Monday, 26 December 2011

Christmas Stogies - Part 1

With over two weeks in Ireland over Christmas and New years, I've been a bit quiet with the blogging, but not with the cigar smoking.  No way hose. 

After an early ferry across the Irish sea, we kicked things off with a night out with the Doyles, Kaz, Rolo, Chip Lanigan and Suzie.  An early meal in a great little Thai restaurant, followed by a gallon of Guinness in Delaneys pub in Smithfield, and we were on our way to the first major hangover of week.

I brought some Culebra with me for the three amigos so needless to say, after a lovely meal, a good few pints, a great cigar and many victorious games of pool, I was a happy man, if more than a little bit merry.
Kaz and Rolo gave me a fantastic birthday present of a box of Macanudo Robusto and John and Gill brought me the coolest box of matches ever, all the way from Mexico!

The following morning and we were on the road to Galway to enjoy a week of gale force winds and driving rain.  Not exactly cigar smoking weather but I made do and set up shop in the car (Don't worry, I won't start calling it the ci-car), with some good English bitter and even better Guinness to keep me going.

I got a nice surprise when Gearoid and Cillian produced cigar shaped Christmas presents which turned out to be a Cohiba Siglo VI, a Monte Cristo and a Partagas Serie P No.2.  Excellent cigars, one of which didn't make it back to London.  I also got a box of assorted seeds from Ina, some of which will be planted this weekend when I kick off Gardening 2012.

There wasn't a lot else to do as the weather made things difficult, but we did manage an afternoon at Ashford castle, for champagne afternoon tea, as you do.

Ashford castle is a lovely spot that has been graced by all sorts of famous people over the years.  Larry Hagman, Bob Hope, Sir Alex Ferguson.  Surprisingly, they declined my photo for the famous faces gallery.  Their loss.  I won't be making that offer again.  Nice cakes though.

Check out their webiste which starts off with a breathtaking fly-by of the castle and grounds.  A great spot that definitely worth checking out if you ever get the chance.

My Christmas day cigars were a Cohiba Behike 52 and a Cohiba Robusto.  The robusto was first up.  This was a present from my wife for my birthday and it was full and tasty cigar.  A real pleasure to smoke, taking well over an hour and going down well with some chilled St. Peters best bitter.

I was really looking forward to my first Behike.  There's been so much hype over these cigars, and with a fairly heafty price tag coupled with some great reviews, I had great expectations and was even feeling excited about what was surely going to be a great cigar.

Well, you should never smoke your heros, as this cigar let me down.  It only got interesting towards the end and was nowhere nearly as good as the robusto I had earlier in the day.  Certainly not worth the price tag.  The burn was off and although the cigar looks great, I found it lacking.

Maybe the bigger ring gauge behikes are better, but I'm sorry to say that the 52 was a disappointment.  My advice is go for a robusto.

Barney, in case you're reading this, I was planning on having the special edition Partagas you gave me in Luxembourg as my Christmas cigar, but I decided it was too special and to keep it long term instead, so it's now safely back in the humidor.

I had a lot more cigars over the Christmas, so I'll cover them off next time.  I might even have a new cigar smoking buddy in the making...

Best birthday ever

Behike - Nice but no great cigar
Best robusto ever

Sunday, 18 December 2011

The O'Fogies

The wife turned 40 last Friday and believe it or not, I waved goodbye to my thirties the very next day.  I know, I bagged myself a sugar mammy.  Just about.

For the record, she's actually a day and a half older.  There's a good 36 hours between us.

To celebrate, we had food and drinks and friends around on Saturday and I was planning on smoking something special.  But before that, I had some presents to attend to.

Apart from the cigarf already mentioned, I did pretty well with the presents this year.

I got some gardening stuff and a trip to Madrid in March.  I got some CDs by M-83 and I'm told that we're also going to see them when we're in Madrid, so that's nice.  With any luck, the cast from Johns birthday celebrations in Luxembourg will be there with us.  Everybody except Shivo, but you probably don't remember him.

Also in the birthday gift bundle was a a six cigar selection the the wife put together, which included four new ones for me.  A Cohiba behike 52 and a Partagas Lusitania being the stand out picks.

The days celebrations involved lots of food and drink with friends and neighbours dropping by to commiserate the passing of our youth.  I popped out to the garden to enjoy a cigar while I could and before anybody arrived.  I selected a Bolivar Gold Medal as my birthday cigar, which was a new cigar for me and a fine cigar it was too.

