Welcome to Kenfessions, my occasional and irregular blog, looking at the world of cigars and drinks, and hopefully matching the two. The good, the bad and the downright ugly. No doubt, it will veer off on all manner of tangents, but we will try and stick to the subject (when it suits).

- Ken Gargett

Ardbeg An Oa/Cohiba Maduro 5 Genios

Ardbeg An Oa/Cohiba Maduro 5 Genios

A fair chance that very few of us could honestly say we have never done anything stupid. And there is also a good chance of alcohol being involved. But it is a little tough to blame the alcohol itself. Stupid is… (and to my horror, I think I might have just paraphrased a gun-nut argument, but it is different and we are not going down that track). But, after all, what sort of a boring world would this be without alcohol?

So, a recent post I put up about a Welsh rugby player on tour in South Africa made me wonder if alcohol was involved. Granted there was no mention of it, but you’d have to think. This was a player who ended up with a reasonably serious injury. His coach described the fun as “there was an incident with a lion but in fairness to the lion, it was not the lion’s fault”. Seems our player stuck his hand into an enclosure to pat a lion. No prizes for guessing the result. No rugby for him for a while.

It reminded me of another incident relating to a Welsh rugby fan from a while back (and I swear I am not making this up – if only I had that brilliant an imagination – you can google it).

Geoff Huish. One suspects that alcohol may have played a significant role in his life. Geoff is the epitome of an insaneWelshrugbyfan. For reference, ‘insaneWelshrugbyfan’ is not really one word though it well could be. I say this from personal experience (and yes, I have Welsh heritage), having been to Cardiff and watched a bunch of insaneWelshrugbyfans convince a tweed-jacketed Pom (again, do not hate poms – some of my best friends and all – I just like seeing them beaten), over for the annual tussle, that the gents facilities really was the large post in the middle of several thousand people on the hill behind the try-line (how on earth did they ever have an Empire and can you imagine the amusement this gave the Welsh supporters when our born-to-rule friend actually used it? I’m serious. Out came the tackle and he took a leak in the midst of thousands of insaneWelshrugbyfans and, before the penny dropped, asked that if this was the gents, where was the ladies?), this is far more believable than you might think.

We go back to a game a while ago, between the Welsh and the Poms, and apparently, young Geoff, lacking the faith of most of his countrymen, announced during pre-game drinks that if Wales were victorious against England, he would, as he so elegantly put it, evoking memories of such great Welsh eloquence as from the likes of Dylan Thomas and Richard Burton, “cut my balls off.” When Wales got up, the hero of our tale was as good as his word. He took himself off home, pulled out a knife and separated himself from the family jewels. Not content with that, he wandered back to his local to proudly reveal the severed wedding tackle to his mates, before collapsing. Geoff survived, thereby robbing himself of a certain Darwin Award, but at least there will be no family tree to carry on his stellar work.

The three points to be made are to wonder just how much one could drink to come up with that piece of idiocy; to wonder what he might have done to himself if Wales had lost, not won; and to note to all those southern AFL-loving wusses (Sam K included) just how tough rugby fans are.

While on AFL, years ago I tried to explain the game to a good mate of mine, the wonderfully entertaining Matt Kramer, American wine writer. He made the observation that Australian Rules has to be one of the great oxymorons. Aussie sports was not Matt’s strong point. I did my best to explain cricket but failed hopelessly. Trying to explain a score of 9 for 384, I noted that the 9 was bad but the 384 was good. Matt looked up with wisdom written across his face: “Ah”, he said, “so it’s like blood pressure”.

