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Ashton Virgin Sun Grown Torpedo & Shade Grown Coffee

This review has been a long time coming. It began long before I joined StogieChat. Back when the forum was very new, and SenorSmoke and Eric were the only poster-boys to speak of.

Now, Eric has been very busy this summer (nice things happen to nice people) but he used to do this one thing all the time. He would post articles to wierd and wacky stuff happening in the news. Who knows where he found them, but they would end up here on StogieChat.

One of the articles had to do with shade-grown canopy coffee beans. [To learn about what shade-grown beans actually are, you'll need to do a little research. I won't go into it here.] To make a long story short, Eric proposed an interesting challenge. He dared somebody to find a shade-grown coffee dealer, and try some of it. If this person were willing to do it, and post a review, he would provide a genuine virgin sun-grown cigar to go along with it. [His only disclaimer: he would not be responsible for hallucinations, from drinking shade-grown coffee with sun-grown cigars!!!]

Guess what? Nobody took him up on the offer, until I came along. I dusted off that old post, and got online. I ordered three varieties of the stuff, and told Eric I wanted my reward. He was so impressed that I had found the old topic, he mailed me half a dozen VERY FINE cigars, including (are you sure you're ready for this?)... an aged Ashton VSG Torpedo!

I must have held on to that cigar for a month. Finally, the day came when I would fulfill my obligation.

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ASHTON - VSG Torpedo

6.5" x 55 RG

This series was introduced in 1999 and boasts a full-bodied cigar to the Ashton cigar line. Carlos Fuente Jr. worked for two years developing this cigar of incredible taste and flavor. However, the Ashton Virgin Sun Grown is not for everyone... It is for the cigar connoisseur who wants a full, potent cigar that cannot easily be forgotten.

Using four-to-five year old aged Dominican tobacco taken from the finest and most fertile plants, the distinct flavor of the VSG comes from its wrapper grown on a private estate in Ecuador owned by the Oliva Family where this proprietary wrapper leaf is grown for the Fuente Family exclusively for the Ashton VSG. The leaf is taken from the higher primings and matures slowly by sunlight filtered through the region's natural cloud covering. The result is the rich intoxicating wrapper which has made the Ashton VSG the most in-demand cigar on the market today.

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The fateful day was June 12, 2003. I remember sleeping in late that morning (hey... what's new?). When I got up the air was still a little crisp, so I donned my blue & white bathrobe over the gray sweatpants I was wearing.

Still half asleep, I bumbled my way downstairs to the kitchen. All I wanted was a couple really strong cups of coffee to get me in the mood. By some miracle of God, my brain was active enough to conjure up an idea: "Today is THE DAY!"

I grabbed the Canopy SGC vanilla beans, and threw a healthy portion into the grinder. "Mmmm, can you smell that?" I was talking to myself again. From the bag to the grinder to the pot, they smelled wonderful!

While the pot was brewing, I headed for the office humidor and retreived the revered Ashton VSG. For this occasion, I selected the brand-new Colibri lighter and stainless steel double blade cutter. Off with the cellophane, off with the band, and off to the kitchen... "Gimme some o' that joe!"

After pouring a big mugfull, I set up a white lawnchair in the backyard grass. Pepper (my beautiful cat) settled down just inside the screen door, her usual custom, to witness her master's curious activities.

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It was one of those lovely California days when the sun shines and the birds chirp; the bees buzz around all over the flowers, and everything is right with the world. The time is now 11:00am. Mrs. Dub is gone, my first appointment isn't for hours, and I settle in for what I know will be a uniquely special occasion.

This cigar is a figurado; a "shaped" cigar. It has a wide, open foot and the head comes to a point. There are a few prominent veins, and the cigar is brown and lumpy... "toothy" as some folks like to say. It is ever-so-slightly box-pressed, and carries a faint sheen. The cap is apparently formed by curling the wrapper around the tapered head in a swirling pattern. Most importantly, there are tiny white markings on the outside of the wrapper! (Thank you, thank you, thank you Eric!) Well aged, this cigar is in perfect burning condition.

As I prepare to make the cut, I realize that this is my first torpedo. Exactly where am I supposed to trim? Erring on the side of caution, I only snip off the tiniest bit of the tip. Let's not waste any of this puppy!

The Colibri springs to life with a WHOOOOSH! of blue flame, and the foot begins to glow. As it toasts, a rich flavor in the air wafts over to my nose. "Wowsers!!!" I exclaim, as the fumes instantly sting both nostrils like a violent cautering iron. "Goodness Gracious, I'm gonna have to be careful how I wield this thing!"

Now it's time for the real test. I take a sip of the coffee, wondering all the while. "Am I really man enough to smoke this cigar?"

No time to wonder though. Without hesitating, I put the cigar to my lips. Puff, puff, puuullllllll. Hold it. Hold it! And open. I let the streams of smoke gently billow forth as I gradually inhale through my nose. Oh yeahhhhh...

