Cubans

Published on September 3rd, 2018 | by Ken Gargett

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Cohiba Robusto/Glenfarclas 21-Year-Old Highland Malt – Brokenwood Anniversaries Part 3.

Welcome to the third and final episode of the Brokenwood adventures. To be honest, this started as a small comment on a forthcoming wine visit – to Brokenwood for their 50th. That got me remembering the 40th and some of the fun. Parts 1 and 2 were stories we heard at the Fortieth. This is about arriving for the event, the trip from the airport to the winery. One would think that would be a fairly innocuous experience, but no…

I swear to you, I am not making this up.

And while I am at it, I mentioned the glorious 1986 Graveyard as one of our great wines. If you are looking for a wine to match it, look to the 2014 Graveyard. Stunning. For me, the best Graveyard since 1986. To go further, I’d suggest that 2014 in the Hunter Valley, for reds at least, is the best vintage they have had since the legendary 1965.

Anyway, a decade ago, I set off for the 40th. Arrived in Sydney with some of the other troops. The plan was to meet at the airport and then come up to Brokenwood in the minibus that they had arranged. Was sharing this with James Halliday, his wife Suzanne, and Kim West, another writer from Melbourne. Winsor Dobbin, an old mate, better known as Whinger Dobbin, was also supposed to come but pulled out (and with what transpired, thank the heavens for that – I’ve seen Whinger throw his luggage, literally, from one side of an airport to the other when he found out he’d been delayed 40 minutes. Had he been on the minibus, who knows what casualties). This allowed Suzanne to take his place. We all met up as we came off our respective flights and then went searching for the minibus driver.

We were told that our driver, from the ‘Happy Cabbie’ company (and wasn’t that ironic), would meet us at the airport at “luggage carousel 1”. We were heading that way when we spotted him, as he was holding a sign for those travelling to Brokenwood, nowhere near the luggage carousel. We walk over and he grunts a greeting.

Suzanne mentions we were headed to luggage 1 to meet him, so it was lucky we saw him. Actually, to spot him, it would have been easier if we’d been told to just search for someone who looked like he had just escaped from jail, the Shawshank way.

‘Well, who would have told you to go there?’

‘They were the instructions we received from your company’.

‘Well, that might be where the company says, but it is not where I wait’. Apparently, it was our fault for not knowing that.

We all have heaps of gear but James has to collect extra baggage sent in special care (in other words, rare bottles that we are not getting near) and Basil, as we have now named him, is not happy at not departing immediately. He makes it very clear to us that we are wasting his time. We say nothing at this stage as we are all a little taken back.

As we wait for James, we are standing around so I decide to try a bit of small talk, to see if that loosens him up at all. I know that there is another bus taking more people up later in the day, so I ask if he knows who is going on that one, just making conversation.

‘No’.

‘Fair enough’.

‘Well, actually it is in my folder but I’m not going to look’.

‘Okay then’.

So, small talk is off the table.

Finally, we head off. All of us have gear, but no help is offered. Basil is quite large and appears fit and healthy. Poor Suzanne is drowning under stuff. I’m loaded down so can’t assist her, as are James and Westie. Basil walks along nearby without a care as his client, a woman who would have been well in her 60s at that time, wobbles along barely keeping it together, obviously struggling. A suggestion that some assistance might be appreciated worked as well as ‘peace in our time’.

Eventually, we reach the minibus, load our luggage and pile in. Off we go.

It is late morning/lunchtime by this stage and as none of us have had lunch, and some no breakfast, and all of us facing several hours in the bus, we ask Basil if we could stop somewhere for a bite.

To our surprise, Basil agrees. Yes, he says, he’ll stop on the way. A good spot is suggested.

‘No, I’m not stopping there’.

Okay. We are not quite sure why, but we are walking on eggshells here, so we leave it to Basil.

Halfway up, the trip is a couple of hours, we head off the main road to a spot to stop. We think it is for lunch, but it turns out that it is so Basil can pick up his wife and give her a lift to the Hunter.

We file out of the bus while Basil tosses his wife’s crap into the back. It is a dire place and seriously, I am expecting banjo music at any moment. Between us, we have made the trip up and down to the Hunter countless times. But not once, never, has any of us stopped here. For any reason. A broken down rusted caravan would be the Ritz compared to what passed for shelter in this place. I’m looking around to see if I can spot Mad Max.

