Wrapper: Dominican Negrito Mejorado
Filler: Dominican, Nicaraguan, Peruvian
Size: 5 x 54 Robusto (Grand Tour)
I’ve had my cigars simmering naked in my humidor for 3 months. Should be ready to go.
Released: February 2022
From Halfwheel.com (5-5-2022):
“Caldwell Cigar Co’s. latest extension to its ‘The King is Dead’ line keeps the wrapper and binder but changes the filler blend, and then gives the cigars a box press.
“Robert Caldwell, founder of Caldwell Cigar Co., told halfwheel that Escape Plan will be an annual release for the company. For 2022, each size is limited to 300 boxes.”
THE WHOLE MEGILLAH:
Nose to cigar and a lovely warm cocoa aroma desensitizes me to the constant political ads on TV. I’m happy right here.
The cigar feels solid and evenly filled. Dry boxed for a couple days and left for dead. I resurrect it by giving it purpose for the sake of this review.
The draw is spot on…although, for my preferences, a bit too airy. I look down at my desk and the PerfecDraw draw adjustment tool is weeping uncontrollably. I ignore it and refuse to change its diapers.
My first reaction is yummy.
There are no distinct flavors. The blend of tobaccos is storming the beach. I don’t remember reading anything about seriously aged tobacco, but that is my palate’s reaction.
Strength just barely makes it to medium.
Complexity hits the ground running. How about that Aaron Judge?
Flavors begin to disperse amongst the crowd. A natural tobacco sweetness emerges that is just a delight. Creaminess hits the plentiful zone. My first sip of water and notes of nuts, crème brulee, black pepper, Hawaiian bread, and assorted baking spices explode like a North Korean missile.
Spicy takes over…hot cinnamon. But doesn’t wipe out the subtle flavor points with its spoiled brat insensitivity.
Shhh. The box pressed cigar is burning like a stand-up guy. I’m impressed.
The creaminess is the pearl necklace of the blend. It glimmers in the sun and I’m now beginning to gag.
Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds” is playing. I love the live version because the bassist, Jerry Scheff, gets to go crazy on the outro. Love it.
The only serious review I could find of this cigar was written by Halfwheel. I truly respect these guys and always read their critiques. They were so so in their determination. But you gotta remember that these boys get to smoke the best cigars in the world. Their palates are so sophisticated that I feel like I’m left in the dust compared to them…hence, they are very critical and their ratings reflects this. That’s OK because I get it. You can’t just scroll down to their rating and move on. They are always a great read and I enjoy their prose. They are the best in the biz.
The burn is a slow roll.
I like this baby because it is on a trajectory that improves with every puff. Intermittent sips of water amplify the experience.
This is my last stick of the fiver I bought. I smoked the others too soon. Fuck me.
The balance is the clown’s balls. Nuances and subtle notes are flying around like bats in a cave. My belfry is just fine, thank you.
I changed my cover photo because Larry emailed me and said the previous old man photo was horrible. I trust Larry. I changed it to a 2016 photo where I look hip and happening. And a big thank you, Larry, for coming to my aid keeping my review cigar status intact.
“Beat It” by Michael Jackson. I know he was a creep. But I still dig his music…thanks to Quincy Jones.
It’s October. It is going up to 73° today. This is unheard of in Wisconsin.
Strength hits medium/full…but gracefully.
Such a smooth blend. Enhancements appear without fanfare and take a few seconds to recognize their presence.
If you bought some and did the same stupid thing I did…smoke them too soon…well, that’s a shame. It is imperative you allow the sticks to rest a few months naked.
Nicotine rains down on my puny brain. The laptop screen gets a little fuzzy.
Oh Jesus…Duran Duran is playing. I hate those guys and their music. Where was Darwin? I saw them not long ago doing a TV interview. Holy shit. They mostly look like old men trying to look 20 something hip.
The blend is on cruise control. I’m fine with this. Not a linear molecule in this cigar.
