Thursday, 22 November 2012

New Edition

No, not new edition, the nineteen eighties progenitors of the boy band revolution, but a new edition to the family.  A baby boy to be exact.  Born recently at the Royal London, Whitechapel.  A little under a week early in making his appearance, but no harm done, and so everything, including his mother, is fine.

Before I carry on, I have to say that it wouldn't be fair of me to blame my blogging tardiness on this young chaps arrival, and I do have a lengthy update that's been almost ready for over a month, but I just couldn't bring myself to finish it. 

The reason for my reticence was the negativity that dominated the post, which was down to a bad experience at Casa del Habano in Berlin.  So I'll park the negativity for now, as it goes against my natural sunny positivity, and concentrate on happier, more important things, like the new edition celebration cigars that I've been enjoying for the past two weeks.

So, without going into too much detail, the baby made a surprise appearance, and with the wife in hospital, I found myself in need of a short notice emergency babysitter for our first born, so I could be were I was supposed to be.

Joe saved the day, before handing over to my mother, who flew over from Ireland the following morning.  The day after that, and we were all home from hospital, and I could get down to the serious business of enjoying my celebration cigars.

Celebration Cigars
Seeing as I now had two sons, I decided two cigars were in order.  First up was a Cohiba Siglo VI, which was a present from Gearoid last Christmas.  He must really love me because it's a cracking cigar.

I'd been keeping it for a special occasion, and as a new child is as special as they come, it was the cigar of choice.

The Siglo VI is one of my favourite cigars.  A nice big cigar, with a perfect burn and perfect construction, and a great cigar to kick off the celebrations.

Next up was a Montecristo Open Master Eagle, which is the same size as the Siglo VI, and a fine cigar too, but not quite up to the same standard as the Cohiba, in my opinion anyway.  Still a great cigar and worthy of it's status as celebration cigar number two.

With the first days celebration out of the way, and two weeks paternity leave staring me in the face, I lined up more celebration cigars, a few of which I'll cover off now...

I apologise for the lack of picture quality in these photos, but I'm happy to say that all future photographs will most likely be taken on my spanking new Canon 650D DLSR camera, which was purchased to specific reason of sprucing up the blog. 

I obviously told the wife it was for taking baby pictures, and so far, that's all it has done, but I'm sure it will be doing it's first cigar very soon.

R&J Short Churhill

Anyway, on to the cigars.

This one, which for some reason, I've photographed with a pot of uncooked potatoes in the background, is a Romeo y Julietta short Churchill. 

A fine cigar.  Another one of my favourite cigars, and one that I highly recommend. 

This was the last one of it's kind in the humidor, so I'll be looking to stock up next chance I get.

The potatoes weren't bad either.

Vegas Robaina

This fine cigar, paired with a fine French wine, was a Vegas Robaina Unicos, and another excellent smoke.

Described as a medium to full cigar, I found it rather mild, but absolutely fantastic, and totally enjoyable.

I've been told that Robaina are known to produce the best tobacco in Cuba, and Alejandro Robaina is the only tobacco farmer to have his name on a brand, so you can't argue with that.

I do have a soft spot for these cigars, especially since that nice man in Jordan handed me one, and it was he who told me all this, including the fact that they supply Cohiba with tobacco, so it must be good.

Truth is that Vegas Robaina cigars have never disappointed, never let me down, and always remind me how good cigars can be.  The wine was a little bit lacking though.

I picked up this cigar in Ibiza.  No idea what it is, only that it's not a Cuban.

I liked the look of it, and for want of a new experience, I picked up this one, and another similar cigar but with a much lighter shade wrapper.

The other cigar was pretty good, and so was this one.

Nothing magical, but a pleasant smoke which I enjoyed to it's nub.  No heat or harshness, and good value for money.

I have coffee in the background this time.  It's decaff.  Not what I usually go for.  I'm more of a ristretto man.  (That's a in-joke between myself and George Clooney btw)

This is one of the better photos taken on the phone camera, which shows a few fridge magnets, and a Ramon Allones specially selected.

