Wednesday 6 January 2016


It's the evening of Christmas Day in Melbourne, Australia. It's still warm and sunny, and my benevolent employer has granted me leave. I've got 5.6" of Punch-Punch Cuban cigar in my grasping paw and a six-pack at my feet; thus, some wanton tuck to indulge. It's been the better part of a decade since I've smoked a cigar, and I accidentally snap the first match on the unterlage of my matchbox.

Twelve years ago I met with my friend Buckley to have some drinks by the Yarra River, under the bridge that links Flinders Street station to Melbourne's inner south. I was twenty years old, and Buckley had brought me my first cigar. I recall it was a little perfecto that he'd picked up from the bottle shop, and I grabbed at it excitedly. I liked how it felt in my hands. I sniffed it like they did in the cartoons.

The Punch starts with notes of cigar. I can't distinguish anything else, but I don't feel any need to chase the firm draws with sips of the Amber Ale I've lazily paired it with. There's a slight burn on my tongue an inch in, which makes me want to spit.

As Buckley and I wandered down to the riverbank, I babbled about the subtle nuances of cigars, the different flavour profiles, and the correct way to smoke them. I was the expert, and young Buckley, who didn't indulge, was about to see how cigar smoking was done. We opened our beers and I, cradling one end of my perfecto, clumsily ignited the chiseled, uncut, tip. I inhaled deeply into my lungs, and breathed out again through my nose to show how committed I thought I was to the cause. I remarked at the delicacy, and the flavour, and complimented Buckley's good taste.

At the midpoint the cigar burns unevenly, but the initial burn has given way to strong, but smooth, tobacco. It tastes like a Vietnamese Marlboro Red; strong and slightly sweet. My benevolent employer would later remark "yes, but what does a Marlboro Red taste like? Cedar? Oak?", but I don't know. It's good though. Pleasant. The Punch Punch, though regarded as the more 'cheerful and fun' Cuban cigar, is the perfect re-entry into the cigar world. I roll the smoke around against my pharynx and practice my smoke rings. I'm enjoying myself immensely.

Buckley watched as I smoked the entire thing as one would smoke a cigarette, including deep inhalations of the smoke, and all while seated and getting increasingly drunk on the six-pack of Carlton Draught we'd purchased. After taking a final draw I stood up to flick the stub into the Yarra, and promptly blacked out. The next thing I remember was Buckley pulling me out of the foaming shallows by my legs. This in itself was embarrassing, but the three beers I'd consumed had coursed through me, and the shock of the fall had made me coat my jeans in my own hot piss, which mingled with the stinking river water. It was a long train ride home.

The final inch burns hot because the wrapper has been slowly peeling off, and each draw brings a mouthful of hot tar. The cigar is now soft and unpleasant, and my temples are throbbing from the nicotine, yet I smoke it down to a nub. A nice, fitful, little fire.

Punch on the Cuban Cigar Website.

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