Sunday 29 January 2017

Cohiba Behike

Your sturdy host, it seems, always lands on his feet. Three nights in the desert were enough and, with only the help of a begrudged loan from my benevolent employer, Mr. G, I find myself back in Melbourne. We are seated in his ward room and, with conversation running quickly stale, I shyly remind him that it is indeed my birthday. Mr. G clapped twice, turned on a tiny heel, and left the room, returning a short while later with a luxurious, red-lacquered, humidor. "Take anything from the top" he ordered, adding "I'll bring some drinks down to the courtyard". When the kindly Mr. G's footsteps had padded away I lifted the lid, and was disgusted with what I saw. Some Cuaba Divinios. A Monte 4. Assorted Central-American garbage. Was he seriously going to give me petrol-station fare on my fucking birthday? I cast the top shelf aside, and find an assortment of huge, old, heavily veined, cigars. Some are in little cedar boxes. Some are sealed with wax inside oily cardboard. All, at least, were distinctly special. An unbanded cigar catches my eye and, as I yank it from the humidor, an attached tag swings into view: Cohiba Behike BHK 52. I roughly cut the cap, and march down to the courtyard.

I met Kerri on a promotion course in country New South Wales, where I instantly recognised her from a series of Army recruitment posters that were designed to get women involved in the Army. The poster showed her in a cringe-inducing combination of full-makeup with golden blonde hair cascading down her shoulders, and a fierce looking battle rig replete with knives, grenades, and a roughly-slung light machine gun. She was one of four women on a course made up otherwise of 25 men, and was the best looking by a long shot. "By the end of this course", I thought, "I will eat that asshole". We were assigned shortly afterwards to the same section.

Mr. G, though nowhere to be found, has laid out two glasses on the table, and placed an assortment of English ales in an eski underneath. I take the first photographs, apply flame, and build up a hearty head of smoke by rapidly blowing and sucking, with the nub held wetly between my lips. Smoke billows as the coal glows, and I recoil in disgust at the tar. This cigar is awful. I clamp it between my teeth while helping myself to a beer, spilling most of it on the table as the smoke smarts my eyeballs. I briefly contemplate stubbing this thing out and retrieving the Partagas Piramedes that I'd spied, but decide instead to persevere. Luckily the beer is excellent, and does a wonderful job of suppressing the rubber fire in my mouth. I reach for another just as the first inch of the Cohiba fades into ash, and look up to find Mr. G walking grimly toward me.

 "You're so polite!" Keri beamed, flitting through the car door that I'd held open for her. "I love polite guys". I smiled back mute, while Boong, a meat-headed Boer and my main competitor, loudly called me a 'faggot' from the driver's seat. I shrugged and laughed, gutlessly reminding myself that I'd gained her approval by way of avoiding a confrontation. It was the final day of the course, and we were heading to the pub for some mischief. Kerri spent the night by my side while the other guys, Boong mostly, tried to drag her to the dance floor. She came back time and again, but I made my move too late, and caught sight of Boong dragging her out the door and into the night. I threw down shot after shot out of pure self disgust, and caught a cab by myself back to the barracks.

At the midpoint the Behike's rubber fire settles, and I detect wood smoke, methenamine, and strong tobacco. Mr. G sits silently opposite me, listening as I gurgle drunkenly about how disappointing his cigar is. It has only just struck him that I shunned his offer of one of the cheaper cigars, yet no rebuke has come. No protest. Just a coolly uttered "that was a gift from Carlos Ponce", before looking quietly at his phone. I remind my employer that it is very rude to use one's phone in company, and he faces the other way. I complain aloud about the harshness of this supposedly 'fine' cigar in between long, wet, frequent drags. I try filling my mouth with a long swig of Wychwood Hobgoblin pale ale so that the beer acts as a filter for the smoke, but both smoke and fluid go down my windpipe and I end up spraying the table with beer. I lazily wipe it up with my sleeve while the Behike fades slowly toward the midpoint.

