RTDA Blog: Day One
Posted: Aug 5, 2007 6:19pm ET
I was taking my first walk around the show floor here at the 75th Retail Tobacco Dealers of America trade show in Houston, and there it was: a full bar. I’ve seen a lot of things in the 13 RTDAs I’ve attended—a girl wearing an outfit made of less material than it takes to cover one of my feet; someone dressed in orange paint, like an Oompa Loompa—but never a rail where one could order a Tanqueray or a Maker’s Mark. Only in Texas. Too bad Bettridge isn’t here.
I decided to skip the drink and do some work, which meant firing up cigars. My first stop was the La Aurora/Miami Cigar booth, where I traded Yankees stories with Jose Blanco and slapped backs with Guillermo Leon. I lit up one of thier new cigars on display, the La Aurora Barrel Aged cigar. They even had one of the old rum barrels on display full of tobacco to give people an idea of what the fermenting tobacco smelled like when it spends time in one of these casks. The barrel smelled great, and the cigar was good too, with a good note of caramel, solid, heavy coffee bean notes and just a wisp of licorice on the palate. It was medium bodied. I think it should smoke better with a little more age, as the cigar didn’t burn perfectly, but that could have been the stiff breeze from the A/C vent over my head.
I was mid-way through the cigar when I got my first RTDA scoop: there is no more RTDA. Gary Pesh, the owner of Old Virginia Tobacco shops and the second vice president of the trade association, told me that the board had dropped the name in favor of a new moniker, IPCPR, for International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers. It’s a mouthful, but Pesh said it gets rid of the words “tobacco” and “dealer,” neither of which have the best connotations nowadays. It’s going to take some time for me to stop saying RTDA.
After talking to Gary, I wandered over to the CAO booth for a stiff espresso and my first taste of CAO America. First off, it’s a very good looking cigar, made with one Connecticut-shade and one Connecticut broadleaf wrapper. You see more broadleaf, making a pinstripe pattern. It’s a mild to medium bodied smoke, with a nice creaminess (no doubt from the shade) and a little bit of structure (from the broadleaf.) It’s toasty, and it burned very well. Tonight I’m dining with the Ozgeners, so I’m sure I’ll hear more about the cigar then.
I took a lunch break with Cigar Aficionado’s Greg Mottola and Micahel Moretti. Greg had scoped out a barbecue joint about a 15 minute cab ride away: Good Company Barbecue. The line was 30 people deep when we arrived, and it was worth the wait: brisket, sausage and ribs. Great stuff, and just what the doctor ordered for a day of smoking loads of cigars and drinking espresso. I was proud of those two: they ate as much as I did, which isn’t easy.
I saw the Padrón Serie 1926 80 Years cigar (what I’ve been calling the Padrón 80th Anniversary) and it looks great. It’s going to be in boxes of 8 cigars, and Jorge Padrón said it would be out in November. I can’t tell you how the new ones taste, because Jorge said he didn’t have one, and I didn’t think he’d like it if I broke the glass to get at the one box they had on display. I made do with a Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series Imperial (our No. 3 cigar of the year) so I wasn’t completely disappointed. I smoked it at the Padrón booth with Jorge, his father Jose Orlando, as well as Matt Arcella from the Davidoff shop in Las Vegas.
The 80 is going to be pricey, $30 a pop, and it won’t be an easy find. Jorge says they only have enough for a box or so per retailer right now. If that’s a little much, they also introduced a new core Padrón cigar, a fat guy called the Padrón 7000. At 60 ring gauge, it’s the fattest Padrón out there, and it measures 6 1/4 by 60. It’ll sell for $6.50, and be out sometime in September.
Three fine cigars to start off this trade show, but the one thing that struck me today was the crowd, of the lack of it. There just aren’t that many people here, at least not yet. Day one can be slow, but most people I spoke to think that people just don’t want to be in Houston in August. We’ll see if things pick up more tomorrow.
For now, I’m off to have some drinks and then for steaks and cigars. It’s going to be a long night.
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