As witnessed by monsieur Devito, Short does not always mean skinny. The H Upmann Magnum 54, at 4 ¾ inches long this cigar is shorter than the Monte 4 but weighs nearly half as much again due to its ring guage. A 40-50 minute smoke.
I dislike robustos on the principle that I prefer to sip cigar smoke, like fine wine, through pursed lips. This necessitates a small ring guage or a figurado. Even among robustos, the Cohiba Robusto, RASS, and JL 2, are all objectively superior cigars. But I like this one.
August 2019, Bordeaux. I am camping just outside Pauillac. Global warming is real. We move from oven-car to cool chateaux marble, back to blazing gravel vineyards now growing 50/50 merlot to cab sauv to compensate for the soaring heat. In between visits to de Camensac and the newly refurbished Beychevelle cellars we drive into the city itself.
I feel the thrill of the hunt. We only have a few hours, and as heavily taxed Brit and a young smoker, I am seeking CA’s top rated and recommendations from the forums to expand my phone’s 30 or so tasting notes.
I’ve done my research and I strike out alone. I’m looking for a Corona Gorda, a Magnum 46 that I’ve heard is fantastic. Other than this I’ve only tried the Half Corona from Upmann, which, despite its stellar reputation, disappointed.
The sun is unforgiving. Crowds of tourists hide in the shade as I patrol the river. I don’t have time to reach the better stores. Three or four small tobacconists produce only Gaulloises and porn magazines. Finally, I hit silver. A small, neat, smart tabac with the familiar glass fronted case. They have H Upmann Magnums, but only 54s. I smoke one outside a corner café in a small square filled with blazing sunshine. No year, no box code, no dirty looks from nearby tables. Just the sounds of a city in summer. Bliss.
I find a better shop later, and leave Bordeaux with a Cohiba Robusto, a Quai d’Orsay 54, an EP Carrillo Majestic, and a memory far more valuable. Later that holiday I find the 46. Somehow it can’t compete.
April 20, Suffolk. I am in the family cottage outside Ipswich. An early summer is the only consolation to a global catastrophe. I have fled London to look after my parents while my younger brother fights on the frontline in full PPE.
I abandoned my humidor in the rush like a broken down jeep on the road to Dunkirk. My only consolation is a ten box of H Upmann Magnum 54s delivered a month after I arrived. They are barely a year old and more inconsistent than British weather.
The world is in chaos, my life is upside down. I cling to this box like a drowning man to floating luggage. When FoH has Mag 54s on clearance they are widely panned. I buy a box. It’s my first box from FoH, but not my last.
February 21, London. I am living in my flat in Vauxhall. Winter has been hard. I have seen no friends but my flat mate and his girlfriend for 7 weeks. FoH has a review competition. I write the review so far and go to bed. I dream that night of searching for new cigars in a foreign city. The usual cast of old school friends waylay me, but I push on.
The next day, I open the box. Golden wrappers and red uniforms on my 25 toy soldiers. I doubt they’re ready for duty yet but there’s only one way to find out.
The wrapper is literally gold. Construction appears excellent. An uneven cross-cut reveals a perfect draw, a rarity for Magnum 54s. The cold draw tastes of sultanas and cedarwood.
It’s windy. I fiddle through dying Bic Lighters and wrestle to get an even burn like Hemingway’s old man with his marlin. I am pleasantly surprised when I succeed.
The first third tastes of a winter campfire, soft parma ham, and the underlying dry grass-hay that distinguishes the Cubans. Thai coffee makes a good showing as a pairing. Irish whiskey might do better but I’m technically at work.
Nautical comparisons continue as the cigar boats in the middle. The taste is rich and sweet, like bacon and maple syrup. The wind itself is my enemy. Call me Odysseus. Blue smoke cascades. The cigar is longer now than when I lit it as the ash pushes out of the wrapper. I consider the safety of ashing but press on. I begin to feel the welcome warmth under my fingers and slide off both bands. One blows away in the wind. Finally the ash drops, revealing a cone of slow burning ligero.
I am on the home straight. The last third burns slowest. Flavour multiplies and crescendos. Barnyard is strong. Bitterness replaces sweet. I no longer feel the cold. I survey my four metre by seven metre garden-kingdom. In my heart I am back in Bordeaux watching the French girls go by. This is as close as I can get.
Objectively, 90/100. To me, full marks.
Thank you for reading.