Sunday at the IPCPR started out with my wife and I going to the French Market to meet some new friends for coffee before heading to the show. John Taylor recently published the book “Wings Over New Orleans“, which contains John’s personal photos and counts of Paul McCartney’s stay in New Orleans while recording Wings’ Venus and Mars. You can read Jenn’s review of it on Beatles-Freak.com. He was a fascinating guy yo talk to, very humble and down to earth, and fortunate to have had the chance to hang out with Paul and Linda on a daily basis. It was certainly a nice break from the show floor, and the coffee was great (no beignets, the line for Cafe du Monde was insane and it was 100 degrees and humid!).
It was probably 1 PM by the time we made our way back to the IPCPR show. We wanted to catch some of the music going on at Rocky Patel‘s booth. I’ve mentioned the custom humidor they have that is the top of a cajon, which is a wooden hand drum, and Jerry Goldenson, the VP of Sales for Pearl Drums was present in the booth. Jerry is a cigar lover, and worked with Rocky on this, as well as some special items for the Burn cigar club in Florida. Jerry and I have a mutual friend who made the introduction remotely. The band was great, wonderful Cuban rhythms. Fortunately, the Cigar Oasis booth was right next to Rocky’s booth, so I got the visit with Chaim Kohn and get the low down on the re-designed Magna (sure, right after I bought one!) and their new WiFi app upgrades, which I have yet to try out (oddly, I’ve been too busy to worry about checking the humidity in my humidor from my phone). I’m a fan of the Cigar Oasis units, I currently use the Magna in my cabinet (and I stopped in the Prestige Import Group booth, maker of the cabinet I have, and they endorse the Cigar Oasis line as well), and the Excel in the NewAir CC-100 Humidor.
We stopped in the Gurkha booth to see what was new there, and among other things, they were displaying the new Maharaja, at least the beautiful packaging was on display. Pardon my cynicism, and I like quite a few cigars from Gurkha, but I would like to see a $2000 cigar before I bought it. Bianca assured me that they were in there, but there’s absolutely no information about it other than it’s got a maduro wrapper and Dominican binder and filler. Very exclusive, apparently sold out in Europe, but a little steep for my budget (no samples being given out unfortunately). They did provide me with samples of the new Heritage, Cellar Reserve Platinum and the Cask Blend, all made in Nicaragua. More on those as the get smoked, and maybe a future contest, who knows :-). I hit Colin Ganley up for a taste of his Twin Engine Coffee (iced with cream and sugar, the cigar blend is delicious this way!) and he introduced me to a newcomer to the US market, but an established brand in Nicaragua, Santiago de los Caballeros, who make some beautiful looking cigars that I’m quite anxious to smoke. After that I finally managed to introduce my self to George Rico, of Gran Habano, I’m not sure how it took me five or six IPCPR shows to meet him, I guess he’s been busy when I’ve stopped before. He was talking to Ernesto Padilla, whom I also just formally met at the show. On the way out I got one of the very few instances of being approached in the aisle by a gentleman from Lighthouse Cigars, who make a line of cigars targeted toward golfers. Again, more information on that one later. One of the highlights of the day was visiting with the guys at King’s Cigars, who we met at the 2013 show when they debuted the brand. They are still wild and crazy guys and were having a great time in their booth. I finally got the smoke the King of Kings Broadleaf, a PA Broadleaf wrapped 6″ x 64 box press that is pretty darned tasty.
After dinner I stopped at the hotel’s designated smoking area, where they had a cash bar open, but only a couple of people were there. I have a feeling that the IPCPR will find that these hospitality areas in each hotel were under-utilized. There were places in the area to sit in an air-conditioned and comfortable lounge and have a cigar, not outside in a tent with fans and way overpriced drinks. We had a cigar there and moved on to Don Leoncio’s cigar bar on Canal Street, where I bought a couple of PDR 1878 in Capa Maduro and Capa Oscuro and settled into the comfy leather sofa. We met a couple of guys from Texas who are in the process of organizing Cigar Palooza (September 26 at the Ball Park as Grand Prairie), then later the guys from the Cigar City Club in Atlanta joined me. Once again proof that a fine cigar is a catalyst for making friends and good conversation. Another long day in the books. Need to rest up for day three.
