Friday, 17 August 2012

Mr Blake steps up to the ashtray by James Leavey

There I was, swapping tales of old smoker-friendly Dublin with some eminent cigar comrades in an Irish smokeasy tucked away somewhere, the whereabouts of which I will tell you not.

Some of you unsainted sinners will, no doubt, know of similar havens.

This is a place where alternatively oxygenated persons step up to an anonymous door a nicotine companion has recommended, and knock three times.

Then the little hatch in the door opens and a voice deepened by decades of smoking intones, 'Yes?'

While this little bit of play acting is going on you get the first sniff of fine cigars gently wafting through the aperture.

'I'm a dedicated friend of St Nicotine and promise, hand on humidor, to ignite the brain of every anti-smoking pillock I meet who tells me I cannot enjoy something that I can still buy, legally, in Eire, and elsewheir.'

A moment passes and the door creaks open.  'Enter, friend of St Nicotine,' says the Galway giant whose eyes are carefully checking left and right in case some anti-smoking nutter decides to break in and berate all the sinners safely ensconced inside, where they're happily sipping fine booze, enjoying the craic, and dropping premium ash in the ashtrays.

By the way, if you're one of those anti-smoking puritanical zealots given to raging against the light of a cigar smoker's match, may I suggest that you never ever try to enter a smokeasy or any other smokers' refuge, for you risk your life and limbs – especially your balls, which we'll toast over the ashtray.

Getting back to the comrade's conversation, we were talking about great writers, most of whom, we all agreed, were either Irish or of Irish descent.  Naturally, most of them were also smokers for the spark of the fire that lit their tobacco often served to ignite their genius.

'But,' I exhaled through of a cloud of smoke from my The Grafton robusto, which was burning and smoking well, 'I suppose we should allow, with our arms twisted up our back perhaps, that merit has also been shown by the occasional English writer, such as William Blake.'

There was a universal gasp and quick reigniting and inhaling of several cigars.

'Jaysus!' exhaled one comrade.

'For God's sake, man!' exhaled another.

'Come, come, comrades,' I said gently and reassuringly, 'any man who can write “The Goddess Fortune is the devil's servant, ready to kiss anyone's arse” has got to be worth including in our pantheon of prime particularists.'

'Ah go on with you, Seamus, you mad bugger,” came a voice beyond the third ashtray.

'Now look here, comrades, I'm being serious, for once.' I replied.

'There's always a first time...' said a fourth comrade, a cigar-totin' Yank who had recently moved to Dublin from across the water - London.

'That may be,' I said, 'but we are talking about a visionary poet, social critic of his time, one of the key people responsible for the birth of Romantic Poetry, and prophet of things to come.

'Blake was born in England in 1757 and by the time he died in 1827, was considered one of the greatest and most influential contributors to the English language.

'This is the man who wrote “Without contraries there is no progression.  Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence.”

'Can't you see?  Blake summed up the need for smokers and, I hate to say it, non-smokers to co-exist. We're two necessary halves of the same coin – mankind. This is something the fanatical anti's should consider, even if I have to beat it into them with a pickaxe handle.  The same goes for the rest of you.'

I took a long slow drag on the robusto and then very slowly exhaled, 'And, despite his protestations to the contrary, I believe William Blake may have been a secret smoker.'

The room went silent.  Several glasses of The Wild Geese whisky were emptied and the smoke from fine Nicaraguan and Cuban cigars exhaled.  Then the comrades sat up and cried, in unison, 'Well, why didn't you fucking say so in the first fucking place!'


Saturday, 11 August 2012

I can't leave those Ramon Alone

Greetings my fellow cigar connoisseurs,

To many people, working in a cigar shop seems like a dream come true. The best coffee in town on tap, surrounded by the world's finest cigars and getting to mingle with all friendly people that pass through our doors.

While this may be true, people tend to forget about the torture that we merchants of quality tobacco go through on a daily basis. Being immersed in those intoxicating aromas is not easy especially since the vile smoking ban forbids us from quenching our cigar lust when necessary.

Every now and then I open a box of cigars and it brings me to the point of saying fuck the fascists I'm firing up one of these bad boys, now! 

At the moment I cannot leave the Ramon Allones Specially Selected alone. A few weeks ago, I opened a box (dated August '09) to show a client, but from the moment I broke the seal, I knew I had to keep this box for myself. When the sweet scent swept up my nostrils I made a noble effort to convince the guy to take a box of something else- this box was mine, all mine. However, this client knew a good thing when he saw it and laughed at the thought of leaving the shop with anything other than this box.

After he left I went straight into the humidor to check the rest of this batch, stamped underneath with FEB AGO 09. The next box I opened looked good; that same aroma, same oily sheen to the wrappers, Nice one.. Roll on 6 o' clock!.

After work, the gang and I made a quick stop off at The Bailey. So with a pint of Guinness on the table I set alight the longing that had lingered over me all day. Ramon Allones have always been a favourite of mine and from the moment the flame hit the cigar I was awash in an ambient oasis of cigar smoke. I wish I could say the conversation flowed but this cigar had my full attention, to hell with my friends at the table. 

I've never been one to waffle on with extensive tasting notes, what goes on between me and my cigar stays with me and my cigar, if I wanted to taste a leather couch I would go lick one, but what I will say is that this cigar drew perfectly and the rich deep tobacco flavours brought me right back to Cuba. Get them before I smoke them all and trust me I will.

Happy Smokin'
Paul 'that's not a cloud of smoke that's my hair' Murphy

Friday, 3 August 2012

Lighten Up with James Leavey

Taking the air in Dublin
by James Leavey

Hold on there.  Whoa. 

Before you start reading, let me explain the rules.

If you're an ardent blinkered born-again anti-smoking puritan you can stop right now.  Twats like you are banned here.

So fuck off.

Now.  Where were we?

Oh yes.

I was sauntering along the streets of the old town the other day, as you do when you're a dedicated aficionado of fine hand-rolled additive-free cigars and treated like a leper, when my old friend Guy Hancock strolled up, nonchalantly puffing on what he described as The Grafton Torpedo.

'It's one of my new hand-rolled Nicaraguan cigars,' he said.  'I named the brand after Grafton Street.'

'How come?'

'Because, like Dublin's famous street, it's long, very interesting, satisfying to all the senses – and full of fumes.'

At this point, a rude eejit leaned out of a passing taxi (most days you can never find one in the rain, and then, like the buses, when the sun comes out several come along at once) and shouted, 'People like you should be banned from smoking in the streets of Dublin's fair city!'

It sounded like the beginnings of a song.  A badly-written one I've heard before.

I paused, took a long puff on my Montecristo No.2, exhaled and replied, 'Tell you what, you hackneyed fuckwit, I'll suck the smoke from this Cuban beauty, and you can suck the exhaust of your car.  I know which one I prefer.'

Mr Hancock, Dublin's Tobacco Ambassador to the world of cigar lovers, grinned and joined me in waving off the spluttering gobshite with the middle fingers of our right hands.

Then he leaned in, and said, 'I think this calls for a celebration.  Would you care to join me in a safe haven, my specialist Decent Cigar Emporium nearby for cigar connoisseurs such as yourself, where we can imbibe a glass or two of some of the finest whisky ever produced in Ireland - The Wild Geese, and allow me to replenish your cigar with one of my own?'

It was a thoughtful offer that brought tears of joy to this old smoker's eyes.

I gave Guy my usual password to paradise, 'Is the Pope a Catholic?'