Picked up in Luxembourg a couple of weeks back, the cigar comes mostly covered in a gold wrapper and to be honest, although it looks alright, I'm not mad on the idea.  It does save you picking at the band because that's on the outside of the wrapper, but I found the wrapper a bit fidgety to get off.  That obviously didn't spoil the cigar in any way but it was just a bit of unwanted hassle.

The cigar was perfect.  Nothing bad to report.  Strong and smokey and went to the nub, which is what you want.  Do yourself a favour and get yourself some Gold Medals.

Most of the people who dropped by came armed with a small child, so we had a nice family friendly afternoon with fizzy drinks (alcoholic) and finger food.  They brought some lovely gifts with them, most of which was consumed on the day.

As the day wore on, I was looking to get out to the garden for another cigar.  Thankfully, Jim arrived over with his lovely new girlfriend, Alana.  Jim likes a cigar now and then but he didn't have much time so I selected an robusto sized Mexican cigar for him, and a Partagas Serie P No.2 for myself.

As Jim examined and rolled the Mexican under his nose, the bouquet brought images to Jim' mind of sweaty man crotch.  I reminded him that cigars are rolled between the thighs of virgins but that just brought other unwanted images to Jims mind, images involving Mexican men plus tobacco and you pretty much get the picture.

So we dumped the Mexican and I took Jim up to view the selection on offer.  I should have picked this one to begin with but I had forgotten about it.  The name alone makes Jim stand to attention and salute.  Best name ever in his opinion and he's probably right too.  Winston Churchill Lancaster.  A name every proud English man would love to have for themselves.

Two words Jim - deed poll.

My Partagas was good but not great.  I think they need to settle for a few more months and I've found the Serie P to be like this in the past.  Jim enjoyed his Lancaster immensely and raved about it non stop.   So a nice little cigar, good construction, great in the hand and it made Jim a happy man, as has his lovely new girlfriend.

Our next adventure brings us home for Christmas.  We're loading up the car with booze and presents and making our way across the Irish sea, to the land of saints and babysitters.  The three amigos will be together on Friday in Dublin, before we head to Galway for Christmas, so I'm looking forward to that.

I'll be bringing a good supply of cigars to keep me going over the two weeks and hopefully this year, the weather will be good enough to get some golf in and some days out with the wife. 

Have a great Christmas everybody. (except Shivo)

P.S.  The title credits go to the Doyles who addressed our birthday card to Mr & Mrs O'Fogies.  A nice touch so thank you John and Gill.

Birthday Cigar and Birthday Beverage
Birthday Pressies

Saturday, 10 December 2011

The Badger

My friend Peter "The Badger" Wallace came to visit last week.  He loves his badgers.  A bit more than us normal folk but each to their own, and I suppose we all have our own obsessions.  His just happens to be badgers.  And cycling.  He's a bit retro tour-de-France obsessed too.  All good.

To celebrate, I went for one of the Ramon Allones Superiores that was bought at Casa del Habano in Luxembourg.  The man who suggested them knew I'd like them and he wasn't wrong.  A powerful cigar, full and strong, and for around €8, I'd have to say great value too.

The badger brought his sister Fionnuala with him.  Joe and Sandy arrived over too and it was nice to catch up as we've not seen each other in ages.

Peter said he fancied a cigar so after giving him the obligatory tour-de-humidor, he selected one of the small Montecristo that sit in the depths.  Perfect for a quick smoke out in freezing air.  I took one of the same and we had a nice 10 minutes in the garden. 

The following afternoons cigar was another Ramon Allones but this time I went for one of the edicion Limitada 2011.  I loved this cigar when I had it a few months ago and although I did enjoy this one, it wasn't as great as I remembered.  I found myself comparing it to the superiore so maybe that was my mistake.

That was it for last weekend cigars.  The weathers taken a turn for the worse and it gets pretty cold sitting out in the garden for an hour, cigar gloves or otherwise.  To make things a bit more comfortable, the wife bought me a scarf to go with the gloves.  I call it a cigarf, obviously.

Ronan (a Brother-in-law) arrived back from Australia early in order to surprise everybody for Christmas, which was nice.  It was very kind and thoughtful of him to bring me an early Christmas present.  A three pack of Romeo y Julieta No.2, which are an old favourite, and a box of five cigars from the Philippines, which I never knew existed if I'm honest.  That's the cigars, not the Philippines.

I took one of the Filipino cigars out on Thursday night to go with a lovely Californian Zin we picked up earlier in the day.  I admit that I wasn't expecting much from the cigar, but it did look nice.  A solid feel with a good colour and decent construction.  A little bit veiny but nothing major.