I definitely like the stick, but it is not a barn burner. It is a solid accumulation of intense blending and artisanship.
With less than half a cigar to go, it hits full tilt strength.
I grab my readers to clear the fog I see on the screen.
My old friend, Todd Hart, lives in Naples, Florida. I’ve tried to contact him but nothing yet. I played in his band in the late 90’s in Phoenix. Great guy and musician.
And then the clouds part…the sweet spot is upon me.
Dayum. The blend made a giant leap. But the spiciness of black pepper and cinnamon do not blot out the swift moving flavors. This is a serious blend…despite the fact that I am close to passing out from its strength and nicotine.
If you are a newbie, run for the hills. Or cowboy up and give it a shot. Have an I.V. of saline at the ready.
In 1982, a friend got me into the Whiskey to see U2. I stood at the front of the stage and just stared up at them. Every song sounded the same. I told my radio DJ buddy they ain’t going nowhere. We went backstage and got to meet John Belushi. He was there with his dad. He didn’t appear high. He wore a nice suit. I’m sure he was on his best behavior for his pop.
The mix is one of many subtle flavors that are deemed background music for the overall beauty of the ‘whole’ taking charge and providing two separate experiences.
I get down to 1” left and the swooning begins. Maybe it’s time to put it down.
And now for something completely different:
I was tasked during our first tour (1974 Curved Air) to keep a secret from the band about Sonja Kristina’s rehab. She was a morphine addict that used a needle. She was getting help from a private doctor who put her on methadone…injected.
On my very first gig with the band in London, I was overwhelmed with the enormity of the band’s popularity in England and Europe. I was accustomed to playing clubs in L.A. But to play my first gig in a gorgeous auditorium that seated 5000 people was mind blowing.
Despite the culture shock, I was comfy on stage. I had really prepared my bass playing skills in the previous 10 years since I picked the instrument up. I read music. I knew music theory. And I listened to, and learned from, the great bassists in rock and jazz.
The dressing room was full of fancy people after the show. I was sitting alone when Sonja, barely clothed, came over to me. All the eyes in the room turned to us. She asked me to follow her. Everyone in the room let out a big “Oooooh!” I thought I was going to have sex with her in an adjunct dressing room Sonja occupied.
I closed the door behind me and was shaking like a leaf. Sonja was beautiful. And very sexy. The woman had zero inhibitions. I just knew I was going to get a BJ.
Instead, she rolled up the sleeve of her stage costume and motioned with her eyes to look. I was so stupid. I didn’t look. It took a couple minutes before I got it.
I looked at an arm covered in ugly needle tracks. I almost shat myself.
Sonja then explained the situation.
The band had broken up two years earlier because the leaders didn’t see things the same way. They had such monumental egos that neither Darryl Way nor Francis Monkman would budge on anything…compromise was no longer feasible.
One of the reasons for the breakup was Sonja’s drug use. They swore they’d never play in a band with her again…hence, her rehab journey had to be a well-kept secret from the band because if they found out…well, shit would have hit the fan.
Because I was new to the band. And the only musician that was not one of the original members…Sonja and Stewart Copeland came up with a plan to make me their stooge.
Sonja told me in that dressing room that I had been deemed her roommate for the entire tour. We would be sharing a hotel room. Big gulp.
The caveat was I would be her caregiver. I would keep track of her injections and make sure she wasn’t high in front of the band. Methadone gets you high as a kite.
The next day was an 8-hour train ride to the north of England. Don’t remember the city. The band was given first class seats. But Sonja and I were set up in a different car than the guys.
At the train station, minutes from leaving, Stew told me that they forgot to get syringes from the pharmacy, as well as her methadone. What?
I was warned by Stew that Sonja would probably go into withdrawal during the latter part of the trip. Wrong. An hour or so into the ride, Sonja began falling down the rabbit hole.
First class was merely tables that sat 4 people. Two on either side. And our travel partners was an elderly member of Parliament and his wife. He had a big white beard and mustache. He looked like Commander Whitehead.
