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2012 Big Smoke Sunday Seminars—Top Three Cigars of 2011 Tasting

Gregory Mottola
Posted: November 13, 2012

Like an ancient Roman holiday, every November beckons to cigar smokers around the nation to leave work, vacate their homes, take a break from their normal daily routines and come to Cigar Aficionado's Big Smoke Las Vegas in the middle of the desert. It's a cigar-smoking affair that spans over three days and this year, it landed at The Mirage Hotel and Casino.

Guests of the Big Smoke enjoy a spectacular evening of three hours where all have license to sip, puff and eat freely. But there is an educational component as well. While the Big Smoke showroom evenings are legendary affairs and tend to get all the press, the mornings and afternoons are filled with cigar seminars that are the perfect balance of the academic and the recreational.

This year, Saturday morning was a virtual institution of cigar luminaries ranging from the veterans who have set industry standards, to the edgy, newer cigar makers who are taking the cigar world into uncharted territory.

The sold-out crowd filed eagerly into the Mirage ballroom. Although the event didn't start until 9 a.m., Big Smoke attendees were lined up as early as 7:45 having mini-tailgate parties. By 8:30 the line stretched the expanse of the convention center, passed the rotunda, passed the theater, passed other conferences in other ballrooms.

Dion Giolito talked about his No.3 cigar of the year, Illusione Epernay Le Taureau.
Dion Giolito talked about his No. 3 cigar of the year, Illusione Epernay Le Taureau.
Once they came in, each was handed a packet of exceptional cigars, including Cigar Aficionado's top three cigars of 2011. This included No.1: The Alec Bradley Prensado Churchill, which has been nearly impossible to find once it was announced as the Cigar of the Year. No. 2; The La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Belicoso, which is owned and distributed by Ashton, yet made in Nicaragua at the My Father Cigars factory; and No. 3: the Illusione Epernay Le Taureau, a box-pressed smoke made in Honduras. But there were also three more cigars, each with their own stories and unique flavor profiles. There was the Casa Fernandez Aganorsa Leaf Maduro, the Plasencia Organica Robusto and a special size of Joya de Nicaragua's CyB made especially for the event. Some lit up immediately. Others just looked at their bag, admiring cigars that have become very difficult to come by.

Executive editor Gordon Mott addressed the crowd. "It was 20 years ago that we had this crazy idea about starting a cigar magazine," Mott said. "We went to the Dominican Republic and asked everyone in the industry what they thought. And they all thought we were nuts. But many in the industry also thought that the business was dying. Now, 20 years later, after a cigar renaissance that we never anticipated, we're still here, and we owe it all to you."

The lights went dark and a retrospective video ran, chronicling 20 years of Cigar Aficionado with both funny and heartfelt video clips of the magazine and its editorial coverage of the cigar world.

Mott then passed the microphone to Cigar Aficionado's senior editor David Savona who introduced the No. 3 cigar of the year and its maker.

"Dion Giolito is very picky about his tobacco," Savona said. "When Cigar Insider rated the original Illusione brand, it was one of the highest verticals we've ever scored. Then he came out with Epernay, which is an elegant box-pressed cigar loaded with flavor."

Giolito, who started as a cigar-shop owner in Reno Nevada (and still is) took the podium, telling the audience about making a cigar and how he came about the Epernay blend.


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