Wednesday 24 February 2016

Cohiba Siglo IV

It's the same sunny Melbourne afternoon as it was last week, where one might recall me waxing pathetic about the almost unworkably tight, but relatively decent, 2002 Quinteros Panetelas. After I'd finished smoking I sat, dejectedly, while my companions billowed mighty smoke clouds and buried the remnants of my little Quinteros in giant piles of chunky coal. One of the group regarded me with pity and, leaning forward with one eye squinting shut, mouth cocked in a salesman's smirk, asked if he could offer me a cigar. I sadly nodded, and received my welcome alms. It's with this act of noble charity that I, pilfering my benefactor's jet lighter, put the Cohiba Siglo IV to the flame.

Some years ago I, in a Godless attempt to add at least wealth to my wretched life, took a job as a labourer in a coal mine. The mine was one of several that could be found in the fundamentalist, redneck, xenophobic dominion of tropical northern Queensland, and there I toiled and sweated and served my twenties away like a cowed brute. The mine pulsed with angry testosterone, from the pickup-packed carpark to the weekly mess-hall brawls, and talk was focused exclusively on jaunts with the well-worn sex workers that littered the mine's hinterland. My boss was a fat, hairy, disgusting cretin in his late-forties, who constantly had dried snot caking his protruding nose-hairs, and who used to brag, ad-nauseum, about his increasingly humiliating treatment of the girls.

The IV starts with a very loose draw, and I taste distinct barnyard over light tobacco. To be specific, I taste and smell cow, and I experience inexplicable and vivid imagery of swaying udders and discoloured, drooping, hindquarters. There's even a distinct brindled shade in the cigar's dappled Jersey hide, and I admire the torcedor's beautiful, bovine, leaf selection. After an inch of good mid tobacco the Cohiba starts to leave a banana pith dryness on my palate, which intensifies until I wash it down with some whiskey. This is an excellent cigar.

"Stuck this finger" he'd say, brandishing a thick and calloused pointer in my face, "this fuckin' finger straight up that crying cunt's arse, hahahaha", and would recount the subsequent events as if calling a boxing match, detailing his hateful violations that contrasted awfully with the girls' obvious terror. His treatment of the working girls was legendary around the mine site, and ranged from the clear-cut simplicity of blackened and gouged eyes, to the nauseating and deliberate cross-cavity infections he loved to impart. Now, I was no saint back then, and I may have chased my share of women from the accommodation blocks with a fire-hose, but I was a new-age human-rights campaigning care-lord compared with this guy. But, like the ticking diesel engines that laboured constantly around the work site,  I considered the constant stories an inescapable background noise, and sadly submitted to his degrading narrative.

At the midpoint the IV develops distinct notes of rotting wood, accompanied by a saccharine cloy that I've determined not to be caused by the dry Japanese whiskey I'm sucking down. It's still wonderful. One of my companions volunteers that my intoxication may have spoiled my palate, but I shriek in protest and start to sulk. They may have a point though; this is my second cigar of the afternoon, and my head is swimming from the alcohol and nicotine. This aside, and with my senses heightened by this scathing attack, the Siglo IV surprises me with some brief floral notes that fade into ever-increasing tar in the final third.

One morning I was using a forklift to load rusted metal scrap onto the back of a flatbed truck while my boss, moving erratically between the neatly stacked piles I was making, barked insults and orders at me. I was getting increasingly flustered at his muddled and contradictory instructions, and angrily released a load of the twisted steel onto an existing stack. It was just as I'd dropped the load that my boss had, emphatically, brought his hand down onto the bottom pile, and he let out a piercing shriek as he strained to pull free the hand that I'd just crudely pulverised. I felt bile rise in my throat, and I tried to re-insert the tines between into the scrap to lift, and ease, the half-tonne load that was bearing down on his hand. However, in my panic, I'd unknowingly speared the metal below where his hand was trapped. My well-intentioned and rapid raising of the load made the poor wretch lose his footing, and left him floundering by one trapped finger as it was crushed from above and below.

Eventually I was hauled from the forklift's cabin by a burly colleague, and he lightened the towering top-load enough for my boss, now trying to yank his hand free between frenzied screams, to go toppling back from the truck, a trail of blood arcing through the air behind him. He looked like a dreidel in its final ponderous spins as he, on his elbows and knees on the ground, tried to get to his feet without releasing his shattered finger from the palm of his opposite hand. In the panic he'd pissed himself, and was eventually thrown into a car and driven to the first aid post. I'd stood dumbly and watched as this unfolded, and was startled back to reality by the site manager, an impatient old Geordie, who was fitfully hitting me with every insult he could muster. I was paying him little mind, however, and was staring silently at the still-teetering scrap metal on the truck. The old man's tirade eventually gave way to the same stunned silence as he followed my gaze to what looked like a used condom sticking out between the steel, with only the dripping blood and protruding bits of connective tissue revealing the grotesque reality.

In the final inch the Siglo IV's tar is starting to dominate, but there are distinct peppery undertones that add a nice complexity to the sting that's being left on my tongue. My universe is spinning and I'm short of breath, and my entire head is pulsing from the combined nicotine of two dusky beauties. This cigar started as a mere consolation, but I can see myself filling a humidor with these one day. Recommended.

Cohiba on the Cuban Cigar Website.

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