It actually turned out to be good and I enjoyed it very much.  The only problem was that I was freezing which ruined the enjoyment a little, but a very cold thumbs up for Filipino tobacco.

My thoughts are with the people killed, lost and left homeless by the storm and flash floods in the Philippines recently.

RA Superiore


Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Hangover - Part Two

Saturday began early enough considering.

It was raining, cold and a bit miserable but we all braved Luxembourgs public transport system, which is excellent by the way, and made our way towards town.  Chip Lanigan didn't have a hat so he improvised by putting a plastic bag on his head.  He couldn't see where he was going so he fashioned out some eye holes with his teeth.  It turned out to be a wise move as the rain came down.

After a bite to eat, we hit the Christmas market to get some gluhwein into us and warm our bones. 

Gluhwein is basically German mulled wine and best drunk hot.  With our bones somewhat warmer, beer and cigars were next.

There are a few cigar shops in Luxembourg but this one is my favourite.  I must get the name and take a few photos next time we're over.

I had an interesting manly man chat about cigars with the man behind the counter who recommended the some of the following purchases...

A delicious box of 10 Ramon Allones Superiores
A delicious box of 9 Partagas Celebra + an extra box of 3 for the Amigos.
Two Ramon Allones Extra - Limited Edition 2011
Two Ramon Allones Gigantes
Two Bolivar Gold Medals

When we got to the pub, the girls and Chip Lanigan were already there so we got a few drinks in before getting the Culebras going while Chip took the bag off his head.

A Culebra in this bar is now a three Amigos tradition and a couple of hours I will look forward to every time.

It's a great little cigar.  It used to be €16 for a box of three, but is now on sale for €21.  It's still good value, but only just.  At €7 each, I'd have to say they're pushing it.  That said, the cigar does last much longer than you'd expect for it's size and never disappoints.  They did go out quite a few times but this was just a minor annoyance.

Barney and Rima soon arrived with Barney blazing a stogie of his own.  He also brought a lovely Partagas No.4 limited edition 2010 which he presented to me in thanks of the previous nights cigar.

The Three Amigos are now four.

It was a much appreciated gift from Barney who said it was his favourite, so I'm taking it to Ireland with me to enjoy on Christmas day.  Roll on the 25th.

Next up was dinner in a great Italian restaurant.  Everybody had a wonderful meal.  Everybody except me.  I managed to pick the only rubbish thing on the menu.  Thankfully though, the wife and Kaz felt sorry for me and donated much of their own steaks to bolster my petty portions.  Add bread and fries and I was sorted.  More wine was also had.

After dinner, we headed over to Decibel for more beers, before jumping on the bus that was taking us to see The Smashing Pumpkins.

The Pumpkins were smashing.  However, I did have to spend much of my time defending John from his stalker and my arch enemy.  A strange fellow called Shivo who seems to spend most of his time trying to touch John.  Well, who could blame him really.  But John is my best friend so he seriously needs to back off.

After the gig, the beer bus brought us back to Decibel where we enjoyed more madness until around 3am.   It's strange to be in a smoking pub but I made full use and got one of the RA Gigantes going.  Such a large cigar that the sheer size of it drew a few gasps from the locals, but they all looked on approvingly.

Sunday saw Kaz, Rolo and Chip head home.  How they managed to get up and go is beyond me.  The rest of us went back to bed to think about it.  A while later, Gill cooked up breakfast and we went to the shops before they dropped us off at the airport.

I was feeling incredibly rough by this stage.  Apart from the hangover, I was now suffering for a full blown head cold, so I was glad to get back home a few hours later.  On the way through the airport, we picked up 2 packs of 3 Partagas Serie P No.2s.

Not quite another airport drama but here's how it went down...

Assistant: Hello Sir, how may I help you.
Me: I'd like some cigars please
Assistant: Where are you flying to today?
Me: London
Assistant: Which one?
Me: The one in England
Assistant: No...which one, which cigars would you like?
Me: Oh right...

That's about it for John' Birthday bash so I'll leave you with some photos of the weekends madness.  These are the more acceptable photos.  Most are too disturbing for public consumption.

This blog update was brought to you courtesy of the French Movember on Rolo' face.  All donations are most welcome and I can be contacted for details.

**Since first publishing this blog post earlier this evening, I've since been informed that my favourite shop is La Casa Del Habano Luxembourg.   The link is to their facebook page.  Like it.  I forgot to mention that the nice man also sold me a 7 year old Cuban rum. 

