Monday at IPCPR

The International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers trade show began today at 10 a.m., and I’ve been smoking since opening bell. I have a notebook full of scribbles on new cigars that I’m going to share with you.

My first smoke was the new Aroma de Cuba Edicion Especial from Nicaragua that I wrote about online and in Cigar Insider. I was asked in the forums if this meant an end to the original Aroma de Cuba, which is made in Honduras. Nope. “It’s not a replacement for the original,” said Ashton vice president Sathya Levin. “We wanted to strengthen and round out the La Aroma de Cuba brand.” He handed me a short robusto. It’s made by Pepin Garcia with a middle priming Ecuador wrapper grown from Cuban seed, and Nicaraguan filler and binder. It was mild to medium bodied, a bit floral, with a honeyed character to it, and some creaminess. Very tasty. Just what the doctor ordered for the morning. There’s also a new Ashton ESG, a pyramid size, but it’s not going to be ready all that soon. They hope to have it out for the holidays.

Here’s a shocker—Davidoff now has a maduro cigar, the first Davidoff white label ever. It comes in only one size, a longer (and darker) version of the Special R. The wrapper is Nicaraguan leaf. It has some sweet coffee notes, a smack of vanilla and a bit of a mushroom note on the finish. It starts shipping today, and will have a suggested retail of $15.50.

C.A.O. has a bunch of new smokes. I tried a robusto format of the new Lx2, a Nicaraguan puro with quite a kick. I liked it a lot. I think it’s the strongest C.A.O. I’ve ever had. There’s plenty of licorice and black pepper, with syrupy coffee, like a good café Cubano on the finish. I found it pleasant, rich and balanced. The company also has two samplers, including one called C.A.O. Champions that has 10 of the cigars that were rated highest in Cigar Aficionado. It comes in a snazzy red vinyl case.

La Aurora has also been busy, coming out with a new Preferido Lancero. It has the same blend of the original preferido, all Dominican on the inside with a Cameroon wrapper. It’s 6 7/8 by 40 ring, but unlike most lanceros it doesn’t have a pigtail. I fired it up with Guillermo Leon and Jose Blanco over some Dominican coffee. The cigar had a nutty and cedary taste with a touch of tinniness that faded after a few puffs. It became dominantly nutty. It’s going to be $8.

After lunch, we sat down with Pete Johnson of Havana Cellars, the guy behind Tatuaje cigars. He’s big on broadleaf this year. You know about La Riqueza, which just rated very well in Cigar Insider. Now he’s uncorking Caibaguan Maduro, which will start off as a very limited release with only two sizes. In 2009 he’ll add a third size and increase the distribution.

I smoked the Robusto Extra, which is 5 1/4 by 50 ring. It had black coffee notes with a touch of toffee and tons of cocoa powder on the finish. I’m not a huge maduro fan, but this is a nice smoke. It’s made in Nicaragua by Pepin Garcia, so it’s no surprise. I just seem to like everything Pepin makes.

My last meeting of the day was with Daniel Núñez, president of General Cigar, and it was my biggest shock of the day. General has always focused on milder smokes, but the cigar I smoked there was one of the strongest I’d had all day.

It’s a new Cohiba, called Cohiba Puro Dominicana. It’s General’s first Dominican puro, and it’s spicy and fun to smoke. I tasted black coffee, bread dough, raisins and lots of red pepper notes spice. “We’ve been growing tobacco for 40 years in the Dominican Republic,” said Núñez. He now has 700 acres under shade in Mao, where the wrapper is grown. It’s a heck of a smoke. There’s also a stronger Macanudo, which James Suckling smoked (and will blog about). Big surprises.

It’s time to head out to dinner. I’m dining with the folks from C.A.O., who hired Lynard Skynard to play their party. Should be a good show. You’ll read all about it tomorrow.

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