The RASS is my favourite all rounder cigar.  This one had a deep old cigar smell, which I enjoyed pre-light.

I love it when I get a cigar with that particular smell, as it isn't every cigar that I can honestly say I get a smell from, whatever that smell might be, good or bad.

This RASS is from a batch the wife bought me back in February, which were described as five year olds, so there was never any doubt this cigar was going to be excellent.

I've only got two of these left and I'll be sorry when they're all gone, so I might have to get a few more of these in too.  I'll be in touch with my man in Luxembourg regarding a shipment very soon.

Last but not least, is a photo (taken on the new camera) of the bundle of joy, myself and the wife were blessed with recently.

I'm still on paternity leave, so I'll be having at least one more celebratory cigars before the week is out.  Or more probably before the night is out.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Magnificent Seven

Over a year ago now, myself and Jim began our epic journey together, to conquer London' magnificent seven cemeteries.  A mammoth task, even for the likes of us.

Each visit would require careful research and detailed planning, such as who to say hello to, and which local pub sold the best best bitter, and had the best beer garden (cigarden henceforth).

Before I go any further, a quick historical recap if I may...

The magnificent seven cemeteries came about when Londons dead began overflowing church grounds into water supplies, and down the new sewer system.  So with the ground literally bursting at the seams, the solution was to surround Victorian London with magnificent graveyards, while putting an end to the use of church grounds for new burials.

This was done over a ten year period starting in 1832, but it wasn't for another 150 years, until after the movie was made, that the cemeteries got their name, the Magnificent seven.

Abney park was the first site we visited, and you can read all about it here...

This time we headed for the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium.

While not a member of the magnificent seven club, it certainly has as much history, character, beauty and interest as the others, probably more in fact, and as it was easy to get to, or so we thought, we selected it as our next destination.

For the record, at the time of choosing, I had no idea that it wasn't one of the M7.

Anyway, a long story short, myself and Jim met up at Liverpool street station, on a warm and sunny morning.

We had four stops on the train ahead of us, followed by a short walk.

Eight stops later, we felt something wasn't right, and wondered if we missed our stop.

Jim checked his iphone, then announcing that we should have gotten off about twenty minutes ago.

We doubled back.

Some time later, we reached the fabulous gated front of the cemetery, and were greeted by a gentleman kitted out in the city of London uniform.

Interesting factoid this.  Even though the city of London is miles away, the grounds, which is one of the largest municipal cemeteries in Europe by the way, is still part of the city of London.  That said, you don't need to live in the city to be buried here.  It takes everybody.

We arrived, but we didn't know where to go, what with 200 acres of landscaped cemetery standing in front of us.

The gentleman enquired if he could offfer some assistance.

Gentleman: Hullo
Jim & me: Hi there, howaya. 
Gentleman: So then, who have you come here to see.
Jim: (with hand on heart)  Bobby Moore
Gentleman: Ah yes, every proud Englishmans favourite footballing hero.
Gentleman: And you Sir?
Me: Michael Barrett.
Gentleman: Who?
Me: Michael Barrett.
Gentleman: I'm afraid I don't know him.  Who was he?
Me: A Fenian.
Gentleman (scratching his head): Well, we do have some Armenians somewhere, but I'm not sure exactly where...
Me: No, I said Fee...he was the last man to be publicly hanged in England.
Gentleman:  Oh yes, I think we have him, try over there...

So off we skipped, with nothing but a vague idea and a map the gentleman had given us, in search of our heroes.

We found Sir Bobbys memorial, and a stunning little plot it was too.  The great man was cremated somewhere else, but his ashes are resting here.

We found plaques belonging to two of Jack the rippers victims, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Ann Nicols, and lots of memorials to old churches and graveyards whose inhabitants were re-interred here.