On return to the lines I ran headlong into Kerri, who was helping Boong throw up into a bin in the hallway. He roared "stay away from her", but I could only remember the promise I'd made to myself. I ran headlong at Kerri, hitting her in the waist with my neck and swinging her over my shoulder like I was Tarzan. She laughed while I fumbled for my room key, and got her inside and threw her roughly on the bed, and locked the room just in time for Boong to hit it head on. She smiled seductively while leaning backward on her hands. I had her but, like a dog that had finally caught the mail truck, I had no idea what to do. I needed to piss, shit, vomit, and sleep all at the same time, but I had an Army-standards Goddess on my bed and I needed to do something about it. I scooped her legs up and grabbed her waistline and, like a mother roughly changing a toddler, yanked her panties and leggings off in one movement. She gasped as I forced her legs apart, and let out a startled grunt as I ran my tongue from her asshole to the top of her 90s-throwback landing strip. She grabbed under my armpits and dragged me up to her, fishing my shriveled whisky dick out of my pants and insisted that I fuck her. This, with renewed banging on the door from Boong, was the last I remember before passing out. I woke up alone the next morning, pants still around my ankles, with the sheets and mattress soaked with my own cold piss.

Long-time readers of this blog will know that my favourite part of any cigar is the nub, from which I like to greedily suck until it explodes into a mess of white ash and wet wrapper. The Behike finally comes good, with notes of port wine and pepper over heavy tar. I reflect on how nice it was for Mr. G to make my birthday special by gifting me this cigar, and I make a mental note to repay his generosity one day. For now, however, it is still my birthday, and this asshole is giving me undeserved silent treatment, which makes me burn slowly with anger as the dying nub smoulders between my fingers. I stub the cigar quickly and deliberately into the ashtray, like a Grandmaster making a decisive chess move, and snap a quick picture with my phone. "Thanks for nothing", I utter, kicking empty bottles of ale around as I stumble away.

Sunday 22 January 2017

Romeo y Juleta No. 3

Predictably, the shiny shekels with which I arrived in Darwin have dwindled into chump change. I drank nearly every cent, and have been forced to slink south in shame. I could only afford to make it as far as Alice Springs, and I spent the long, hot, bus ride watching the lush forests turn to dry, red dirt, while eating can after can of tuna. After 14 hours the bus has finally stopped for the final time and I, kicking my tuna cans into the aisle, have stepped into the waning Central Australian sunshine. Sore and exhausted, the only thing I want is to alter my senses, and I buy the cheapest flask of vodka I can find at a heavily-guarded bottle shop. I empty the flask into a warm bottle of coke, fish a Romeo y Julieta No. 3 out of my backpack, and set off on foot to explore the town.

My first few months in the Army dragged, but I finally found myself on the last day of recruit training, marching onto the parade ground with the battalion to rehearse the graduation parade. I'd made it through the entire three months and, despite being loathed by peers and staff alike, was set to emerge relatively unscathed. I was daydreaming about graduating and being sent to the advanced training school where I could finally start anew, when my musings were interrupted by the shriek of "HALT" by my drill sergeant. The entire recruit battalion, around 600 soldiers, was to be addressed by the Commandant, Brigadier Calles, whom we were turned to face. As I completed by turn I noticed a set of old-fashioned slide scales on the dais at the head of the parade ground.

The little No. 3 starts reasonably well, with bitter walnut over mid tobacco. This cigar has traveled with me from Melbourne, and has aged well despite enduring rapid temperature changes in the bottom of my filthy backpack. The late afternoon sun hangs high in front of me, scorching my face and forcing rapid swigs of my warm vodka. I still need to find a hostel, but for now I'm enjoying the familiar tightening in my temples as the drink and leaf go to my head. Rapid sucking has replaced the No. 3's nutty overtones with heavy tar which, despite my negligence, is disappointing so early in the game. I rest the remaining two-thirds of the cigar on a rock and squint pensively into the sun.

Due to my habit of faking injuries, and constantly sneaking extra desserts in the mess, I had started to stack on weight. It was hard to tell from my slight shoulders and skinny legs, but I had a barrel-shaped gut that flopped grotesquely over the waistline of my dress trousers. The Commandant, an old-school, wiry, special forces Brigadier, had decided that a public shaming of any unfit recruits was just the ticket. He marched along the ranks and selected the fatter soldiers to go waddling up to the scales for a weighing. He stopped at the rank in front of me at a portly young lad named Baudeville, or 'Buddha', and told him to get weighed. I couldn't contain my excitement, and burst into a stage-whispered "SUCK IT BUDDHA YOU FAT SHIT", as Buddha tottered across the vast parade ground to the scales. Eventually the Brig snaked his way to my rank, stopped smartly in front of me and, without looking in my direction, sneered "get up there you bag of shit". The snickers of 'piss boy' echoed behind me as I slunk sadly toward the scales.

