Hamlet ‘25th Anniversary’ Robusto/Piper Heidsieck/Monteith’s Black/Bundaberg Ginger Beer/Por Larranaga
The clock has just ticked over to 8am. I sit here typing, currently a glass of Piper Heidsieck matched with Hamlet’s latest, his ‘25th Anniversary’ Robusto. There is a fresh breeze off the Pacific Ocean. I’m on the balcony at Waddy Lodge on Fraser Island on the annual mates’ fishing trip. Always one of the great weeks of the year, though in recent times, more and more of the guys have decided, that the actual fishing component is a bridge too far and little fishing is getting done. Still great fun.
The trip is not all Bordeaux and skittles (although that allows me to segue into revealing one of the troops did bring a couple of bottles of 2000 Margaux). And this one was way more chaotic than ever.
One of the usuals was withdrawn as sadly, Alzheimer’s has taken over; another had a tragic family bereavement; yet another was told by the wife that he had a choice of Europe or Fraser and the wise money would be on Europe – he caved; and yet another was told firmly by his wife that as he had already had four fishing holidays this year, a fifth was the equivalent of asking for divorce (he thought about it); and yet another member of the team was hospitalised – he has health issues – with influenza but recovered well. Then the day before – I had been feeling a bit run down but nothing too much – I went down with an extremely virulent dose (my second of the year though I now realise the first was kindergarten stuff compared to this one) of this dreaded lurgy. Every bone, muscle, joint, eyelash, toenail was screaming in agony. By the evening, you could have cooked steaks on my forehead, such was the temperature. I thought I was no chance. But remarkably, next morning, while not fully recovered, I was a lot better. Spoke to my aunt, a doctor, and she told my just how lucky I was. Seems there is a rare, short, though virulent form of influenza going around which wipes one out for 24 hours and as I had some immunity from the last dose, that was what I had.
At one stage, we’d been horribly short of vehicles but by lift-off, we had four for six of us. Up to Des’s for the first evening, a fairly quiet one, and then on to the Lodge next day.
I (we interrupt this broadcast as we have several humpbacks leaping just out in the bay offshore) headed off solo day one for a fish south of Waddy but despite good water, nothing. I did have the glorious joy of a large green turtle popping up about 10 metres away to have a look. Seen several more since then. Plenty of whales and yesterday we had dolphins literally surfing the waves and leaping out of them, presumably for the sheer pleasure of it.
But fish? Not so much. Spoke to one bloke who’d been on the Island for three days. Not a fish among the thirty in their group. He reckoned he’d talked to at least 200 guys and had reports that just two of them had a tailor each (bluefish for our American friends).
Went back and caught up with a few of the other guys on the north side of Waddy and settled down for a PLPC with a beer and a game of boules on the beach. I have always loved the PLPCs, especially with some age, and these were 2008. But I rarely smoke them – too small! This was just special. Caramel and coffee bean, wonderfully subtle and balanced impeccably. First off was the Bundaberg Ginger Beer. I like the stuff, though I suspect a fair whack of sugar in it. It was an inoffensive match but fine. Monteith’s Black, a likeable Kiwi Black beer worked even better. It is perhaps not one of the great dark beers, but serviceable.
Next morning, Ted and I had a pre-dawn crack off the rocks at the front of Waddy Point and got a couple of tailor. Ted hooked something that tried to drag the Island across the Pacific and eventually broke off, but we suspect it never knew it was hooked. I suspect a big ray.
Afterwards, we headed back to the beach north of Waddy and settled back with a Monte 2 and some beers. A little Jackson Browne, Eagles, America. If that isn’t the closest the planet gets to heaven, I’d love to know what was. Deck chairs on the beach in the morning, a nice drink and a great cigar. Today, perhaps a few too many wines the night before so a slack start.
Rob and I looked at one of Hamlet’s new ‘25th Anniversary’ smokes for the latest video – no spoilers – but I can say that the Robusto is very much in line – a much more elegant, understated style than we expect from the master, though high class nonetheless. His remaining Cubans are some of my most treasured possessions. I enjoyed his new releases last year though they really were extremely solid powerful smokes. This is more subtle. Hints of caramel and light coffee notes. As well crafted as one would expect and cigars that should age impressively. A bottle of Piper, and a few other sparklers to follow, went well. Piper is an acceptable fizz, without being stellar, and did not detract attention from the cigar.
All up, a nice match and, given one is sitting on a balcony looking at one of the world’s great beaches stretching to the horizon with the Pacific Ocean going the other way and whales happily playing, one can’t complain.
Time to sign off. A curious little wallaby has just joined us. He didn’t last long, chased off by a goanna. All very David Attenborough there, this morning.