The only drug I had on me was Dramamine.
As Sonja began acting out, I started shoving handfuls of Dramamine down her gullet. It helped a bit as it made her drowsy and she would nap. But she had night terrors and would suddenly scream.
It got worse. She started clawing at her arms with her fingernails. She was tearing skin off like an animal. So, I would grab her arms and try to hold her still. Man, that woman was strong, and it was a battle. It was also creating quite the scene.
Meanwhile, every person in the car was staring. And no one asked if they could help. I could not believe this. So, there I am for 8 hours trying to subdue an out-of-control junkie.
The boys came through the car once and said hello. Thankfully, Sonja was out cold. I smiled through the flop sweat and just nodded my head. The boys were smashed out of their minds by noon. And we didn’t get to our destination till 5pm.
As soon as we got to the hotel, I had noticed that a pharmacy was next door. I grabbed her doctor’s prescription and snagged a big bag full of syringes and methadone glass vials.
I raced back to the room, and she was climbing the walls. I helped her tie off her arm, but she couldn’t stop shaking and inject herself.
She was lying on the bed. I mounted her and sat atop her. I was yelling at her to get her shit together. I didn’t know how to handle the drug paraphernalia. Yeah, I smoked weed and hash…but never stuck a needle into me or anyone else.
I was desperate. Thankfully, we didn’t have a show that night. We would play the next day. I did something I had never done before…or since…I started smacking her in the face with an open hand…over and over and over. After a couple minutes, she had had enough and was conscious enough so I could help guide her hand with the filled syringe.
Before that, I had taken the strap for tying off her arm and did my best to attach it. No idea if I was doing it correctly. Then I took one of the small vials of methadone and broke off the glass nipple. I stuck the syringe into the bottle and extracted the dope into the delivery device. But I had no idea how much was supposed to be used. The whole vial? Half the vial?
We found a vein and she shakily stuck the needle into it. I pushed the med slowly into her arm. At that moment, all I could visualize was the newspaper’s lead story the next day: “Jewish Bassist Kills Rock Star Sonja Kristina.”
Instead, maybe a minute after injection, Sonja reappeared. She was totally normal. She smiled at me and was surprised to see me on top of her. I just rolled off her and on to the floor with a big thump. I lay there for minutes while I heard Sonja rambling incessantly about shit I could care less about.
She got off the bed and said, “Hey Phil. Wanna go downstairs and play poker with the roadies?”
I told her I was fine and for her to go ahead without me.
She left. I was soaked as if I had taken a shower in my clothes.
I nearly had a nervous breakdown those first few days trying find the proper rhythm of the 3 injections per day hidden from the band.
Here I was. A kid from California and whisked away into the big time, from being a bar band bassist, to one of the biggest progressive rock bands in Europe, Japan, and South America. They just couldn’t budge in North America. They tried but just couldn’t break…although, Brit progressive nerds in this country know the band well.
Sonja’s instability, while tapering off her morphine addiction, was horrifying. Never saw anything like that. Realized just how naïve middle-class America I was.
She had serious insecurity issues. On the albums, before this tour, she sang with a lovely, soaring soprano voice.
On the tour, the addiction really fucked her up and she thought she was Janis. Some of the written reviews of our concerts were devastating for her. Time after time they wrote that the band was brilliant, and I got mentioned a lot for bringing new life to the rhythm section (One of the first reviews to mention me said, “Mel John brings a new funky feel to the band”). I was playing jazz fusion while they were playing classical music rock. No soul.
Every time Sonja read a review; suicide attempts came within hours. But no one in the band saw them. I did. I was in a constant frenzy of keeping her alive.
I had ulterior motives for being the patsy. This was the big time. I didn’t want it to end because the band found out Sonja was still a junkie and the tour would end.