I'm about half way through both the vodka and my cigar, and am feeling nausea wash over me as the weight of my situation kicks in. During the bus ride Alice Springs felt like a destination. An end-state. But I'm here with no money, no skills, and a depleting phone battery, and at some point I need to get back to Melbourne. My ruminating has led to neglect of my cigar, and a shaky relight brings forth the bitterness of the smoke that's settled within the leaf, which fades quickly into bland, mid tobacco. I'll note that, for an AUD$23 cigar, the construction is flawless, and the burn is, at worst, satisfactory. My vodka and coke combination has warmed to the point where it cloys instantly on every deep draught, coating my palate and making the Romeo's increasingly heavy tobacco work hard to be tasted.

My face burned with shame as I marched in front of the entire battalion to my weighing. I could feel the stinging sweat dripping down my thighs, the pinch of the thick parade belt under my gut, and the grinding chafe of my rifle's sling on my collarbone. The last three miserable months weighed on me, and I vowed to become a better soldier. I vowed to lose weight, to participate in at least one full PT session, and to turn myself into a chiseled war machine. I lifted my head and grinned a maniacal grin as I ascended the steps of the dais. The beam scale loomed in front of me, flanked by two warrant officers who eyed each other as I approached. A voice, somewhat like my own, boomed a sudden "morning, gentlemen!", with a volume that startled even myself as it echoed throughout the parade ground. The warrants fumbled and talked over each other as I stood straight on the scale, adjusting the slide myself until it wobbled between the two beams. "A lazy 95 kilos" boomed the voice again, this time punctuated with a fingernail tapping on the plastic of a rifle, "what now?". The dumbfounded Warrant Officers meekly sent me back to the formation, where I stood, eager for the coming recast. This piss boy was to become a piss man.

The way my head spins and swims reminds me that I did not drink any water on the long bus ride, and I've just rapidly introduced a sizeable dose of nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine to my exhausted and dehydrated being. The final inch of the No. 3 is wonderful, with bitter coffee bean overwhelming the heavy tar, making each deep drag smart the back of my throat. The Romeo y Julieta No. 3 was not remarkable, but its good points outweighed the bad. Unlike any other cigar blogger in the world, I smoke my cigars until they are wet, fragmented, tarry nubs, and I make no exception for the No. 3. My fingers, unable to grip the remaining coal, drop it into the dry grass where I've been sitting. It's time for a drink. 

Sunday 15 January 2017

Montecristo Open Eagle

I'm still in Darwin, and have found myself in a nightmare hell-pit called The Cav. I visited this city ten years ago when it was a sleepy and fun seaside village. Since then the Army have properly moved in, and the place is now high-rise hotels and kitsch strobe-lit storefronts. Worst of all are the fat, loud, idiot race traitors, draped in gold chains, chewing with their mouths open while dragging their screeching Filipino wives around by the wrist. It's with this disdain for my countrymen that I've planted myself in the middle of the beer garden with a Montecristo Open Eagle. I'm not the only smoker, but I get plenty of sideways sneers as I clamp the cap between my teeth and set it ablaze. I'm instantly greeted with mild tobacco, a slight citrus tang, and light tar.

At around week four of basic training we deployed to the field. I was a weak soldier with bad knees and no stamina, and I was dreading having to carry my pack and sleep in the bush and get yelled at by Sergeant Pettigrew, my small-group instructor. I was scared of snakes and spiders, and I lived in constant dread of accidentally discharging my rifle (a negligent discharge, or N.D.), or sleeping during my watch, or losing one of the expensive pieces of equipment that was entrusted to me. I was aching and my boots fit badly and I had a cold sore from the stress, and my platoon mates were tiring of me hiding during hard tasks, and for dobbing them in for smoking after lights out.

In the first inch I get hints of woodfire, but the citrus has developed a harsh, bitter, edge that makes me wash my acrid saliva down with big swigs of lager. I'd no sooner resigned myself to greedily chasing each draw with a large swig when, at the 3/4 mark, I'm hit with a malty sweetness, like coca-cola residue that's been left in the sun. Its stay is short-lived, however, and I plot my next run to the bar.

