In Good Company

In Good Company

By Rikesh Chauhan

Photography by Luke Alland

 

It’s the end of another long day of working from home. I quickly freshen up and head out of the flat, eyes fixated on my phone as I step into the elevator. “What time are you getting there?” Shortly after 6.30pm, I reply, to which the group relay their respective ETAs. On the way to the train station, I pay attention to the scene around me. It’s a familiar sight with a few subtle details changed. The advertising boards that once did their utmost to stand out now feature almost-Orwellian advertising of featureless masked faces, with social distancing recommendations. The high street which normally contains more cars than sense is more or less clear - as are the footpaths. A select group of shops are shuttered. As I head into the station, putting a mask on no longer feels like a strange sensation. It’s very much in the same chain of actions as getting my card from my wallet to get through the barriers. Another new and strange, yet expected, thing is being guaranteed a seat on the tube, whatever time of day you’re travelling.

Negronis are in order for a celebration

Nothing better than a Negroni to celebrate the reunion of friends after lockdown

It’s the first time I’ll be seeing a close group of friends, together, in over a year. It also happens to be an evening where the sky’s still blue and the sun is still high. The temperature is on the cooler side but it’s an altogether pleasant evening in London. I walk down from King’s Cross Station to one of my favourite areas in central - Coal Drops Yard. A place full of artisanal workwear and clothing, food, beautiful architecture and character. It was one of many places affected badly during the pandemic, so to walk down the promenade and see people line the areas, sharing stories with drinks in hands, food being served, is a more than welcome sight.

  Detail shots from an evening in Coal Drops Yard

Coal Drops Yard with its vaste outdoors area is the perfect place to enjoy a cigar and a drink

It is indeed a worthy cause of celebration, for it briefly shows us a glimpse of life back to normal. Groups still have to be contained to a certain number of people, social distancing is still implemented (unless you’re in Soho, apparently), and masks need to be worn, but on the whole the ability to have a face-to-face conversation with good friends is frankly sensational. I knew it was going to be a moment that we’d remember for a long time to come, so it posed the question: what cigars should commemorate the occasion?

 Rikesh and friends enjoying a smoke together

Friends Anton, Luke and Rikesh pictured enjoying their cigars

We opt for some of my all-time favourites: H. Upmann Half Coronas, the classic Romeo y Julieta Petit Churchills, and the pièce de résistance, the Partagas Culebras. The Half Corona was introduced to me by one of the best dressed men you’ll ever meet: Shaun Gordon. On the light side, of course, it’s a people pleaser with its tones of earth and leather. An easy smoke time, enjoyed all the more with a few negronis in hand. The Petit Churchill packs a little more of a punch, but man, is it beautiful. With sweeter notes of coffee and vanilla — what’s not to love? Culebras, which translates to snakes in Spanish, makes sense once you see their appearance. Created specifically to have with friends, or so I’d like to believe, it’s a full-flavoured smoke that might look a little unusual, but, given how the last few months have been, it seems an apt choice.

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