These re-interments are fascinating and a story to themselves, mostly down to the union of benefices, but the real crowd pleaser was finding the plaque to the aforementioned Fenian, Michael Barrett.

This poor unfortunate was publicly hanged for killing a load of people when trying to blow a hole in the wall of Clerkenwell prison.  An accident then, but it didn't go down well with the locals at the time, and that was pretty much that for him, and for Londoners sympathy towards the Irish cause, which did exist at the time.

There was some doubt as to his guilt too, seeing as he was in Scotland at the time of the blast, but in 1868 outside Newgate prison, they hung him anyway.

Newgate prison made way for The Central Criminal Court, which we all know as the Old Bailey, and as such, the communal lime grave was relocated to the city of London cemetery.

Fifty souls were removed and placed in a hole in the ground.  End of.

After the cemetery, we retired to the pub, ordered food, and took our beers to the cigarden.   

I blazed up my Partagas Serie D No. 4, and the resulting conversation with the bloke at the table beside us went like this...

Bloke: Wow, I thought that was a barbecue starting off..
Me:  ha ha ha
Jim: ha ha ha
Bloke: Oh it's a cigar.
Bloke: But it's not a good cigar
Bloke: I know the smell of a good cigar, and that's not a good cigar.

As Jim lights up his Partagas Petit Corona Especial.

Me: Eh yeah, it's just a Partagas
Jim: yeah, they're just cheap Cubans

So, at this stage I'm feeling suitably insulted, but I mostly hate this bloke.

Bloke (after a minute of intense silence): Well, maybe they're not the worst.
Bloke:  Yeah, their starting to smell OK after all.

With that, they all got up and left.

Bloke: Cheerio
Me: Yeah, see ya.
Jim: Bye now.

Me: What a dick
Jim: Idiot.

So, as I calmed down, we began to wonder where our food was.

Twenty minutes later, the food arrives.

It was shite.

So, as we supped our beers, and smoked our cigars, an old lady shows up and asked for a light.

We have a selection of lighters, two of which are jet lighters, so I suggest she uses the normal lighter, or risk losing her eyebrows.

Old Lady:  Is that an accent I hear?
Me: Yes it is.
Old Lady: Where from?
Me:  Dublin
Old Lady (looking disappointed): Oh...

She turns away.

Old Lady (looking back):  I thought it was North of England...

After being insulted for the second time, I reply with something nonsensical, then ask Jim if she means Manchester, or Newcastle?

That was enough of that.  We finished our pints and made our way back to Liverpool street, back to civilisation, and decided to call it a day.

Myself and Jim hope to finish the magnificent seven cemetery tour by 2017.

Bobbys Memorial

Mary Ann Nichols

Catherine Eddowes

Michael Barrett and 49 others

A re-interment memorial (nice read)

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The London Olympics 2012

I know, I know, it's been ages since my last blog, but truth be told, a lot has been happening in and around the streets of London recently, and I myself have been busy with all sorts of things and stuff. 

Now that the Olympic and Paralympic games have finally ended, I decided it was time to get back on the blog.

It's been a while and I'm a bit rusty, but seeing as I'm a contender in the Irish blog awards, no doubt thanks to Cigar Loving Doorman, I though I'd increase my chances ten fold, and post something brilliant for a change.

That said, this entry might have peaked already, as I rack my brains and struggle to remember what great things I was surely up to over the past month or so.  I guess though, like most people, my main focus was of course, the Olympics games.

I didn't bother with training or anything like that.  I thought I'd just rock up and ask whats the story, any chance of competing or wha'?, seeing as I didn't get any tickets an' all!  Maybe one of the athletes has pulled out or forgotten or met with an accident perhaps? No?

Surprisingly enough, that plan didn't work, so I guess I'll just have to wait another four years until Rio.  Probably a better chance of getting tickets for that one anyway.

As mentioned, in case you didn't pick up on it, was the fact that I, like millions of Londoners, got not a single ticket I applied for. 