One of the worst tasks a soldier can be assigned is the digging of 'pissaphones', which are large steel witches hats that are buried upside down in the earth, and hide the stench of urine when a camp is vacated. I and two others were chosen to dig the pissaphones into the earth in the center of our platoon camp, and I recoiled in disgust. Thinking on my feet, I instantly held my head and complained loudly of an "awful dehydration headache". Deyhydration and heat illness were huge issues at the time, and a lurking Corporal ordered me to sit in the shade and drink water with Gatorade sachets until he told me to stop. I sat in the afternoon shade guzzling liters of the sweet mixture while watching my two co-workers dig the stinking metal into the hot, dry, earth. "You're a useless jack cunt, Davidé", came the strained rasp from one sweaty soldier. I smiled, winked, and took a long swig from my canteen.

At the half-way mark the Open Eagle's draw becomes frustratingly loose, and I can't taste anything without building up a fitful head of smoke before drawing, which intensifies the tarry bitterness. It's also adding to the smoke cloud I'm producing, which gets caught in the light breeze and wafts gracefully into the neighbouring table's plate of oysters. This isn't the best-regarded cigar Montecristo has produced, and my feelings towards it are so-far ambivalent at best.

That night, while huddled in my freezing sleeping bag, I was overcome with the need to piss. It was around 0200h, and I knew nobody would be awake except for the soldiers who were rostered for sentry duty. I squirmed out of my sleeping bag and into my boots and, steeling myself against my straining bladder, stole into the blackness of the bush. After a few steps I remembered that my rifle was still next to my pack, and to be caught without it meant serious punishment. I was about to burst, and made a frenzied gallop in my unlaced boots back to my sleeping area. I was on my hands and knees digging around in the darkness for the familiar plastic and steel of my rifle. I had tears streaming down my face and was making desperate whimpering sounds at the injustice I'd been dealt. Finally, just as the first trickle of hot piss was about to leak out of me, my hand wrapped around the smooth pistol grip. I yanked it away and recoiled immediately from the sudden burst of flame that exploded out of the muzzle, chased by the crack of a blank round as it raced to catch up with the light.

I was in a half squat, holding my breath while piss cascaded down the legs of the only trousers I had to wear for another ten days. After what seemed like eons, the swing of a torchlight hit me square in the face. As my eyes adjusted I could make out Sergeant Pettigrew, flanked by the two sentries, as they surveyed the situation. The stink of urine and cordite filled the air, and I made no attempt to cover my shame as the torchlight travelled from my ashen face to the ever-expanding wet patch at my crotch.

In the final third the draw has loosened to the point where smoking is nearly impossible. The burn is uneven, and I taste only harsh tobacco. A disappointing finish for what wasn't an initially bad smoke, and one that has at this point has been out of its humidor for the better part of a week. Still, I expected better, and the fitful little Cuban disintegrates in my fingers as I draw finally into its slack nub. Fuck Darwin.

Sunday 8 January 2017

La Paz Corona

I'm in Darwin, having recently decided that a properly prepared survival bunker might be needed, and that the great expanse of nothing in Australia's top end is the place to do it. I've just finished a spicy pawpaw salad on a spicy sausage pizza, so my palate is well prepared to appreciate any nuanced flavours of the La Paz Corona. It's a beautifully veined, perfectly machine-made offering from Holland that cost me AUD$12.50, and my expectations are low. I last tangled with a machine-made when I reviewed a Phillies Titan, but that was American, and was quite likely fake (I was in Cambodia). I reason that the Dutch can do things much better than the Americans given that, at time of writing, they hadn't just allocated 44% of the electoral college vote to a crooked, snake-eyed, pro-choice Jewess reptile.

"Did I tell you to take a piss?" said the drill sergeant, pace stick pressed firmly into my chest. I was with a dozen other recruits in the middle of Canberra Airport, waiting for the bus to take us to the barracks for day one of basic training. He had told the group of us to collect our luggage and wait, at which I had desperately waddled off to the toilets to unleash the torrents of hot piss that I'd been holding since Melbourne. I wanted to tell him, and my gawking peers, that I thought I wouldn't get the chance to piss again for hours, and that I'd been drinking too much coffee and was nervous and that I wanted to go home. Instead, I just muttered a "no", at which he puffed himself up and eyed me for a long time. "What's your name, son?", he said, kindly. "Davide", came my response, at which he reared back slightly and boomed "WE'RE NOT FUCKING MATES. WHAT'S YOUR SURNAME?" I told him, and he breathed some stinking tobacco breath over me. "You, piss-boy, are not going to fit in here". My peers tittered and echoed his "piss boy" behind me. I wasn't yet technically in the Army.