We take the opportunity to tell Basil that we will get something to eat here, even though that does seem a bit like taking one’s life into one’s hands.

Basil is not happy. We are wasting his time again. Clearly, he had no intention of stopping to allow us to eat and only wanted to stop to collect his wife. And isn’t she a prize. She sprawls all over the front seat, the tracksuit riding up exposing the belly and its many rings, scars, scabs and tatts (no offence to those favouring such personal art, but one suspects that this was prison ink). We are taking odds on whether she has more rings and piercings than she has had showers. For a brief moment, we feel a fleeting flash of sympathy for Basil. It doesn’t last.

Basil is not a happy cabbie, not at all. We are still hoping to get some food, or what passes for it around here. Suzanne mentions that, if Basil does not want to take the time, perhaps we could order some food and then we could eat it on the bus?

‘No’.

We are, however, outside of the bus and we have had enough of Basil. We tell him that we are off to eat and we’ll be back shortly. He can wait. Basil is not happy at this, not happy at all, but he realises that there is not much he can do. He says, ‘You got 5 minutes’.

‘Okay, we may be a little bit longer than 5 minutes’.

‘You got 5 minutes’.

Which we, of course, ignore.

There were a number of fast food establishments and nothing else. It was Subway or KFC so the vote went Subway, although I am not a fan (and there at the counter, ordering food, was a bloke in a McDonalds uniform, I kid you not). We order, collect our food and sit down, but in charges Basil and insists we go. I think his exact words were ‘leave your food and come now or I’ll leave you behind’. Come. Immediately.

We make it clear we’ll be finishing lunch, or what passes for it here in Buttville. He insists he is not going to wait. We insist we are not leaving until we finish lunch. We know that if Basil were to leave his passengers, especially Halliday, there would be hell to pay. We suspect that Basil knows this as well. So a compromise is reached and we can finish eating on the bus.

So, we get to the bus and he says, with the wife still strewn across the front seat, ‘I want $57 from each of you’.

We are a bit stunned by this and we point out that it has all been organised at his office and paid for by Brokenwood.

‘I’m not going another inch till you each give me $57.’

We have had the proverbial gutful and we know that this is nothing but an ill-advised attempt at blackmail. We tell Basil that we are not moving from the bus and not paying him a cent. Basil is near incandescent. We dig in. Stalemate.

Eventually, he agrees to ring his office. He hops out of the bus, and calls. There is a brief chat, which we cannot hear. Basil is obviously not happy. Again.

We assume that his version of an apology was when he got back in, slammed the door and started driving again without a word.

Then, without any further warning, Basil thinks he has found a loophole in his attempts to extort us. He insists that Suzanne has to pay, because she was not on the original list. It is pointed out she replaced Whinger. He screams at her that it doesn’t matter. He really is a prince, is our Basil. Screaming abuse at a really lovely, dignified woman. He pulls over and insists. We dig in again. At this stage, words are exchanged and Basil is slowly, possibly, becoming aware that we are not his greatest fans. We suggest he ring the office. Again. He does so.

Office again suggests he continue on. Suzanne wants to ask how much it cost the wife for her trip. I was in stitches.

We finally arrive and Westie (whose other job is that of an extremely senior Homicide detective in Melbourne and who knows and has dealt with pretty much the real-life versions of every cast of Underbelly and hence, is really not going to be stood over by a light-weight like Basil), who not a small human himself, lines him up on the side of the bus and reads him the riot act. Like I’ve never heard before. Beautiful!

Basil is apparently stunned that anyone could be anything other than deliriously delighted with his service. I’m serious.

Needless to say, Basil’s exploits are relayed around the troops very quickly. Brokenwood are mortified. My understanding is that no one else was ever going to enjoy a trip with Basil again with the Happy Cabbie company.

It was truly bizarre.

This week’s match? Greg sent me a young Cohiba Robusto and I dug out some Glenfarclas 21-Year-Old Highland Malt. The CoRo had some honey, spice and a touch of almond but most especially cream. It was a fine CoRo but a long way from a stellar example. The Malt, on the other hand, was a cracker. Beeswax, honeycomb, nuts and also some almonds and cream. A touch of teak. This was complex, with power and length. A terrific whisky.

When matching, the first rule is to look for similar characters which can bring the two together. And here, with the cream and that note of almond, there was more than enough to ensure that this combo would work very well.

For me, a fine match which works because of those similar flavours linking. And a match that raised the cigar. The whisky needed no help at all.

KBG.


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