Cigars on a very long drive....
I had to take a really long drive this weekend. I got a phone call at work on Wednesday around 4pm from my mother to let me know that my grandmother had a massive stroke in her home in Max Meadows, VA and had been helevac'd up to Roanoke, VA. She had to undergo brain surgery and is still in the ICU. I'm sad, but not surprised. She's lived a very long and wonderful life. So, I quickly packed a bag and got on the road from Jacksonville, FL up to Virginia where I grew up. I made sure to grab a handful of cigars before I left, and that's mostly what this post is about.
I didn't leave until early Thursday morning. After grabbing a couple bisquits at McD's and a coffee and having the truck to myself for a change, no wife or 3 daughters in the back seat for this trip, I lit my first cigar. It was early yet so I started simple, a Don Rafael Nicaragua Robosto. This was my first ever Don Rafael. I've heard some good things from friends about this particular one so I picked up a box of them recently. I was pleasantly surprised. It doesn't look like much. It's a simple cigar with a simple band. What I thought was a Connecticut wrapper turned out to be a very light shade habano. It had a nice even burn throughout, a mellow smoke, and a toasty, almost nutty, milder than expected flavor that turned into a bit of spice and pepper toward the finish. I'm glad I have an entire box of these. There's no elegance here, but it certainly gets the job done!
Next up was a freebie the shop owner of Alphabet Cigars & Tobacco in the Orange Park, FL mall gave me a few weeks ago. Frankie was the guys name, a real pleasant fellow, energetic, glad to be of service. I bought a really nice table-top, three flame butane torch from him and he threw in a "Cartel" Churchill. I'd never heard of it and I still can't find any information on the cigar. Maybe it's his shop brand. It didn't seem like much and, after having smoked it, still doesn't seem like much. The Maduro wrapper was thin and dry to the touch, took several touch ups and it didn't take long to discover it was short filler, but the flavor was actually pleasant and sweet. I'm glad for the free cigar, it took my mind off of the fact I was driving on South Carolina interstates 95 & 26 (which are terrible by the way) but I doubt I'll go asking Frankie for any more.
After a nice plate of sushi I picked up on the north side of Columbia, SC in a very nice, new looking Kroger grocery store off I-77, and having travelled up through Charlotte, I couldn't help but stop in the new JR Cigar store they recently built there. There's a really nice lounge there and one of these days I'm going to actually treat this place as more than a quick interstate pit stop, but today was not this day; I needed to be quick. I wanted to grab something I'd never tried before but had seen pop up once or twice in conversation or in text. I purchased a La Palina Red Label Toro, Quesada Oktoberfest Das Boot (torpedo), and a Caldwell Blind Man's Bluff Robusto.
Before getting back on the road I got the cigar started I was mot excited about, the La Palina Red Label robosto. It had a great aroma from the foot, a silky smooth Ecuador Habano wrapper, and a nice weight in the hand. Once lit, it was a cool slow burn that lasted from Charlotte, NC to nearly Wythville, VA. I'm going to need to enjoy another one or two of these to provide a better flavor profile. Honestly, I was getting into the mountains and was paying more attention to the views of the valley below and trying to stay on the road but I do remember a great sense of enjoyment from it. The only problem I noted was a difficulty trying to keep this cigar lit, perhaps attributed to the oily wrapper. Small price to pay I suppose, one I'll gladly pay again.
That evening, night, and the next day were spent in a small, uncomfortable waiting room outside of the ICU in the Carillion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. On Thursday she woke up and progressed. Friday, she slept.