The corona starts beautifully and smells terrific, with a perfect ready-cut draw and razor-sharp burn. It tastes bland, however, as if I were smoking it through a mouthful of half-cooked polenta. I'm pairing it with a lazy summer ale (basically a dry golden ale with more hops, by my boor's palate), and I find myself drinking with speed and aggression, making inflected 'mmh mmh' sounds with each deep draught. The corona tastes like the fourth cigarette I ever had: past the stage of hacking and rasping, but still trying to figure out if it's a taste I actually enjoy. The burn is super-fast, with the first-inch rapidly nearing completion as I type this paragraph. I balance it on the cut-down tinny of Great Northern lager I'm using as an ashtray, and maneuver my ageing camera into position.

On arrival we were assigned bunks, and told to make our beds. I had never made a bed before, and fumbled around in a panic until a coursemate kindly made my bunk for me. I paid no attention to his method, figuring I'd have time to reverse-engineer it later. He was long finished when we were ordered to stand by our beds, and the platoon commander came through the dorm. "Did anybody help you make this bed, Recruit?", he enquired of me, to which I gave a shit-eating "no sir", while narrowing my eyes at my helpful coursemate. This was, I figured, a competition, and I'd take all the credit I could get. The Lieutenant had the entire platoon gather around my bunk, while he told them that the new standard in bunk-making had been set. At the conclusion of his accolades he grabbed the neat fold near the pillow and ripped the undersheet off, and ordered me to show my peers how it was done.

The heat in Darwin is horrific, with tropical humidity and searing desert sun and no wind unless accompanied by a violent tropical storm. It was a bad day to wear polyester bike pants under my thick cargo shorts, and the sweat drips down my leg hairs and into my dirty socks. The La Paz hasn't improved, but the occasional nutty trace gives a welcome break from the bland mid-tobacco. I have a splitting headache from the alcohol and the nicotine and the heat, and I can only hold a rapidly warming beer to my temple for quick relief before I drink it. My host joins me and I brief him on the cigar's bastard heritage and give him a drag. He inhales great lungfuls of the little La Paz, and remarks on his exhale that "after two martinis it doesn't taste too bad". I thank him for his insight, and he walks away with a "whatever". I wonder if I've overstayed my welcome over the past rent-free month, but I just put it down to the heat and yell for my own martini.

The only thing I recall of the succeeding few minutes was the feeling of my waning penis waggling, small and flaccid, in my PT shorts as I tried to replicate the once perfectly-made bed. I might remember some bastard-interpretation of hospital corners, and the shouts of "NOT LIKE THAT" as I tucked wrong sections of crisp sheet into wrong sections of steel frame. I do recall my cheeks burning red as I pranced gazelle-like around the bed trying to tuck in wan pieces of bedsheet while my platoon laughed at my drill sergeant's commentary. Eventually the bed looked made, and I looked at my feet while the platoon commander gave a speech about honesty and integrity. It was hour-one of my military career, and the start of a long and lonely three months of basic training.

The final third is amazing. The little La Paz has collapsed into a soggy mess and it tastes like the calcified edge of an overcooked toasted cheese. My headache has been replaced with a kind of wan delirium, and I sit nursing a giant, piss-fueled erection while getting turned on by the lithe white Goddesses in my Instagram feed. I follow each sip of martini with a pinched drag of my cigar, which burns red hot inside the peeling wrapper and sears my lips and fingers. I finally drop the smouldering nub into my makeshift ashtray and take the final photos with shaking hands. If you're cash-strapped, time-poor, brand-apathetic and need a quick nicotine hit, the La Paz Corona is your smoke. I'll keep them in mind when I'm stocking my bunker.

Sunday 1 January 2017

Season return - Montecristo Open Junior

And so you're back. Perhaps you spent the winter around a fire with friends, smugly telling off-colour jokes while smirking at your own indelicacy. Perhaps you went on holiday to someplace warm, where brown feet frolicked over the scalding sands of pristine beaches with a tanned beauty, salty and happy and in love. 

Perhaps you spent it like your sturdy host: holed up in a rented apartment with an old blanket wrapped around his legs, drinking off-brand instant coffee and watching the midday movie on channel seven. Alone.

Either way, welcome, friends, to the second season of Fitful Fires. The warmth is returning to eastern Australia, and the leaf, grape, and grain beckon once more. I start us off with the Montecristo Open Junior.