So as I prepared myself for a few weeks of sitting on the couch and watching the games on the telly, I wasn't feeling at all bitter when Joe phoned to say he had tickets to the Victoria Park opening ceremony party, and tickets to the boxing, if we wanted them that is.

We wanted them alright (thanks very much Joe), and first off we enjoyed the brilliant atmosphere of opening ceremony, a mile or so from the Olympic park, which had a Red Arrows fly-past, and all sorts of wonderful things going on, followed a week later by a trip to the Excel where we watched Katie Taylor box her way into an Olympic final, which she thankfully went on to win.

Comon' Ireland!!

We also got to see the legend that is Damien Duff, who seemed to be walking around a lot, more than was strictly necessary I'd say.  At the time, I thought he was just playing the crowd.  But alas, as it turned out, the poor man just couldn't find his seat.

Across a row he went, across another row, then another. 
Down to the front he went, he stopped, he asked for help.
He talked, he turned, he smiled. 
He walked back up to where he came from. 
He was right in the first place. 
Eh hello, I think you're in my seat there Mrs...

The Excel arena was full of Irish supporters, and while there, I spotted one of my teachers from school.  I hadn't seen the man since 1989, so I wasn't too sure as I wandered over to say hello.

Turned out it was him, so hello again Eamonn Doyle, and Eddie O'Hara.  Very nice talking to you  both. 

I nearly introduced Eamonn to the wife as Mr. Doyle, but as I struggled, he saved me by cutting in with Eamonn. 

Thanks Sir.

I did enjoy a few cigars on both occasions of course.  At Vicky park, I had a Ramon Allones Extra and a Partagas Petite Corona Especialle.  Both excellent, and the RA Extra proved itself an excellent outdoor smoke.

Although I also enjoyed quite a few cigars over the course of the Olympics, I've only got one worth mentioning. 

This one had been sitting in the humidor for well over about 18 months, after my Dad brought it over from Dublin, after a friend of his brought it over to Dublin from Las Vegas.

When I got my hands on it, it was terribly dry, and I didn't think it would last.  So after leaving it alone in the humidor for those 18 months, I thought I'd give it a go, and I must say, it was excellent.

Maybe it absorbed some oils or whatever from nearby Cubans, or maybe it was just excellent to begin with, either way, it was very enjoyable, and burned slowly and perfectly all the way to the nub.

The cigar came from Vato Cigars, so please click on the link and check them out if you're ever in Vegas.

There's pictures below of the cigars, the Red Arrows and the results of some baking I've been doing lately.

That's another thing that kept me quiet lately, baking.  Yes baking.  Great fun baking coconut flour chocolate mouse cakes.  And gardening.  Gardening has also been keeping me busy. 

Life in the fast lane.

Next time, I've got another eagerly awaited graveyard adventure with Jim to tell you about, a visit to Casa del Habano in Berlin, and top stories from Ibiza and Formentera.  

I know I'm excited.

Vegas Cigar

Yes, I baked that cake.

RA Extra in Vicky Park

Duffer, not one of his best

Thats a better angle

Comon' Ireland!

Monday, 16 July 2012

In the Night Garden

Those of you who haven't had the pleasure of dealing with young children in recent years, might not know know what I mean when I say "In the night garden", or "Iggle Piggle", so if that's you, here's a little YouTube video to get yourself acquainted.  CLICK HERE!!

The stars of the show are Iggle Piggle, who you just met, Makka Pakka and UpsyDaisy.

These leading lights of childrens telly-vision, plus a supporting cast of other strange looking monsters, dance and sing and get about the place by way of a possessed train known as the Ninky Nonky, and a terrible flying machine called the Pinky Ponky, that's forever crashing into trees at incredibly slow speeds.

What's an Og Pog?  Why it's Makka Pakkas little three wheeler zimmerframe-a-majig of  course.

Iggle Piggle and his gang of crazies landed at the O2 recently and the wife, myself and our two year old, plus the Larkins, who have two kids, went to see the show.

