The decadence of January golf in Illinois (or, "That's not my breath, it's smoke!")
January 30, 2016: The high yesterday was a balmy 54 degrees in Urbana, Illinois, and a couple of my hardcore golf buddies and I thought we’d have Stone Creek Golf Club’s generous fairways all to ourselves, considering the permafrost made it difficult to get tees into the turf.
Boy, were we wrong.
The tee sheet was stacked from about 10:30 am to past 1:00pm. And for some inexplicable reason, certain groups ahead of us felt the need to fish around for their balls interminably among the icy roots of dead cattails and the glassy edges of frozen ponds. So we were likewise stacked up on tee after tee.
But never mind – we were playing golf in January in central Illinois! And despite a brisk breeze, we were plenty warm. We couldn’t even see our breath. Still, playing at this time of year in this part of the country felt decadent, and maybe even a little reckless. It was exhilarating.
Even better, though, the extended time outdoors allowed me to indulge in another decadent pleasure: smoking a fine cigar. Because I was feeling a bit irresponsible anyway, I actually smoked three of them during our somewhat extended round. (Thanks, chuckleheads in the group ahead of us!)
Working from mildest to spiciest, I started off with the Montecristo White Series Vintage Connecticut. With a delicate Connecticut shade wrapper and perfectly balanced binder and filler, this smoke was absolutely delicious – flavorful but mild, with hints of vanilla, white pepper, and cardamom. Despite the steady 15-mph breeze, it stayed lit all the way down to the end, which I milked as long as possible.
Next up, The Banker by H. Upmann. H. Upmann was one of the early cigar companies in Cuba, and The Banker was one of its famous early creations. The modern-day Banker is constructed purely form Cuban seed tobaccos, delivering a full-bodied flavor. The draw of The Banker was a bit more inconsistent than the Montecristo, and it went out a few times in the wind. Still very tasty, though, with a pleasing earthiness.
Last but not least was the Romeo Anejo by Romeo Y Julieta. This dark-hued smoke has a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper around a hearty blend of vintage Nicaraguan and Honduran filler. The flavor was intense – at first setting my tongue atingle like I had just licked a nettles plant. Despite the intensity, though, complex flavors came through, including cinnamon, leather, and black pepper. The draw of the Romeo was also spectacularly easy and clean, and it stayed lit almost as long as the Montecristo.
I don’t smoke a lot of cigars, but I know a good cigar when I find one – and these three were some of the best I’ve ever had. I felt a little naughty firing up three such excellent cigars in a row, but hey, how often do you get to play golf in January in Illinois? You might as well savor these rare opportunities, and your other vices, when you can, right?
Carpe smoke ‘em (if ya got ‘em), so to speak.
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