Don't try this at home kids, this man is a trained professional

The Four Amigos

Apparently, he doesn't look a day over 40

Chip and I

Making some women happy

The strange fellow

My hair product

My Guitar Hero plays Stairway to Jevens (ba dum tish)

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Hangover

The weekend ended almost exactly like it did in the movie, with me flicking through the photos of the carnage that was Saturday night.

Friday night was a bit of a blur too.

The weekend started off with a flight from London City airport to Luxembourg.  I was wondering what airport drama might happen this time...  Previously on "Airport Idiot", Mark picks up John' passport instead of my own but doesn't realise until it's too late.  A costly mistake.  Next time he takes the wrong bag from baggage reclaim but once again, he realises too late.

This time though, it wasn't entirely my fault.  Little Miss picky picky security guard told me my hair product tub was 20 grammes over the allowance of 100.  I wouldn't mind but I have very little hair left to play with and even though the tub was already half empty, there was still a good few months worth of it left. (That's the product, not my hair thank you for asking dear wife)

That wasn't the issue though.  At the first bag check, I had to dump a tub of ello vera because it was too big, then at the X-Ray screening I ended up getting a full body pat-down.  After all that, I was being told to open my bag...not easy with it's broken zip tags...only for the woman to notice that I was smuggling the oversized hair product container in the clear plastic bag.

She then tells me I can go back and check in my bag...I agree to this but I get a little bit angry too.  Why wasn't I told this before I came through the bag checks?  Why didn't the first woman who picked out my allo vera tell me this before I lobbed that into the bin?  And what did you want to see in my bag?  Then why did you ask me to open it?

So off I storm off, back to the checkin desk, but stopping on the way to reach into the bin to retrieve vera.

As I pass the first set of guards, I'm told that I need to ask for a new boarding pass. Thank you.  I check my bag in, explain what happened, and ask for a new pass...long story short, my new boarding pass doesn't work so I get sent back for another, and that doesn't work either...anyway...

I make the plane.

I get to Luxembourg.

I calm down.

The whole reason for the trip to Luxembourg was to celebrate the 40th Birthday of my oldest friend.  He's not actually my oldest friend so that should probably read, my longest friend, but that presents it's own problems.   What I should say is that John has been my friend longer than anybody else in the whole world.

With that in mind, it was with a heavy heart that I arrived empty handed.  Apart from a nice Cohiba for John, a bottle of XO and two bottles of Baileys Irish cream, biscotti and some other flavour...the Birthday present I was hoping to get John wasn't available in London.  I thought it was but it wasn't.  Big mistake but everything will be sorted out by Christmas, so don't worry John. 

I know, I'm the worst best friend ever.

So, we kicked off celebrations on Friday night.  Gillian cooked some lovely food and John showed us how to open Champagne with a saber.  As the night wore on, most of us had a go at taking the top off a bottle with the sword.  Easy when you know how.  Rima takes credit for the best attempt with my good self a very close second, even if I do say so myself.

The cigars I brought over for the evening were a Cohiba for John, Rolo had a Regius robusto,  Barney had the other Cuban, a El Rey del Mundo Choix de L Epoque (UK 2009 Regional), and I went for a  Camacho Corojo Toro Cello.

To be fair to all these cigars, I was a little bit tipsy when asking how each of the fine fellows were enjoying them, so I'm not entirely sure I remember the opinions expressed, but I'll give it a go.

My cigar was only alright.  A lovely looking stick but that was about it.  It had a weird draw and never really got going.  Disappointing.  Not sure if I could be bothered with one again to be honest, so that's all I'll say about that.

I honestly don't remember if John enjoyed the Cohiba but I'd imagine he did.

Barney had a bit of trouble with his little El Rey and it burned badly down one side.  I think it was more trouble that it was worth.

The best reviews were from Rolo and his Regius Robusto.  I said in a my last blog entry why I went with the Regius, and I'm glad Rolo enjoyed it.  Excluding the Cohiba, which I can't remember, the Regius was the winner on the night so congratulations Regius.

After dinner and copious amounts of alcohol at the Doyles, we decided we should probably head to the pub.  Things get a bit blurry after that but thankfully we all made it back safe and sound.  No trips to the hospital this time, and a good night was had by all.

Be sure to check out the best pub in Luxembourg - Decibel

Next time, I'll cover off the rest of the weekend.  We had more fun and games on Saturday and I picked up a shed load of cigars on the way.

Many thanks to John and Gill for a great weekend.  It always great to see them both, not forgetting Rolo and Kaz, Barney and Rima and Johns Fan Club at Decibel.

Kaz bottle topping

Rolo bottle topping

Two Cigars - One Winner

Fr. X-Mas