After the show, we booked a meet and greet with the great Iggle Piggle himself, followed by his lover, Upsy Daisy.

The kids loved the show, but our little fella got a bit carried away when the Ninky Nonk made an appearance, and rushed the stage.

If not for my legendary lightning reflexes, it would have been curtains, literally, as I sprinted after the boy and grabbed him in the "Nink" of time.

Anyway, I could see all the other parents were mightily impressed by all this, as I strolled back with my screaming toddler tucked securely under my arm.  "He almost caught the Ninky Nonk" I laughed to a surprisingly luke warm reception.  Obviously not real fans these.

An hour later, the show was over, and it was time to meet the big blue man himself.

This is a great way of extracting more money from us poor parents, but the kids love it, so I suppose it's worth it really.  Probably not though.

The meeting with Iggle Piggle passed off peacefully enough, which is more than can be said for Upsy Daisy.

As we left Iggle Piggle, the boy tried to take him home with us.  He took Iggle Piggle by the hand and led him to the door, saying "Come, Come", and for a minute, it looked like the Big Blue fella was actually going with us, until I pointed out that we didn't have his favorite food at home.  Fluffy bunnies and cats I said.

We left Iggle Piggle and moved on.

In the next room was Upsy Daisy.  Upsy Daisy with her dread-locks and her pull string inflatable skirt, kneeling on the floor with her arms open, ready and waiting to embrace the loving kids for the obligatory photograph, payable on the way out.

Not this time sweet cheeks.  Not with these kids anyway.

The Larkin's boy got a grip of a dread and decided the only thing to do was pull, and over she went.  The situation got worse quicker than you could say Makka Pakka, with Upsy's assistant trying in vain to save her, the boys got stuck in.

Larkin's boy was water-boarding her, while ours had her around the neck.  All the rest of us could do was fall about laughing and take photos of the mayhem.  Sorry Upsy, but we paid a lot of money for this and we wanted our moneys worth.

After that good kicking, we left the O2, and drove back to ours for a few beers and some food.  The kids wrecked the place, but I managed to get a cigar in before the day was out.

As I enjoyed the cigar, I thought about the lives of Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy, and realized that while in those suits, nobody can hear you scream.

A terrified Upsy Daisy

Friday, 13 July 2012

Confessions of a Cigar Smoker

Bless me Father, for I have smoked.
It's been six weeks since my last blog,
and these are my cigars…

Yes, it's been a while, but obviously the weather is entirely to blame.

Record rainfall levels in June, and July looks like another record breaker, so you'll appreciate that  the opportunities to generate cigar blogging material have been few and far between.

That is not to say cigars have not been smoked.  Au contraire.  But I decided it was time for a post, and one that's full of cigars, because the next post will have almost nothing to do with them.

First up is a very special cigar, that was picked up a few months back in Madrid.  A Sancho Panzo Corona gigantes.

I love these cigars, and I've had a few of these beauties previously, and never been disappointed.

Although I mostly smoke robusto sized cigars, I much prefer the churchill size.  The problem is they take a long time to smoke, and in this weather, time and opportunity is a rare thing.

The cigar is pictured in all it's glory with some tomato plants that I transplanted earlier in the day.

I think I spent a good four hours pottering about the garden, and as the sun was shining, I decided I had time, and more importantly, deserved a nice long cigar as a reward.

The cigar smoked perfectly from the start, never harsh and burned consistently throughout. 

The picture opposite shows how even and handsome the cigar looks at the final third.

A dignified cigar, and one of the best churchills in my opinion, which lasted almost two hours.
I'd recommend this cigar for a sunny Saturday afternoon after a bit of gardening, when you need to cool down with a beer or four.

Next up is a "la flor de Isabela" corona which comes all the way from the Philippines.

One of the brothers-in-law, Ronan, bought me a box of five last year, and I must admit, at the time, I wasn't sure about these.

