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They came, they saw, they smoked.
Thousands of cigar
enthusiasts came from all parts of the United States and the world to
the Venetian Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas to be a part of Cigar Aficionado's 15th annual Big
Smoke Las Vegas weekend evening parties, the largest cigar celebrations
in the world, held last Friday and Saturday night.
They saw many things, including more than 30 cigarmakers passing out premium cigars to eager attendees, along with a dozen or so spirits makers pouring the finest drinks and eight of Sin City's best restaurants serving food.
"We came to play golf and smoke cigars," said Phil Gruidl, a patrolman from Sacramento, California, nearing retirement. "Oh, and the pretty women," he added with a wink.
Gruidl was with his friend Steve Harris on their sixth trip to the Big Smoke in Las Vegas. Another friend, Brian Curry, was accompanying them and it was his first taste of a Big Smoke evening party.
"Yeah, they dragged me out here with them," he joked with a deadpan face.
All night the crowd was buzzing as people walked from cigarmaker to cigarmaker to fill up their official Cigar Aficionado tote bag with delicious premium smokes. The line at the Alec Bradley booth was particularly long as Alan Rubin was not only passing out his Prensado and Vice Press, but also raffling off a year's worth of premium cigars to one lucky winner.
Competing for longest line of the night were also Rocky Patel, who was offering attendees a choice of his cigars, including his 1961 blend, and the Padrón booth, manned by Jorge Padron himself.
Rounding out the list of cigarmakers passing out their premium smokes were: Carlos "Carlito" Fuente Jr., giving out his Sun Grown line; Carlos Toraño passed out samples of his 1959 Exodus 50 years; Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, passing out his Core Line; Pepin, Jaime and Janny Garcia of My Father Cigars had La Reloba cigars to hand out; Litto Gomez of La Flor Dominicana, handing out his Ligero; Robert Levin of Ashton passed out La Aroma De Cuba; Alejandro Turrent gave out A. Turrent Triple Play; Manuel Quesada was passing out both a Quesada Tributo and Casa Magna.
Other cigars to be had
included: Avo, Camacho Room 101, Casa Fernandez, La Gloria Cubana, Hoyo de Monterrey Reposado en Cedros and Macanudo Crü Royale,
C.A.O. La Traviata Maduro, Cuba Aliados, Cusano, Diamond Crown, Hammer +
Reloba, NUb, Oliva Serie G, Panter, Puros Indios,
Villiger 1888, H. Upmann Sun Grown and Warlock.
There was also a handful of cigar accessories makers there displaying products and taking orders.
Cutters and lighters were put on display by Colibri and Xikar; Liebherr educated attendees on the benefits
of cigar refrigeration while Rabbit Air displayed its MinusA2 Air Purifier; Diamond Crown had a table of elegant humidors as
did Daniel Marshall, who personally signed one of his humidor designs.
Two gentlemen who traveled from Montreal, Quebec, Eric Gaudreault and Karl Frigan, were particularly excited for the spirits selections, as they were unaware the offerings were going to be of such high quality.
"I got a Zacapa rum right now," said Frigan. When told that Macallan single-malt Scotch also had a booth and they were pouring 12- and 15-year expressions, a smile appeared on his face. "Guess I know where I'm going next."
Scotch whisky Glenmorangie also had a booth, as did Irish whiskey Tullamore Dew and Canadian whiskey Crown Royal; tequila brands Patrón and Milagro served as well; Ron Abuelo and Appleton rums could be sampled; Cognac was provided by A. de Fussigny and Courvoisier; and also available was Bombay Sapphire gin and vodka distillers Crystal Head, Hammer + Sickle and Ultimat. Foster's beer and Sledgehammer Wines provided a lighter alternative.
The Casa Fuente
"booth" was decked out with bamboo chairs and wooden tables, essentially
doubling as a lounge. A bartender offered samples of Don Q rum to sip
on while boothgoers enjoyed the moment of rest.
Four automobiles were on display, including two from Chevrolet, a Neiman Marcus Edition Camaro Convertible that was the color of Bordeaux and a sky blue Corvette ZR1.
Some chose to take a load off at the Team La Gloria Cubana booth, albeit not necessarily a relaxing one. At the booth, Master Roller Leo Peraza, who has rolled cigars for 53 years, could be seen putting attendees through a crash course in how to roll their own cigar.
A particularly memorable moment occurred at the Saturday night party when famed jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval played an impromptu jam at the Arturo Fuente booth.
Like the Sirens of Greek mythology, Sandoval's brass playing called out, stopping conversations and encouraging an entranced crowd to form around the four-time Grammy winner.
And of course, there was the food.
Andre's Restaurant & Lounge at Monte Carlo, started by Chef Andre Rochat, offered perhaps the most creative sample to attendees: a chocolate cigar.
Charlie Palmer's Aureole was serving
barbecue chicken spring rolls with avocado and sriracha mayonnaise.
Carnevino's Italian Steakhouse, started by Mario Batali, had an excellent pastrami dish with butternut squash, julienned scallions and a roasted vinaigrette.
Emeril Lagasse's Delmonico Steakhouse was plating samples of chicken étouffée, Texas de Brazil offered Brazillian sausage and churrasco, Tao had spicy pork dumplings on hand, while Bruce Becker's Max & Mina's Ice Cream served a cold treat alternative.
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