I am sitting in the lush backyard of my good employer, Mr T.G., recently returned from filching cheap sculptures from African tribesman, which I will soon haul to auction houses to hawk at massively inflated prices. We have not spoken for months, and he smirks cruelly from his deck chair as I timidly present my little Junior. "If you think you're wasting my jet lighter fluid on that garbage" he sneers, "then you're as oblivious as you are thick", and sends a Bic lighter tumbling toward me. He blows lazy smoke rings as I fumble with the flame, and the Junior hits me with a rush of clove over a retronasal coriander tang. I adjust my weight on the wooden bench and settle into the night.

My employer and I were friends long before we were colleagues, despite our different upbringings. He spent his twenties studying business at university, while I played an Unreal Tournament addon called Tacops on my aging Athlon 1100. Our paths eventually crossed through the notorious Buckley, and we developed a foul and erratic association, filled with jealous womanising and spiteful aspersion. On graduation he started to make money - real money - the type that allows one to start grand cigar collections while still being technically unfit to hire a car, and he dressed almost exclusively in bespoke suits. After some years I started to tire of our disparity, and sought fortune of my own. However, with half an Arts degree and no meaningful skills, my only choice was to join the Army. I enlisted sadly, and in secret.

The Open Junior's herbal notes soon give way to sweet petrichor over fine, mild tobacco. The draw is perfect, and the cheap white wine I've paired it with is nauseating by contrast. I openly praise the cigar to Mr G, who coolly tells me to look up some reviews online. I find page upon page of smug vitriol against the Open Junior, each reviewer deigning to outdo one another in contempt for this little cigar. I look at my employer and surmise that the detractors must be retarded, at which he sneers and spits. I lazily suck the junior and detect coffee bean, but with a creamy undertone, as the cigar burns calmly toward the midpoint.

I tried to catch up with as many people as I could before departing for basic training. I was expecting a cross between astonishment and admiration, but I mostly received a slack-jawed "oh" and a rough prediction of how badly I was going to suffer. Mr G was privy to my plan, and had proposed that we have a final dinner in the city before I left. I had decided, Mr G in mind, and since this was to be my last time out in Melbourne, to scorn my usual trackpants and surf-branded t-shirt in favour of something more elegant. I donned a pair of dark jeans, work boots, a casual shirt, and the jacket from my only suit, and strode out of my house feeling like a freshly-fellated Jay Z. I strode confidently into the Chinese restaurant and found Mr G with another friend, T-Rex (Vale), both dressed to the hilt and sipping a '96 Bollinger.

At the midpoint the Junior's creamy coffee gives way to notes of bitter espresso, which fade as quickly as they come into intense cacao over mid tobacco. By this point I have greedily guzzled all of the white wine, and have just impudently requested some beer from my host, who wearily obliges. As he retreats to the refrigerator I shout that I can taste strawberry and rockmelon rind, but my words are met with a slammed door. The cigar is burning too hot because I am drawing on it too frequently, and any complexity becomes masked by the acrid smoke that results. I rest the cigar on the ashtray, put my feet on the table like I own the place, and await my fresh beverages. Life, for now, is good.

I was striding to the table with my cleanskin shiraz when Mr G raised his head and looked me up and down. His eyes settled on my suit jacket, and a vicious and delighted grin spread across his face. His nostrils flared, he leaned back in his seat and, regarding me over his long nose, burst out into ferocious laughter. I was bent over to plonk my wine on the table and could feel the eyes of every  diner boring into me as my friends loudly drilled me on my clumsy attire. I sat in shame and ate my food, trying at every turn to change the subject. Eventually the check came, and I suggested we go somewhere for a final drink before I shipped off to the Army. "Nah" remarked my now employer, "not in those boots mate". 

In the final inch I detect tar, and I find myself alternating outlandishly between smoking and swigging beer, at once drunk and buzzing with nicotine. My employer holds a beer between his thumb and forefinger and reminds me that I am smoking the band, and I discover that he is correct. In fact I had, in my drunken stupor, only recently singed the secondary band, making me wonder why I left the Montecristo band to the mercy of my smouldering coal. I remove the charred, tattered band and choke down the now harsh, tarry remains of my little Open Junior. I smoke it to a soggy nub and, fumbling with my phone, try to make the final picture worthwhile. This is not just one of the best cigars I've ever smoked, but is one of the best things I've ever consumed. Anybody who thinks otherwise is dangerous or stupid.