In fact, I'd never heard of Filipino cigars, but I now know them to be as old and distinguished as the best of them.

So it was pure ignorance on my part and the cigars proved to be as good, if not better, than a lot of non-Cuban cigars that I've smoked.

The band is a pretty yellow thing that was way too big for the cigar, and promptly fell off as soon as I picked it up.

I took the picture at an angle so it would stay on, and in the background, you can see England getting a lesson in football from Italy.

The second picture shows a lovely whitish ash and a smooth wrapper.

The cigar is pretty much as good as it looks, and although I wasn't expecting much, it was very enjoyable and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend these Cuban seed cigars.

This link gives a bit of history and tells a nice story of the how cigar making came to be in the Philippines.

Next up is a Grafton robusto.

I had this robusto sitting in the humidor for well over a year, and after reading a recent blog entry by Cigar Craig, who's son had one on a boat, during C.Gars Ltd hosted herf around Manhattan (jealous moi? Non), I decided to smoke it.

I must admit to having a mixed feelings of the Grafton.  I've had maybe half a dozen of these previously, and they nearly always got harsh during the second half, and ended up binned by the last third.

This one had been sitting in the humidor for a decent stretch so I was hoping it might be different, and I suppose it was to a certain extent.

The wrapper felt a little brittle and not exactly the best wrapper I've ever seen, but looks aren't everything.

The smoke was decent, and it should be, coming from the Decent Cigar Emporium, on Grafton street, so no prized for guessing where it gets its name from.

The problem, as you can no doubt see in the picture opposite, came when I tried to remove the band, which was glued onto the cigar.

If you look carefully, or not, you can see the word "adhesive", which I'd expect should have been stuck to the other end of the band, rather than the wrapper of the cigar.

It's the first time I've seen this and I'd have to say I thought it was a bit sloppy by whoever did the job.  But worst things happen at sea you know.

The Grafton is a budget cigar, but just because a cigar might not be moins cher, it doesn't mean it won't have problems of its own.

I had a Cohiba robusto recently that split about mid way through, but the Cohiba R is such an excellent cigar, I forgave it and smoked it down to the nub anyway.

I'm about midway through this blog entry, so if you want, now's a good time to take a break and make yourself a cup of tea, or have a cigar or something.

A night time cigar next, in the form of a Macanudo 1968 Robusto.

Kaz and Rolo kindly gifted me some of these for my 21st birthday last December, which means this one had been resting for a good six months.

I've enjoyed a few 1968's in the past, but some have been disappointments.  Irregular or a hot burn, harshness and tunnelling, you name it, these cigars suffered it.

That said, the six months appears to have settled this one down, and it turned out lovely.

It's a great looking cigar with a rich dark oily wrapper and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the garden late into the night with this one.

The last time we visited John and Gill in Luxembourg, the nice man at the La Casa Del Habano, Jean-Claude I believe, recommended a box of Ramon Allones Superiores.

These have to be the best cigars I've ever had, although I've no doubt said that about other cigars, but for me, these cigars are perfect.

Taking size, strength, flavour, length of time to smoke and everything else into account, these cigars have it all.

This was the last cigar from that box of ten, and I'm thinking I might not find another box before they're all gone.

They don't seem to be available in the UK, so if you're lucky enough to find a box, get a box.  They worked out at €8 each, and in my opinion, that's a bargain.

Almost there now.  Only a few more to go.

The first time I had a Partagas culebra was with John and Rolo in Luxembourg, and what a wonderful cigar it was too.

I've had them many times since and enjoyed every one of them.

The latest culebra came from a box picked up in Madrid, which was the last box in that particular shop.  Now out of production, and worth picking up when you come across them.

Don't be put off by the bendy weird look, or by the size.  These cigars are medium strength, burn brilliantly, produce lots of smoke and are just a fun cigar to smoke.

I think they look fantastic and here's a picture to prove it.

I'm going to finish up with a new cigar with an old friend.