Monday was day three, and our final day, at the show. I made a list of all the booths I wanted to get to that we had missed or were busy on the previous two days. Unfortunately it was a long list. We started out on the far end of the hall, with Perdomo Cigars, moved to Miami Cigar and Co. , finally met Mel and the folks at MBombay cigars and enjoyed a Mbombay Kesara, which was exceptional. there were some beautiful handcrafted ashtrays across from Mel’s booth that were quite unique, check out BramWarren.com, neat stuff. I had a noon appointment at Altadis to get acquainted with their new releases, and they, of course, have an expansive booth. They are doing some interesting things with joint ventures recently. I mentioned Rafael Nodal/RoMEo collaboration in my last post, and they sold out of the Henry Clay/Pete Johnson Tattoo, which I look forward to trying when it gets to retailers shelves. Keep in mind whenever I say something sold out at the show that just means that retailers bought it all up, it will be available on those retailers shelves sometime in the future. There are a bunch of special edition Montecristo’s coming out, line extensions to the Espada and White lines commemorating the 80th anniversary of the brand. We grabbed some lunch at the opposite end of the floor, then started on the list again. We met with Dave Garofalo of Two Guys Smoke Shop who walked us through the Selected Tobacco booth where he was displaying the Atabey, Byron and Bandolero lines which he distributes. These are all exceptional quality cigars which carry a big price. I’ve smoked a Byron and Bandolero and can say that they are top notch, and, ironically, are made in the same factory in Costa Rica that makes the MBombay line. Roberto Duran Cigars was next with the Big Jack addition to the Neya line, a 7×70 named for Jack Toraño, who we had a chance to visit with along with his wife as well as Miguel Schoedel. We visited with Jose Blanco of La Cumbres, Nick Mellilo’s new Foundation Cigar Co., Dion Giolito, Yadi Gonzales of Flor de Gonzales, Dean Parsons of Epic, the boys at Evil Genius, and many more. We saw most of the people we wanted to see, but time always seems to run out. RoMaCraft was busy the whole show, as was the House of Emilio booth, as several others. I’d say we managed to cover a lot of ground in basically two and a half days. Like I said before, more info will com out as I smoke new stuff over the coming months.
Monday night was the big social event of the show, the Cigar Bash, sponsored by La Palina and featuring the classic band “America”. It was held at the Mardi Gras World facility, and there were buses to shuttle us back and forth, otherwise it would have been a very hot and sweaty walk! To get to the venue we walked though the warehouse where all the floats are stored, very neat. It was a rare treat to be able to sit inside, smoke cigars, and watch a band, all the while being able to actually talk to people without screaming. The band was great, the La Palina Red Label I started out with was pretty good (although I look forward to revisiting it after some humidor time) and we, of course, found a bunch of friends to hang out with. Apparently there was another party going on which we failed to hear about, but the Cigar Bash was a good time (food, open bar, music, cigars, friends, what more could you ask for?) Well worth the extra $20 each.
So, a couple of observations about the show. As far as trends go, I think Ecuador Connecticut is coming back again, and I’m seeing more and more Pennsylvania leaf used in blends and as wrappers. Barrel aging in one form or another is a hot trend, and we noticed the use of the word “pilon” more than once. Also, maybe to go along with the use of spirits barrels is the trend toward cigars made to pair with specific libations. For the first show, I felt like the media was accepted as a valuable member as opposed to being a nuisance, which was pretty refreshing. I did see quite a few media members there, and there were many there I didn’t meet, which is a shame. It was great back in 2011 when Drew Estate hosted a media party, but one can’t expect that kind of generosity all the time. Since they had all of the hookah and vape vendors pretty well isolated at one end of the hall, there wasn’t any hard sells while walking by like there has been in the past. As you might guess, my focus is on premium cigars, and I have little to no interest in other products, however legitimate they might be. And lastly, one of the very first “What The Heck” moments came while finally approaching the IPCPR area in the convention center were about 5 of these huge papier-mache sculptures. While nice, my thought, as well as others I talked to, was that the money it cost to make these could probably have been put to better use. No doubt these aren’t going to the Mardi Gras World warehouse, they have probably already been destroyed as I doubt the show will be in New Orleans again soon. They probably could have saved some money by not putting IPCPR banners on all the light poles down Convention Center Boulevard too, it’s not like this was an event open to the public that needs advertising, right? At least there weren’t guys on the street corner spinning signs. I have to trust that the new CEO, Mark Purcell, knows what he’s doing, and I don’t so these are just the random musings of a casual observer. Hopefully the FDA doesn’t screw everything up and there are trade shows and events to attend in the future!
Anyway, that is a brief overview of the trip. I did bring home some contestable goodies which will happen when I feel that the cigars have recovered from their travels and are ready to smoke, so stay tuned for a midweek contest announcement one of these weeks soon. Of the handful of cigars I smoked during the event, all of them were pretty darned great, and it’s not like I had a cigar going every minute of the day, I definitely paced myself. it’s really no fun to burn out your palate on the first day. Thanks once again to my wife and partner in crime, Jenn, who I tried really hard not to drag around this time.
That’s all for now, until the next time,