The aroma was that of sweet cream and walnuts, but without the bitterness. A stark silver ash began to show, and it maintained this color throughout. Small buds of plume began to pop out just above the ash, and on the ash itself. Plentiful blue smoke was gushing from this cigar, and I was already asking God for more time with this rare delight.

I couldn't help but inhale this cigar, and I turned the chair to get more smoke in the face. I also got more sun in the face. It was getting too hot for this stifling bathrobe. As I tossed the robe and socks with reckless abandon, I knew that this was by far the best cigar I had ever smoked.

Just as I commenced another Mouth to Nostril-Pull maneuver, I noticed a bluejay visiting our coveted boysenberry bush. "Good for him!" I thought, and kept right on smoking. Heeheehee.

Oh Jeez! I completely forgot about the coffee! The only reason I remembered at all, was to alleviate the sharp peppermint sting on my lips where they contacted the cigar.

At this point, I began to hallucinate... (just as Eric warned). "Is it just me, or is there an ice cream truck in our gated community playing Little Little Star?" Suddenly, everything in the universe compresses, and the normal everyday sounds that we take for granted begin to overwhelm my ears. Crickets chirp loudly in the grass, and airplane engines roar overhead! "What's happening to meeeeeee..."

The entire execution of the smoking process becomes automatic, as I slip into a trance of extacy and oblivion.

I'm pulled out of this metaphysical ride when I notice that the draw is getting to be extremely tight. Upon examination, there seems to be a residue of thick black tar on the surface of the cut. Is this what's causing the peppermint sensation? After clipping another sixteenth of an inch, the draw regains its original unlabored draw.

Once again, I puff and hold the smoke in my mouth. But what's this? Every single flower in the garden has now turned its head to stare at me! Jeepers, creepers. That's really unusual!

The phone rings, but forget it. I'm not moving. Even if it's the President, he'll just have to hold the line. Besides, what would the flowers do if I got up?

This cigar sure tastes like menthol on the lips!

Yes, folks... I was getting high as a kite. I'm not lying. I actually began to levitate in my chair. "WHOA! That plane just missed me!"

I had to be out of my mind, and was starting to wonder who I'd have to kill to get a whole box of these treasured cigars. As the halfway point arrived, everything slowed way down. I had to make this baby last.

Snow began to pile up around my feet at the same time that sweat was running out from under my arms. "My kingdom for a backscratcher!" I yelled, as I peered hopelessly into the depths of my long-empty mug. Nothing but finely ground bean-powder at the bottom. Time for a refill.

I stumbled out of the chair and staggered on towards the kitchen. As I pass Pepper at the door, she appears to be about as relaxed as I feel.

When I returned, I noticed the same black tar on the surface where one would expect to see saliva. The draw is again difficult, so I once again snip another sixteenth. I began to imagine myself on the deck of an offshore oil rig. "Black Gold, Texas-T!" I shouted. Whatever that black gum was, it was the byproduct of an amazing cigar.

Despite the stinging sensation of peppermint oil on my lips, the aroma was completely unrelated. At the time, I felt unworthy to describe the complex nuances of flavor.

Still on Cloud Nine, I decide that my new name shall be Martyrdom Saint Cigar. Some bizarre song filters in from a distant car radio, and I realize that I'm going to need a very cold shower after this intense experience.

My hands were all wobbly and shaky, and my fingertips were getting pretty squishy. The spongy remaining nub of this cigar is producing so much smoke, I imagine that my neighbors' smoke detector is going off. (I was definitely not right in the head.) "Call the d**n Fire Department," I remember thinking. No more double puffs from here on out.

After an hour and forty minutes in the bright sun, I was developing a severe, self-inflicted sunburn. "To hell with lung cancer," I mused. "Give me more of these!"

The dense, heavy smoke was now plunging earthward, which again made me remember the coffee at my side. I was definitely awake at this point. One inch left, and still going strong! "Where the heck are my tweezers?"

You guys should have seen the smoke pour from the end of this little nub. It tumbled out and headed straight for the ground. I thought of my time as an acolyte in the Episcopal Church, and of prayers ascending to heaven on candle smoke. Once again, I began to plead with God for more time with this cigar.

With apparent divine permission, I continued to smoke and make requests to God to begin constructing my heavenly humidor. I was reminded of a quote by Samuel Clemens: "If there be no cigars in heaven, I shall not go." (Or something like that.)

"Are these fingerburns going to require medical attention?" I wondered.

There was absolutely no breeze at all, and a picturesque veil formed around the redwood just across the fence. With three-fourths of an inch left, I considered spearing it with a toothpick. "Nope. Gotta bail."

I burned my lips for one last puff, and exhaled/inhaled thrice on that last mouthful before I sent that little bud of a cigar to Stogie Cemetary just over the fence. I drained my mug and headed for the shower. With legs like jelly, I labored on the stairs. On my way to the appointment three hours later, I still had those legs of jelly.

What a cigar! Oh yeah, and the coffee was good, too.

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