We spent last weekend in Paris with John and Gill, and on Saturday evening, we got to enjoy a Partagas petit corona especiale.

I'd been told to look for a smaller cigar, one that would take less than thirty minutes, and as a result, I ordered some of these from C.Gars Ltd.

  A nice cigar this, but not as small as I thought, lasting roughly forty minutes, and seen here being enjoyed by myself and John in Paris.

Paris proved a little disappointing for cigars.  There's no problem finding a well stocked shop, although we missed the two cigar shops I wanted to visit on Saturday by about ten minutes.

Both shops shut at 7pm, but as the rain had been lashing down earlier, we found ourselves stranded in a restaurant with only a plentiful supply of wine to keep us going.

I found a shop the following day, and when I say Paris for cigars was disappointing, it wasn't the selection, or the quality that I had a problem with, it was the price.  Prices in France are fixed, so they're the same price everywhere.

Although cheaper than in England, they weren't as cheap as I hoped, and with a trip to Berlin coming up in August, I decided to save my money until then. 

That's it for now, and after that marathon of a blogging session, I think I deserve a beer and a cigar, but alas, it's raining again.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


With the car back in action, we crossed our fingers, and the Irish sea, for our first trip back to Ireland since Christmas.  Against the odds, and despite what the naysayers naysaid, the car made it to Ireland in one piece, with the air conditioning system being the only casualty of the first few days.

Apart from the air-con, there was a sloshing noise when I turned a bend, a parking light that stopped working but then worked again the next day, plus an oil pressure warning on the dash, but that was my fault for trying to overtake a tractor.

The windows, which were working perfectly well by the way, were electronically wound down, as we had arrived in time to enjoy the beginnings of Irish Summer 2012.  Temperatures soared to highs of 22 or 23 degrees, which is a heat wave by Irish standards, and for a few days at least, we basked.

We got the good times rolling with a trip to Finglas for a barbeque and Eurovision party with Kaz and Rolo.  A great night, despite the frustrating Eurovision voting system which meant that Ireland didn't win again.  There's always next year Jedward, and the one after that, and the next one, and the next one...

The most important thing was that we beat the English, again, and carrying on the great tradition, we awarded them less points than they gave us.  Roll on next year.

After the songs had finished, myself and Rolo had a cigar in the garden, with Rolo impressing me with his hidden talents of beer brewing and soap making.  Lovely larger beer it was too, and I certainly like the beer brewing idea Rolo, but swap the soap making for cigars making and I'll be your biggest fan for life.

We only had a few days in Dublin and before we knew it, we were on our way to Galway.  The plan was to head back to Dublin but we didn't want to push it too much with the car, so we stayed up in Galway.  Lovely when the sun shines, but Summer 2012 had come to a sudden end, and torrential rain took it's rightful place, leaving us with nothing much to do but watch telly.

People are always asking me what is it like coming back to Ireland?   Has it changed much?  And my normal reply is "Ah sure, I hardly recognise the place anymore".  But after watching Friday night television, with Gay Byrne and Pat Kenny still on the late late show, and I realised it hadn't changed that much after all.

At some stage or another, something much worse that Pat Kenny came on the telly.  Something called "Tallafornia".

I managed to watch about 20 seconds of Tallafornia, which is exactly how long it took for me to take a severe disliking to everyone on the program, the program makers, the broadcasters, and the 30,000 people who apparently watch it.

Thankfully, summer 2012 returned once again, saving us from the evil telly-fish-Erin, and I even managed to get a few rounds of golf in.

Anyway, just before the trip home to Ireland, I smoked a couple of the Ramon Allones Extra Limited Edition 2011, that were picked up at the duty free in Jordan.

I remember my first every RA Extra last year, and I loved it, but the three or four I smoked since then, have been nowhere near as good.  I knew I was doing something wrong, so I packed four for the trip.