And if I may (and yes, I may, because it is my blog till Rob takes it away from me), when I was digging up the info on our insaneWelshrugbyfan, I came across an old snippet. Gold. So apropos of nothing, the sad tale of one of our local wine producers who was using an American marketer to sell his booze around the States. What started so promisingly, descended into chaos when things went, as they say in the Welsh classics, a bit pear-shaped. The winery decided the marketer, a company owned by one Fred Nurque (names changed as given we are dealing with ‘legal issues’ here, it seems wise not to poke the bear, even though the actual parties have been clearly identified by other, less cowardly writers), was not up to scratch and sued. They also might have told, as they say in the legal classics, a few porkies about Mr Nurque and his company. Nurque countersued, as you would. His Honour found for Mr Nurque to the tune of around $400,000. Our local heroes didn’t have the readies but they did have a heap of wine, some 10,000 cases of the stuff, so it was off to auction to reduce the debt. Yes, the wine that they hoped that said Nurque would flog for them. Now they had to flog it for him.

The auction was advertised and away we went. Sadly, it was not the runaway success the company envisaged. Only four people fronted – Nurque, a chap who arrived too late and was therefore excluded, a local squillionaire and a gentleman whom the local authorities decreed worked for our misguided heroes and was there for no other reason than to ramp up the price. He was ignominiously ejected by the sheriff. So, it was Nurque and the squillionaire. Hardly, the OK Corral.

Mr Nurque started the bidding at $100 for the lot, apparently prepared to head up to around $150,000, if necessary. It wasn’t. The squillionaire had decided that it was all too much trouble and begged off, leaving Nurque with almost 125,000 bottles of apparently quite decent wine for around a cent a case. The tough thing for the winery was that the proceeds of the sale were to be deducted from the money owed to Nurque, so now they then owed him $400,000 less $100.

Not even an insaneWelshrugbyfan could be so unlucky.

But I have, not for the first nor last time, digressed.

The match this week – a cracking new whisky from one of my fave producers, Ardbeg. The Ardbeg An Oa. A new core product, the first addition to the range in ten years.Three different casks are used in its production – Pedro Ximenez, virgin charred oak and a high percentage of ex-Bourbon casks. It comes in at 46.6% and though it does not declare the ages involved, though there is clearly considerable maturity. Alluring and enticing aromas of the loveliest smoky peatiness, the hallmark of the Islay malts, is first and foremost, followed by seaweed, florals, peaches, honey, toffee, teak and candle wax. Wonderfully balanced and with great length of flavour, though never sharp or harsh. A gentle, almost pillowy finish. To me, this is a no-brainer with a good cigar.

So, and as this was to watch the recent Grand Final – League, not Rugby, so no kitchen knives necessary – I thought it deserved something really good. Pulled out a Cohiba ‘Maduro 5’ Genios from the original release back in 2007 (EMA AGO 07). I have really enjoyed these with the Zacapa 23 Rum in the past but I think you could offer me fermenting road kill and I’d be happy with this cigar. There was some talk when they were released that they would not age (the divinities forbid, I really hope I never said anything so stupid). This just gets better and better. It has one dominant theme – chocolate. It is surely the most chocolatey cigar I have ever smoked. It is like drowning in a vat of molten chocolate. Did I mention chocolate? It was so soft, so velvety – ideal for the cushiony malt. They were, inevitably, a fabulous combination. Both stellar solo and wonderful as a marriage. Perhaps a sweet rum or a chocolate liqueur might have been a marginally better combo but we are talking fractional degrees.

You would be as stupid as an insaneWelshrugbyfan not to try both.


Hamlet ‘25th Anniversary’ Robusto/Piper Heidsieck/Monteith’s Black/Bundaberg Ginger Beer/Por Larranaga

Hamlet ‘25th Anniversary’ Robusto/Piper Heidsieck/Monteith’s Black/Bundaberg Ginger Beer/Por Larranaga

Saint Luis Rey Double Corona/Cullen’s Diana Madeline Cabernet Sauvignon 2015/Holgate’s ‘Double Trouble’

Saint Luis Rey Double Corona/Cullen’s Diana Madeline Cabernet Sauvignon 2015/Holgate’s ‘Double Trouble’