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2011 Big Smoke Evenings, Las Vegas

Andrew Nagy
Posted: November 1, 2011

The doors to the Venetian Palazzo Ballroom opened and the throng of eager cigar enthusiasts who had lined up early cheered as they swarmed into the Friday night evening party, kicking off Cigar Aficionado’s 16th annual Big Smoke Las Vegas weekend.

For the first time ever, the largest cigar celebration in the world coincided with Halloween, so it was fitting to see thousands of smokers asking for and receiving premium cigars from more than 30 cigar brand booths. Call it trick or treating, Big Smoke style.

There were two nights of Big Smokes, Friday and Saturday held in the Venetian Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. While there weren’t many costumed attendees, there were some. Among the more creative was two men sporting fake mustaches and bushy eyebrows, a la legendary cigarman Groucho Marx. A couple opted to channel the 1930s, the man dressed in a bright red gangster suit while his date looked swell in a black flapper dress with matching boa. Two men in kilts had also affixed some very real-looking devil horns to their foreheads.

With canvas bags in one hand and cigar booklets in the other, attendees rushed to get their fill of smokes. Like recent Big Smokes, the line for Rocky Patel was perhaps the longest on both nights, the prize for patience a bag of goodies that included his Sun Grown cigar or the 1961 blend.

Not to be outdone was the Alec Bradley booth. Manned by brand owner Alan Rubin, the team at Alec Bradley not only gave out the new Black Market cigar, but also samples of The Dalmore Cigar Malt whiskey, their new co-branding partner. In addition, Rubin collected names for a raffle to be held after the Big Smoke New York that includes two grand prize winners who will receive a year’s worth of Alec Bradley cigars and a year’s worth of The Dalmore whiskey.

Trumpeter Arturo Sandoval playing at Cigar Aficionado's Big Smoke.
Trumpeter Arturo Sandoval delighted the masses with his rendition of God Bless America.
Carlos Fuente Jr. led the Fuente crew at the Arturo Fuente booth, which also featured the trumpet of Arturo Sandoval. The Room 101 booth, decorated in the style of a hotel room trashed by an angry rock star, was manned by ambassador Matt Booth, seen giving out cigars. Litto Gomez passed out samples of his La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero Churchill Especial; Manuel Quesada gave out his famed Casa Magna; Pete Johnson handed out La Riqueza smokes; Rafael Nodal oversaw the distribution of his Oliveros’ Swag and Barrel Aged lines; Eduadro Fernandez gave out Miami-made Casa Fernandez smokes; Mike Giannini was one of many on hand at the General Cigar booths, which included Macanudo, Partagas, Hoyo de Monterrey and C.A.O. OSA Sols; Eric and Bobby Newman handed out Diamond Crowns; Janny Garcia manned the La Reloba booth; A.J. Fernandez was on hand with his new San Lotano Ovals; Altadis was passing out Vega Finas and H. Upmanns; J.T. Guagliardo manned the Cusano booth; and there were also booths for Ashton, La Aroma de Cuba, Oliva Serie O, Padrón, Studio Tobac, Villiger and Zino.

Master Roller Leo Peraza of Team La Gloria continued his Big Smoke tradition of putting attendees through a cigar rolling crash course at the La Gloria Cubana booth, which also doubled as a nice seating area. The Davidoff lounge provided a seating area as well, and Casa Fuente again offered an impressive smoking lounge setup, complete with a bar serving Gentleman Jack and Old No. 7. One attendee named Dennis Burke, who hails from Minnetonka, Minnesota, was seen enjoying himself there and wearing a retro CCCP hockey jersey.

“I played goalie, so that’s why I have the Tretiak jersey,” Burke said, referring to Russian goalie Vladislav Tretiak, the man who was in net for the famous “Miracle on Ice” Olympic hockey game. Burke said it was his 13th time attending the Big Smoke in Sin City.

Geena and Scott Cooper enjoying a Crystal Head vodka martini at Cigar Aficionado's Big Smoke.
Geena and Scott Cooper enjoying a Crystal Head vodka martini.
To keep attendees palates’ fresh, more than a dozen adult beverage makers manned booths and poured away.

Scotch whisky Glenmorangie was distributing four expressions, as was Canadian whiskey Crown Royal; tequila brand Patrón served and offered attendees the chance to get their picture taken with spokesmodels. Appleton, Zacapa, Zaya and Don Q poured rum samples for all who came while vodka distillers Crystal Head (with a bar made of ice) and Ultimat rounded out the spirits being given away. Caymus Vineyards poured its nontraditional Conundrum white wine as well as its new red, while Sledgehammer Wines provided a red as well. Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale provided beer.

This year, event-goers could also find seating at the Chevrolet booth, which showed off its Chevy Volt car. Next to the all-electric car was a charging station the company had set up for those who needed to recharge their electronic devices.

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Comments   1 comment(s)

John Gersic — Frisco, Texas, USA,  —  November 1, 2011 9:41pm ET

My wife and I have been coming to Big smokes since 1998 - our first being in DC but nothing ever compares to the Vegas events which we have made an annual event.

This year's (we went Friday evening) was excellent, there was more seating than year's past and the food and beverage was excellent. We spoke with the couple dressed in red that you talk about - he was a professional hat maker and was quite interesting to talk to - but that goes without saying. You meet people from all walks of life and different backgrounds - that is one of the best aspects of the event - different people who all mix for the night because of a common love of cigars!

Our only recommendation (actually my wife's and wish I thought of it) was to have the cigar booths in sequential order. It would make finding the booths easy as well as knowing "which number!" a particular booth is, but that is a minor issue and for some the hunt may be just as much fun!

Great event, I hope that both the economy and the "powers that be" allow this great tradition to continue.

To others, if you are not in the CRA, join and help protect events like these in the future!

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