My family vacation to New Orleans this past weekend allowed me the opportunity to make a quick stop at the annual International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers convention. The IPCPR’s annual show is where all of the manufacturers and distributors gather to sell their wares to the retailers. I had 3 hours to spend at the show as I had to catch a plane, so I tried to visit as many old friends as I could and meet some new ones. As I was standing in the wrong line to register I met Wesley Gensel, who handles several brands of cigars from Brazil. He had been interviewed not long ago on Dogwatch Cigar Radio, real nice guy. I moved from the “exhibitors” line to the empty “retailers” line and got my badge and waited to enter the show where I struck up a conversation with Thomas Bender and a couple of his cohorts from Cigar Weekly. I also ran into Mark Aub from Brother’s of the Leaf/Palio whom I had met a couple months ago.
At about 10 minutes to 10 they opened the doors to the show. I remember two years ago when we visited the show in Vegas it was like opening the floodgates when the show opened. This time it wasn’t quite so crowded. I’m not sure if it was a lower turnout or the exhibit space was larger, but it just seemed like there was a lot more room to move. I headed over to the Drew Estate booth (which was awarded “Best in Show”) and Steve Saka was there, who is an old friend, and I introduced myself to Jonathan Drew and Johnny Brooke, whom I hadn’t met before. It was nice to see Marvin Samel again, as well as Dave Lafferty and Kevin McCormack, the sales guys for my area. The booth was loaded with sneakers. Racks of hightops on the floor and shelves of them around the perimeter. Very cool and quite different. I didn’t notice if Saka was wearing a pair of Liga Privada Chuck Taylors or not.
I stopped and introduced myself to Pete Johnson of Tatuaje and Dion Giolito of Illusione cigars. I stopped to see Charlie Toraño, who’s booth was quite busy, said hello to Sam Leccia and Dave Weber at the Oliva booth. Stopped by the Camacho booth to see Christian Eiroa, and ran into old friend Bobby Holstein from Fuji Publishing, who used me to mule a cup of Scotch to Saka. I also stopped by the CAO booth to see Paul Spence, whom I’ve met on several occasions before, and said hello to Jon Huber on the way out. I was able to meet Bob and Dale from Dogwatch Cigar Radio finally, after having corresponded with them for quite a while, and ran into the crew from Stogie Review, of whom I’d only met Walt White prior. I also ran into Scott Smyth of Scott Smyths World of Cigars while talking to Kurt Kendall of 7-20-4 Cigars, both of whom were very nice guys. I also ran into Abe Dababneh of Smoke Inn, whom I had met at the 2008 show. He is on the IPCPR board and gave me some very interesting information about why they have restricted the number of passes available to retailers for the show. It seems that some retailer was buying additional passes and reselling them to their customers for a profit. They currently only allow two passes per store from what I’m led to believe. I may have to break down and get press credentials the next time I go!
One of the highlights for me was visiting the General Cigar booth. I had been contacted (me and a bunch of other blog types) by Victoria McKee Jaworski, General’s Director of Public Relations, some time ago and stopped to say hello. She was busy with a customer, but her assistant gave me the tour of the booth, introducing me to the brand managers and providing me with samples of some of the new offerings. In the not so distant future I will be smoking a new Macanudo, the Cru Royale, a couple new La Glorias and a new Hoyo de Monterrey. What is most interesting about these new offerings is that they are not ridiculously priced. I’m especially eager to try the LA Gloria Cubana Serie N, which is Nicaraguan and will have an “N” made out of light colored tobacco leaf as part of the wrapper. The presentations of all of these new items are very impressive and will stand out on tobacconist’s shelves. They also have some pretty cool items that will be coming out for the holidays, various collections and samplers with lighters and ashtrays and such. They also showed me a Partagas 150 humidor and a La Gloria Cubana Travel bag which were beautiful and very high end. Along with the samples, they provided me with a CD with photos of everything, which is good because I took a bunch of pictures at the show on the macro setting and everything came out blurry…anyway my visit to General’s booth was extremely positive, and I’m pleased that they see a value in what people like me do (free advertising?) and really go a long way to make us feel welcome at what is supposed to be a selling show.
I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t find the La Aurora booth, either it was hidden away or not as big as I expected, or I was just in such a hurried and sensory overloaded state that I missed it, hard to tell. There were a few other blogger types that I had hoped to run into but didn’t, but in three hours I managed to cover a lot of ground and make some good contacts. I wish I had some good pictures, but there will be plenty floating around.
In an unrelated note, I received an e-mail while I was away telling me that CigarCraig.com was included in an article, Top 50 Cigar Appreciation Blogs For Becoming a True Aficionado”, which is pretty cool! I appreciate being included in their list.
More on my adventures the next time,