We all have our little traditions. One of mine is that the Super Bowl is inviolate. Being based in Australia means locking off a Monday morning – it was worse in the old days when the game was played in the afternoon and one needed to get up at 3:00 am – and much of the afternoon. A good cigar and a suitable drink are also de rigueur.
It may seem strange for an Australian to be quite so obsessed with what is ostensibly a foreign sport, but it started many years ago when I was studying in London, living at the fabulous London House, accommodation for overseas graduate students, which included many Americans.
We’d gather to watch the highlights and the occasional game shown there. I grew to love the game. I really loved that 1985 Chicago Bears defense. What a team. A good friend was a fanatical Denver fan. That was a problem as he was in charge of the bar, and if Denver was losing he’d simply shut the bar and go to bed. I didn’t follow any particular team at the time.
When I left London, I spent a year traveling through Africa and Asia, much of it on the back of an old Bedford truck driven by our very own Ian Skellern (which is where we met). I knew that the Denver Broncos had made the Super Bowl that year, but did not even know who they were playing – there were no mobile phones or internet – and so when we emerged from the jungle in the Cameroons, I went around to the U.S. embassy to find out what had happened.
The guard at the gate, a Marine, took one look at me and gave me marching orders. In fairness, I looked exactly like someone who had just walked out of a jungle after a month. He clearly thought I was up to no good was not going to let me in to check newspapers, thinking I should turn tail and never return. It took me about 20 minutes to convince him that telling me a football score would not mean revealing state secrets or lead to the collapse of western civilization.
He told me that the team then known as the Washington Redskins (the name was finally changed for this season – it is currently the Washington Football Team) had beaten the Denver Broncos. I felt sorry for my friend but by one of those weird quirks of fate, 12 months later I found myself in Washington, D.C. working for a law firm.
I had never set foot in the United States before this, but when I touched down friends collected me from the airport and took me straight to a sports bar in Georgetown to watch the ‘Skins (as they were known) playing that day.
I have been an obsessed fan ever since. I even managed to watch replays of that win against Denver and loved the game to the extreme annoyance of my friend. It always staggered me how in such a divisive town, even back then, the Redskins were the one thing that united everyone.
Of course, that was the time when Washington was regularly winning Super Bowls. I foolishly assumed that would always be so. It has not proved to be, but we live in hope.
Romeo y Julieta Churchill cigars
So when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field on Monday morning (for me), February 8, 2021, against the Kansas City Chiefs, I pulled out a Romeo y Julieta Churchill. The poor thing was a solo stick in a lonely humidor and it looked like the proverbial beaten red-headed stepchild. The foot was very ratty, torn and tattered, but otherwise it appeared in good condition. And as it was a gift, who was I to complain. As it turned out, very much the old story of a book and its cover.
The Romeo y Julieta Churchill is almost always a stunning cigar, and this was stellar even by those standards. Throw in a cracking game, it was a Monday well spent. And now, writing this, I can even justify a Monday off as “work.”
I have looked at a couple of Romeo y Julieta cigars over recent years but never delved into the brand’s history at all. If I may revert to my “bible,” Min Ron Nee’s peerless An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Post-Revolution Havana Cigars, he notes that it is believed the brand was launched in the 1850s by Inocencio Álvarez Rodriguez and José “Manin” García and named after the famous Shakespearean characters Romeo and Juliet.
In 1903, Romeo y Julieta was purchased by José Rodríguez Fernández, known to cigar enthusiasts as “Don Pepin,” who took Romeo y Julieta cigars to an appreciative international market. Its popularity has, if anything, increased since the Cuban Revolution and it is considered by many as the most important brand – behind Montecristo.
In general, Romeo y Julieta cigars are full-flavored and complex. They can age for decades but have the advantage over some in that they are usually also approachable while young. Of their regular production models, the Churchill is usually considered the pinnacle. For good reason.
The Churchill has a ring gauge of 47 and a length of 178 mm. They are sold in boxes of 25 and also as tubed cigars, again in boxes of 25 or sets of three. An approximate price for the box of 25 is $400/AUD$1,500.
They were originally made solely for the great British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill during World War II and bore a band designating just that, although that size was also made on occasion for the French prime minister Georges Clemenceau earlier that century (named Clemenceau, they were discontinued finally in 1989).
Sir Winston Churchill was provided with an unlimited supply and he visited the factory in 1947. At that time, they were given the name “Churchill” and put into commercial production. Other factories have since made cigars of that size.
These are classics among regular production cigars, although “regular production” might be a rather generous view. Sometimes they do seem to disappear for a few years, so grab them when you see them.
Today’s was, as mentioned, a fabulous cigar despite the ratty foot. Powerful from the outset, but always balanced and ripe with a hint of stone fruit. They will often have a cherry note, though I did not see that in this one. Dense, thick, velvety smoke. Soon moved into a sweet core with notes of caramel and even a little cream. A gentle coffee character. Just lovely throughout. The gorgeous start stayed with it right to the finish, and it took a good two hours to smoke.
Toward the end, more and more cream came in. Never let up. Seamless, complex and, other than perhaps a fraction hot toward the finish (something likely in any young cigar), superb. 96.
Perhaps next year I can enjoy one when Washington returns to the big game!
For more information, please visit www.habanos.com.