There is Churchill and there are the Churchills. Sir Winston’s trademark Romeo y Julieta cigar and its shorter cousins—Wide, Short and the Petit—top the list. Churchill is reputed to have smoked around 150,000 of the namesake cigars since he was 21 years old; a passion he discovered in Havana during a Spanish bombardment of the city. It was named after him during a visit to the Romeo Y Julieta factory in 1946. The Churchillian cachet sparked the cigar’s immense popularity and the company subsequently launched two Robustos (55 x 5.1 inches) namely Short Churchill in 2006 and the Wide Churchill in 2009.
Knocking on Heaven’s Door
Sir Winston’s trademark Romeo y Julieta cigar and its shorter cousins
If Oscar Wilde’s cigarette is the perfect pleasure, a well constructed classic cigar like the Churchill is the philosopher’s perfect companion, the connoisseur’s redemption and, never mind, the parvenu’s fashion accessory. A good cigar must look good, both unlit and lit—all the Romeo y Julieta Churchills burn evenly with clean, thick white smoke and thick grey ash that holds well. Rookie smokers may find it too strong and spicy. Begin with a cold draw—puff the unlit cigar to get its characteristically woody aroma though the draw is a tad bitter at start.
The three distinct stages of smoking a cigar are ‘the rule of thirds’—stage one “The Hay,” the second is the sweet spot named ‘Heaven’ and the last, is ‘Dirt’ or ‘Hell.” It is recommended to toast Churchill’s foot (end of the lit cigar) first. By the start of Heaven, the Cuban angels fill your mouth with exotic flavours, a melange of spices like nutmeg, citrus, caramel, cedar and earth laden with cedar. In the Churchill’s hand rolled caramel coloured wrapper, the cigar is both
soft and firm in your fingers like a fond friend’s welcome. Let the mildly salty smoke, thick, velvety and smooth roll on the tongue; smoking a cigar is a contemplative exercise. By now, the oil, slowly coaxed out by the warmth spreads on the lips, a patina of Latin indulgence.
The Best Finish Last
The Churchills are a legerdemain of scented tricks that would have pleased the imperial warden of Britain’s wartime years immensely. The veins, if at all visible, are discreet and well bred. Both the Short and Wide Churchill have a chocolaty flavour, with strong notes of hay, mild coffee and burnt caramel. In spite of the Short Churchill short length, smoked properly it should last for nearly an hour to a half hour— the same as the 5¼ inches long Wide Churchill. Though the latter’s burn could be more steady. The Petite Churchill is shorter and less wide at 4 inches length and a ring gauge of 50. The wide Churchill is a formidable cigar with a 55 ring gauge. In its final third draw, you get a spicy bouquet of black pepper and coffee versions of cocoa, espresso and chicory.
Because it takes time for the smoke to travel the Churchill’s seven inches, imparting richness and complexity as it passes through the flavourful Cuban leaves, the aroma is light, fresh and mild. Enjoy it slowly and the cigar should last about two hours or more—or else you will get some harsh notes you could regret. The difference between the Romeo y Julieta Churchill and its dense nicotine-loaded versions is the former’s smooth flavour and tight feel. In spite of their distinctive flavours, all four Churchills have common traits such as primary cedar notes, firm and smooth construction, steady burn, oily and unveined wrappers, and woody flavours with peppery variations. Smoking a Churchill is possibly the best way to go up in smoke.