She used to cut her wrists a lot. But she would use blunt instruments to do so. All she accomplished was to scar her wrists and arms. Still, some incidents were real. I was 24 and nursing an idiot. A couple times, she would attempt to run into the street as a speeding car was approaching. Thank God for having a young man’s reflexes…as I was able to grab her and stop her.
We were near the end of the two-month tour. We played in Dover. Jeff Beck was there. Jazz violinist Jean Luc Ponty was there. And Mahavishnu Orchestra violinist Jerry Goodman was there. They jammed with us during our encores.
In the dressing room, after the show, I shoved Sonja into the bathroom and told her to change. We had to get back to the hotel and shoot her up with methadone. She never shot up before a concert because it made her high. Of course, the rest of the band members were high on either hash or alcohol. But no matter. They’d gone through this with Sonja for years.
All three of those monster guest musicians were visiting in the dressing room and I forgot about Sonja.
I looked at my watch and freaked…it had been an hour since I shoved her into the little toilet. I dashed to the bathroom. I knocked. No answer. I knocked again and again. No answer.
That was it. I couldn’t take it anymore. I went back to the dressing room and told the band what was going on. They were livid. I had so loved talking to Beck, Ponty, and Goodman that I was seriously on cloud 9. And fucking Sonja was ruining this for me.
We all tried to cajole Sonja out of the bathroom, but she never made a sound, so we broke the door in.
There she sat. On the toilet. Unconscious and her arms extended away from her body with blood running down them. They were superficial wounds caused by a bottle opener. But there was so much blood, we couldn’t initially tell how serious it was.
We carried her to the couch in the dressing room and I went into my gig bag and got her stuff. Minutes later, she was fine.
The tour lasted 8 weeks. The band was in an uproar when they found out Sonja didn’t keep her word. Darryl threatened to quit the tour.
I was the peacemaker as I had finally found the big time and didn’t want to lose it. Naturally, this position made me rife for being the eventual scapegoat a couple years later. Someone had to be sacrificed for a poor recording of an album that RCA rejected; so why not pick the one least responsible for the problems? The bassist of course. The peacemaker.
Sonja and Stewart Copeland eventually married. So, the Live Album tour was the only one in which I shared a hotel room.
I should add that when we retired to the hotel room to sleep, she would pounce on me and we spent half the night screwing. She knew what she was doing. But every night? She was insatiable. Luckily, at my age, I had a perpetual hard on.
The following tours, Stew and Sonja shared a hotel room and I got to bunk with Mick Jaques, the guitarist. I took a shower every day. And for that, the band constantly made fun of me. They showered once a week on Saturdays. You wouldn’t believe the stink in the limo that drove us around. They also made fun of me because I wore boxers. In Europe, undies were Speedos. Fortunately, Sonja had a talk with my girlfriend about this and April went out and bought me touring underwear. After that, they left me alone. But I never got used to the tiny undies sticking in the crack of my ass on stage.
Back then, Stew was not half the drummer he was in The Police. He would constantly solo like Keith Moon. And this pissed off Darryl something awful. He and the guitarist would be up front and center on the stage trading riffs and Stew was soloing. They had no idea where “1” was. So, I started playing quarter notes and accenting the down beat count, so they knew where they were. I had to abandon my cool riffs to play quarter notes. But clearly, I was the only one on stage that could follow Stew.
Like clockwork, Stew got fired by Darryl every single week. A brouhaha would break out and Sonja would threaten to leave the band if Stew went.
So, every week, fired…re-hired…fired…re-hired. Tiresome for the morale of the band.
Sonja finally got well after that first tour. She became productive and began to write songs again. But the rancor between her and Darryl never went away.
Darryl was probably the most arrogant S.O.B. I had ever met in the music biz. It was impossible to please him and, of course, his shit didn’t stink. Being a drunk didn’t help.
Darryl invited my girlfriend and I to move in with him in the little town of Datchet outside of London. We were 5 minutes away from Windsor Castle. It was a great deal and we would save money. Darryl still approved of me at that time in the band.
But as things do, shit happened..to be continued.
Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS