaster, we had to pay a visit to A&E after the boy caught a corner with his head which ended up having to be glued back together.

Saturday was better.  Mostly sunshine and cigars with no trips to the hospital, starting with golf, which I was excited about, as I'd be getting to use my shiny new putter for the first time.  I was really looking forward to it and it didn't disappoint.  Not a single 3-putt, and everything within 6 feet dropping straight in the hole.  So a good day on the greens.

After golf, I had a couple of cigars to look forward to.  A new one and a favourite one.  The favourite one was a Oliva Double Robusto which once again was a great cigar.  The new one was a Oliva Serie G Churchill. 

A new batch arrived on Friday, made up of 5 x Oliva Double Robusto, 5 x Luis Martinez Hamilton Robusto, 2 x Serie G Churchills and to round it all off, a Bolivar Belicosos Finos.

The Serie G Churchill was first to go.  A box pressed stick, long, lean and elegant with a nice dark brown wrapper.  I do like a Churchill and this one was a good one.  It took a little while to get going but this cigar was not going to be rushed, waiting for around a 3rd way through before opening up.  Ninety minutes later and the once proud and long Churchill was nothing but a mere stump, a shadow of it's former self.

Basically it was lovely.

Next up was the  Double Robusto which was also lovely but in a more macho kind of way.   I've had a few of these over the past couple of weeks and decided to take three with me to Luxembourg at the end of the month.

We're off to Rock-a-field with the Doyles.  Raul the wise (and his lovely wife) will be there, so I've been thinking about which cigars to bring with me for a while now.  It's an important decision that has been weighing heavily on my mind.  The last thing I want to do is present J.D and Rolo with something that disappoints and my original selection would have done just that.

Apart from rocking it in Luxembourg, we'll be picking up some cigar purchases and obviously enjoying a few too, so that's something to look forward to.

Another event I'm looking forward to is a trip to Billingsgate Market with Mr. Bloor.

Billingsgate is the UK's largest inland fish market, where I hope to pick up some shrimp and lobster next month.  After that, it's off to visit a cemetery, followed by a cigar and a pint.  More on that next month.

Mr. Bloor likes fish, real ales and Christopher Wren churches.  Check out his blog,

It's still raining outside, and for some reason, I'm also watching it rain on the TV.  So much for the Canadian Gran Prix.

Time to change the channel...

...Glad I switched back to the GP.  What a great race it turned out to be.  Nice driving Jensen Button.

This will save my game


The Churchill
The Double Robusto

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Happy Humpday

As it was humpday, I decided a cigar was in order so I went for an Ashton VSG to celebrate, and what a great decision it was too.

I was just about to step into the garden when I realised I'd left my phone upstairs, but I couldn't face going back up (it's where the cigars live) so I looked at the bookshelf to see if anything took my fancy.

Apart from the "learning to talk" and "sing and sign" DVD box sets (not mine), nothing really stood out.  Then I spied a book on chaos.  So I thought, sure what harm can it do...

No harm really, it's only a book but it got me thinking none the less.  About cigars obviously.

Take a box of cigars, all are similar but none are exactly the same.  Throw in things like age, moisture, roll, the torcedores (who rolled it), the blend and lots of other things, and it becomes obvious that no two sticks are ever the same. 

Add location, company, conversation, food and drink into the mix and the experience one day is completely different to the next.

The Ashton VSG did feel slightly different this time around.  Better than the last time and even better than the time before that.  It's such a chilled out smoke.  Not to be rushed, smooth and relaxed.  Not a bit like me then.

So after much contemplation, I decided that a good book and a good cigar do go together. 

The book of choice was Chaos by James Gleick.  I read about 10 pages.

The Lorenz Attractor

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Same O Same O

It was back to work for me this week and with 8500 unread emails sitting in my inbox, I got busy with the shift delete.

At 4pm I practically ran out the door to pick up the boy at creche.  After three months of hanging out together, all I wanted to do was push him about in his buggy for a bit.  It's the little things you miss.

Now all that's over, and so cigar smoking and therefore cigar blogging, won't be happening as much.  I say that but so far this week, nothing much has changed.  The blogging may not be happening as much, but the cigar smoking hasn't diminished.  Not so far anyway.

I've enjoyed some lovely cigars over the course of the week, two Ramon Allones Specially Selected, an Ashton VSG and two Olivia Serie V Double Robusto'.  The Double R is now my favourite, but I decided I needed something new for Saturday night. 

The winner was the God Of Fire Carlito Double Robusto 2006.  I was going to let this one sit in the humidor for a while but then decided nah, have it.

At £17 a pop, it's not cheap and at that price, I was hoping and expecting something good.  Not that I was disappointed with the cigar but I wasn't over impressed either.  The foot was split to begin with and then the wrapper split a little about mid way through.  The flavours were enjoyable for the first 2/3's then things got a little harsh.  The burn was uneven throughout and I had to touch it up numerous times, once having to clean, cut and relight.  All in all, not a bad cigar which started well but never really got going, and at that price, not something I'll rush to buy again any time soon.

Another new item to come my way this week was a shiny new putter, bought from Snainton Golf , who were £40 cheaper than Nevada Bobs.  With next day delivery, the putter arrived seven days later, but I didn't mind too much, as this was a putter and not a bus I was waiting for.

After a few indoor practice putts with a cup, it was time for a spot of gardening.  We picked up grape vine and a fig plant so the job was to rip up a climber that's been climbing for the past 4 years and put the newbies in it's place.  It was only after the plants were done, did I sit down to enjoy the GoF.  I was pretty knackered at after tearing up the well rooted climber, and maybe I should have gone for the Ashton VSG which I find to be a mellow relaxing smoke, but the GoF it was.

We also got a bumper crop of raspberries yesterday.  They got eaten in less than a minute.

God of Fire

Bumper Crop