Determined to figure it out why there was such a difference, I got the first one going, and as expected, it wasn't great.  The second was different, and exactly what I was looking for.  What I did differently this time was the cut, which was larger and as close to the cap line as possible.  I did the same with the next cigar and the same thing, beautiful, full and open and not a bit tight.

I didn't cut the last one as well and it suffered like the others, so I'm pretty sure it was down to the cut.

With the mystery solved, we had one last day in Dublin before heading back across the sea, just in time to miss the Queens diamond jubilee.

The night before we set sail, I smoked what might be called a custom rolled Cuban cigar, bought at the Decent Cigar Emporium on Grafton street.  I picked up a similar looking fat cigar from them a while back which was excellent, so I was expecting more of the same.

I got two cigars this time, one robusto and another larger sized stick.  I had planned on aging both, but changed my mind and blazed up the robusto.

Not sure if it was a mistake or not, but I found the robusto to be bland and flavourless.  I'm hoping the bigger cigar will be better, and rolled with different tobacco, but the look very similar so maybe not. 

The DCE is an excellent shop and I love popping in there for a look, and a complementary Cuban coffee.

Once more, I'll leave you with some pictures to enjoy.

Donnacha does a runner

R.A. Extra 2011

Thats me on John Waynes' the Quiet Man Bridge - Galway
Decent Cigar Emporium cigar

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Qu'est-ce que la Raclette?

Before our trip to Jordan, I was busy trying to get the blog up to date, and I still am, so once again I'm going back in time, to a time just after St. Patricks day, when we were on our way to the Larkins for a sleep over, and the car decided it could do with a new gearbox, and for the third time in our two year relationship, left a long trail of transmission fluid behind itself.  So much for an afternoon of fun times, beer and cigars.

On the plus side, it was a lovely sunny day and were lucky we broke down where we did.  A few minutes earlier would have left us in the middle of major roadworks at a major junction at the bottom of a huge hill, in heavy traffic.

We were just over half way to the Larkins, so Carine drove over to rescue the wife and child, leaving me to be rescued by the AA.

A few hours later and I was on my way back to the Larkins by train.   Ryan picked me up at the station, and after a couple of very welcome beers, we sat down to enjoy the food Ryan and Carine had planned for the evening, which was a Raclette grill.

I'd never heard of a Raclette grill before, and for those as philistinic as I am, I shall explain.  Raclette involves cheese (Raclette), a variety of meats and a grill that sits in the middle of the table, with little trays that are used to melt the cheese with the meat and potatoes.

It's simple, delicious, and Swiss, not French.  Sorry Carine.

The Raclette grill was great fun so thanks to the Larkins for a lovely night and a tasty meal.

The cigar that night was a Bolivar and the picture below shows a lovely dark cigar, but I don't remember much about it.  I think it was a bit on the tight side, and never really opened up, but one cigar that didn't have a problem opening up, was the Partagas Serie D No. 4 Especial Limited Edition 2010 that Barney gave me in Luxembourg last year.  I'd been saving this for a special occasion, and a sunny Saturday afternoon the following week seemed special enough, and I needed cheering up.

Earlier in the week, the car was patched up, given a full service, and managed to get half a mile up the road before making a rapid return to the garage, after the mechanic noticed a big pool of oil that should have been inside the car, rather than on the ground outside.

The Especial Serie D is bigger than the normal Serie D, with a beautiful dark wrapper, and this particular cigar that was never in doubt.  Definitely one of the best I've ever smoked and with the garden in bloom, it was a lovely 75 minutes spent thinking of what my next car might be.

More time travel now as I skip forward seven weeks.  We've arrived home from Jordan, but the car is still in the garage.  A new gearbox, radiator, ECU and other bits and bobs later, we get the car back in time for the drive home to Ireland.

Next time I'll be in the present, more or less, where I'll cover off the trip home, so once again, I'll leave you with some photos to enjoy.

Raclette (Swiss, not French)

Carine (French, not Swiss)

Raclette Night Cigar

Best Serie D No. 4 Ever

Crazy baby

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