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Jammin' in Las Vegas

Two Cigar Aficionado editors. Two cigarmakers from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. The game: a smoke-off.
From the Print Edition:
Daniel Craig, November/December 2008

We called it a cigar jam session. It was sort of like when musicians get together and just hang and play music. But instead of guitars, saxophones or some other musical instruments, we had cigars.

It was basically an excuse to sit around, smoke, talk and compare Cuban versus non-Cuban cigars in an informal and friendly atmosphere. Cigar Aficionado senior editor David Savona and I hung out with cigarmakers Litto Gomez of La Flor Dominicana and Jorge Padrón of Padrón Cigars on the veranda of Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare on one hot night in Las Vegas last July during the annual cigar retailers show. It was more reflective than confrontational. In fact, we all had a great time. (We made a video, so you can check it out.)

"This is what the cigar business is all about," said Jorge, as he puffed away on a Cuban Montecristo Petit Edmundo. "You can hang out. You can smoke cigars among friends."

I wish the cigar business was only about that. Granted, I am a journalist and critic, and not part of the cigar business, but I felt like a hard-core cigar merchant after a few days at the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers trade show in Sin City, or Las Vegas as it is officially called.

Just about every major cigar producer outside of Cuba was there, showing its smokes, both new and old. During my three days there, I must have spoken to close to a dozen cigar manufacturers, not to mention retailers and tobacco growers. By the end of the show each day, the floor of the convention center looked like London with fog on a cold and humid winter day. It was smoky to say the least. But the most memorable part of the trip was hanging out with my fellow editor and Litto and Jorge.

There are few things better. Savona said it best: "There's not much that can top talking about the finer things in life" such as the best cigars from Cuba, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

There was some debate on just how "great" some of the cigars really were. I had brought a number of Cuban cigars from London. We had conducted the same exercise about three years ago in New Orleans during the cigar show with Jorge and Litto. And they were not all that enthused with the Habanos. In fact, they had criticized just about everything about the Cuban smokes.

Jorge was not much happier this time around. He found the Montecristo Petit Edmundo too humid, with an imperfect burn and a slightly acidic flavor. "Taste," he said. "It's not a bad taste, but it's not a good taste either. It's a little acidic."

I just shook my head. I love that smoke. I had smoked it most of the summer. But maybe it was a little acidic compared to the juicy, espresso-like smokes of Padrón? Enjoying cigars, just like wines, can be about disagreeing, especially with friends and colleagues. It's just like anything else: politics, sports, women … it's hard to agree who or what is the best when you get a bunch of dudes together.

Savona didn't exactly go for the jugular, but he did point out that Jorge probably didn't smoke a lot of Cubans. And Jorge responded: "We tend to concentrate on our own stuff. Nevertheless, we know what a good cigar, or a great cigar, should taste like." Jorge 1, Savona 0.

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