Part Two: Las Vegas Big Smoke Saturday Seminars

Top Three Cigar Tasting

Tickets for the Las Vegas Big Smoke seminars sold out more than one month before the show began, and a few of the ticket holders were so caught up in the Big Smoke excitement that they lined up long before the doors opened on Saturday morning. Five hundred cigar aficionados poured into the room at the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Their enthusiasm was justified: as they entered the room, they were handed Humidipak bags containing three very special cigars—Cigar Aficionado's three best cigars of 2008.

Gordon Mott, the executive editor of Cigar Aficionado magazine, took to the podium, warmly welcoming the crowd. Then, the lifelong Red Sox fan did something few expected—he donned a navy blue New York Yankees World Series cap and called up José Blanco of La Aurora S.A.

"The New York Yankees are world champions," said Mott, putting his arm around Blanco, a fervent Yankees fan who has long suffered the wrath of Mott at Big Smokes, especially when the Red Sox won in 2004 and 2007. The two smiled, and laughed along with the audience. It was time for the first cigars of the day.

Manuel Quesada describes his Casa Magna, Cigar Aficionado's 2008 Cigar of the Year.

Mott introduced Manuel Quesada, the owner of Manufactura de Tabacos S.A. in the Dominican Republic. Quesada, whom Mott called an icon, was among the first cigarmakers Mott met while touring the Dominican Republic before the first issue of Cigar Aficionado was published. Quesada stepped to the podium as the audience lit his cigar, the No. 1 cigar of the year, the Casa Magna Colorado Robusto.

Quesada wasted no time thanking the Plasencia family of Nicaragua, whose factory makes the cigar. "They gave me the opportunity to come into their family, sit in their factory and start blending for the Casa Magna." Blend after blend was made, until while smoking blend No. 13 someone told Quesada he should add one leaf. "We added it," said Quesada, "and that was it."

A member of the audience lights up the Casa Magna.

The Nicaraguan puro has tobacco from the three major growing areas of the country, Jalapa, Estelí and Condega. The wrapper is from Jalapa, the binder from Estelí and the filler is a mixture of Condega and Estelí tobaccos.

"With Casa Magna we tried to make a cigar that was elegant and subtle—kind of a punch with a velvet glove," said Quesada.

The second cigar of the day was the No. 2 cigar of the year, a masterpiece from Padrón Cigars Inc. called the Padrón Serie 1926 80 Years Maduro. The cigar was made to celebrate the 80th birthday of Padrón founder and patriarch José Orlando Padrón. Speaking for the company was his son Jorge, the president of Padrón.

Jorge Padrón, of Padrón Cigars Inc., describes his family's Padrón Serie 1926 80 Years cigar.

"We are all very fortunate to have people who have come before us to lead by example," said Padrón from the podium. He told a story of how his father turned down an offer of hefty business back in 1964, when his business was in its infancy. A man came by and offered to purchase bundled cigars from Padrón for $25 per bundle—good money in those days. Padrón was curious why the man would pay a premium for the cigars—and for so many. The man answered that he was going to put the cigars in empty counterfeit Montecristo boxes. He needed cigars that looked Cuban.

"My father said 'I don't have a dime to my name, but my name is worth more than that,'" said Jorge Padrón. "That's what this business is all about—tradition and integrity."

Padrón described what makes his cigar special. The perfecto is the only cigar of its shape to be made at Padrón's Nicaraguan factory, and it's made with very old tobacco leaves. "There's only one person who makes that cigar—we take a lot of pride in that," said Padrón. "We have a lot of tobacco in inventory, much, much more than we can use in a five-year period."

Litto Gomez, maker of the No. 3 cigar of the year.

The final cigar of the day was smoked just before lunch. It was the strongest of the three cigars, the Litto Gomez Diez Chisel Puro. Litto Gomez, the maker of the brand, came to the stage.

"I'm very happy to be here, to be presenting the No. 3 cigar of the year," said Gomez, who explained that the tobacco all came from his farm in La Canela, Dominican Republic, and had the unusual distinction that all the tobacco inside was from one harvest, in that case the 2004 crop.

"The blend will change every year," said Gomez.

The seminar allowed the attendees to smoke the three best cigars of the year, as rated by Cigar Aficionado, and to hear the origin and mysteries of the cigars explained by their makers.

Photos by Sjodin Photography

From Seed to Box
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Fighting for your Rights
Cuban Cigars
Boutique Cigar Brands
Lunch with the Fuentes

Charlie Palmer Cooks Breakfast
Roll Your Own Cigar With Team La Gloria
Bourbon Rules!


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