Whisky & Culture

Holy smoke

A cigar replete with the aromas of bourbon, 'Paradise', thought Adam Edwards, and that's was where his troubles began
By Adam Edwards
I am an innocent at the complexities of marketing. Who was the PR, for example, who decided that I should be the lucky journalist to receive a large cardboard box of 23 different Caribbean hot sauces? I like hot sauce as much as the next jerk chicken grazer but it is not something I have made public. Why should a variety box of chilli arrive on my desk in the second week of January with no receipt and no covering note?It is a conundrum that I have spent many an idle moment considering, and over the years it has made me philosophical about the morning post. So when the test-tube cigar arrived last month with no visible press release I stuck it in my top pocket without so much as a mental twitch as to who or why it was sent. Or rather my brain registered dully that it would be particularly enjoyable smoke with a digestif later that day.It was a big cigar – the size of the torpedo shaped Montecristo Belicoso without the pointy bit at the end – and with no band. It was sealed in a plain glass tube with red sealing wax. “Somebody loves you,” said my secretary with a crude smirk. But as I had no idea who that somebody might be I smiled back and patted my pocket. It was too big for an after lunch smoke but it received many admiring glances (and a couple of not so admirable drolleries) from the disorderly and bibulous lunchtime crowd. I decided not to show it too my wife that evening as, like my secretary, she could so easily jump to the wrong conclusion. Instead I popped down to the pub to smoke it among trusted chums.It was not easy to open. The sealing wax turned out to be plastic and was impossible to budge. Dave the chippy, who is something of a DIY nut, suggested we gently cracked the test tube itself. He banged it with the edge of a large Holsten Pils ashtray and the pottery receptacle promptly split into two broken halves. He even tried crushing it under the leg of a barstool but the tube might as well have come from the London Transport for all the success he had.In the end a Sabatier paring knife was produced from the pub kitchen and after a long conference and one cut thumb, the red plastic sealing wax was prized off to reveal a white plastic cap that was then popped open.I slid the cigar from its clear container, gave it a quick roll between thumb and forefinger, put it across my face like a handlebar moustache and inhaled.It smelt, I promise, of bourbon. It was passed to and from across the bar, between barman and customers, and despite early disbelief all eventually agreed that if you took the tobacco out of the equation it ponged of American whiskey.There were cheers when I finally lit the huge stogie but it was short-lived joy. The curse of the cigar smoker is the smoke that doesn’t pull, and suck as I might, and I sucked mighty hard, only a trickle of lazy blue tobacco smoke drifted into my mouth. Once more the cigar was passed from hand to mouth among the boys at the bar. And despite a sterling effort in rolling, pinching, pulling and plain shouting it still would not smoke. Once again the paring knife was called for, this time to slice out the cancerous plug that was blocking the fat cheroot. The cigar had by this time lost much of its elegance. It now looked as if it had been rolled, not on the thighs of a dusky maiden, but on the boots of an all-in dwarf wrestler.It was now only three inches long and unravelling at both ends. Dave suggested I dip it in bourbon to seal it. “Can’t do you any harm,” he said. There was no change from a £10 note by the time I had got the necessary four shots of Wild Turkey into a balloon glass. It is true that the dunking did stop the ends flaking on the other hand it made it impossible to light and so I was forced to leave it on the radiator for a moment or two.It was bone dry by the time I had finished my second quadruple whiskey. Sadly there was hardly anyone left to celebrate the great moment when I lit it a second time, just a slurred murmur of approval from the unsteady figure on the corner barstool as the battered cylinder began to glow.I have to say I don’t remember much after the third long draw except that my head began to spin very slowly. Jim the landlord tells me that I fell to the floor, just clipping the edge of the long oak table by the darts board, with the dignity of a fainting guardsman.I was not a good colour when I arrived at work the next morning. “I’ve found the press release that went with that cigar,” said my still smirking PA. It read: “We hope you enjoy this fine Dominican cigar which has been subtly infused with the rich taste of Maker’s Mark Kentucky bourbon. Have a nice day and a great smoke.” Close, I thought to myself, but
no cigar.