Back by popular demand, Cigar Aficionado's 17th Night to Remember resumed its fund-raising efforts for a prostate cancer cure, collecting a record $1.8 million. The event, which had skipped the past two years, did not miss a beat in its traditional glamour, elegant drinking and dining and profusion of fine premium cigars at the renowned Four Seasons restaurant in New York City.
The festivities included an auction dinner with bidding for 12 luxury lots and a briefing by Michael Milken, founder and Chairman of the Prostate Cancer Foundation, on the many advances made in 2010, in part because of money donated at past Nights to Remember. He called it the most productive year ever in the fight against the disease.
The Night to Remember, hosted by Cigar Aficionado editor and publisher Marvin R. Shanken, started with a cocktail party in the Four Season's Grill Room, where guests were treated to a selection of donated cigars, including A. Turrent, Alec Bradley, Arturo Fuente, Ashton, Brick House, Camacho, Davidoff, Diamond Crown, E.P. Carrillo, Hammer + Sickle, Hoyo de Monterrey, La Aroma de Cuba, La Flor Dominicana, Romeo y Julieta, Rocky Patel, Macanudo, San Lotano, Tatuaje and My Father Cigars. Moët & Chandon Brut Champagne Impérial NV was served as the featured wine of the pre-dinner party.
Shanken called the event to order in the modernist Pool Room and the fundraising began in earnest. The first order of business was to hold up a sign announcing that this was one of the few events in New York City at which smoking would be allowed. To emphasize the point, diners were presented a pack of cigars that included Benji Menendez Partagas Master Series Majestuoso, Fuente Fuente OpusX No. 77 Shark and a Padrón Family Reserve No. 45 maduro, Cigar Aficionado's 2009 Cigar of the Year, and also a black and gold Colibri cutter, emblazoned with the words "2011 Night to Remember."
Even before the auctioning of the 12 lots began, the dinner kicked off to a momentous start when Pierluigi Tolaini, who owns a Canadian trucking company, donated a check for $1 million to the delight of Shanken and Milken. Tolaini is a former sufferer of the disease who is now cancer-free.
Four extraordinary wines were auctioned off before the dinner. Jamie Coulter, former head of the Lone Star restaurants group, took the first bottle, a 1929 Château Haut-Brion, for $15,000. The second, a 1959 Château Haut-Brion, went to Pete Johnson of Tatujae Cigars for $18,000. Milken himself scored a magnum of 1989 Lafite Rothschild for $18,000. The final wine, a 1961 Lafite Rothschild was won by Robert Levin, creator of the Ashton brands and president of Ashton Distributors Inc., for $22,000.
Dinner was then served. The menu comprised Four Season's seafood Risotto paired with M. Chapoutier Hermitage White Chante-Alouette 2006, double sirloin of beef with 2005 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Special Selection and chocolate ganache with Graham 1977 Vintage Port.
When the main auction began, a five-day vacation at the Palm Beach Breakers with golf and Ashton cigars was snapped up by Levin himself for $16,000. The second lot, a trip to Honduras for a personal tour of Rocky Patel's cigarmaking factory, with 100 cigars included, also went for $16,000, this time to Coulter. A classic wine collection from Zachy's wine store, of Scarsdale, New York, included 12 wines rated between 95 and 100 points (four of them scoring perfectly) in Wine Spectator. Michael Gelband, of Millenium Management, took them home for $40,000.
Perez-Carrillo donated a special humidor filled with 300 limited-edition smokes that were bought by Jimmy John Liautaud, founder of Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches, for $18,000. Liautaud also took the next lot, a bottle of 40-year-old Glenfiddich single-malt Scotch, for $8,000.
The next prize, an evening of food and drink, with 340 cigars, at New York's Club Macanudo, donated by General Cigar Co., proved so popular that two lots were created on the spot at the request of auctioneer Shanken. The private receptions went to attorney Doug Wood and Coulter for $50,000 each.
While the auction took a break for dining, the crowd was treated to humorous banter from former NBA star John Salley, a regular at Night to Remember events. Television journalist and author Jeff Greenfield also took the stage to praise the joys of a good cigar and the serenity it offers. "You really can't 'tweet' when you're a smoking cigar," he said, referring to Twitter, the popular social networking website. "It's a nice simple pleasure."
The bidding renewed with a bottle of Gold Bowmore single-malt Scotch, a 44-year-old whisky that has achieved cult status. Liautaud also bought that lot for $8,000. A total of 564 of the highly sought-after Fuente Fuente OpusX cigars, including the OpusX Double Corona, Cigar Aficionado's 2005 Cigar of the Year, filled out the next lot, which was won by Patel for $24,000.
Keeping with the cigar theme, the next lot included 700 La Flor Dominicana cigars, composed of seven editions that made Cigar Aficionado's Top 25 list, including Nos. 2, 3 and 4 cigars.
Lee Einsidler, of Sidney Frank Importing, got that one for $14,000. Padrón donated 600 cigars made up of three different Cigars of the Year as well as smokes to be custom-made at the winner's behest. Coulter won the right to design those cigars for $25,000.
A trip to Scotland as the guest of Glenmorangie was the centerpiece of the next lot, which included a distillery tour, golf and a liter of the just released Glenmorangie Pride 1981, a 28-year-old whisky finished in Château d'Yquem casks. Keith Frankel, of Vitaquest International, bought it for $38,000.
The final lot was Marvin's Mystery Box, another tradition of the event. This year if included a humidor custom-made for Marvin by Elie Bleu founder Alain Berda of Paris in 1995. Coulter again led the bidding and took the prize for $160,000.
As dinner concluded, waiters passed out the dinner cigars, contained in bags supplied by Humidipak. The trio consisted of the Benji Menendez Master Series Partagas Majestuoso, a Fuente Fuente OpusX No. 77 Shark, and a Padrón Family Reserve No. 45 maduro.
Many of the diners made up a virtual Who's Who of the cigar industry, including Peter Baenninger of Davidoff, Dan Carr, Benji Menendez, Michael Giannini and Sherwin Seltzer of General Cigar Co., Fernando Dominguez, Javier Estades, Jim Colucci and Janelle Rosenfeld of Altadis, Christian Eiroa of Camacho, Cythnia Fuente of Arturo Fuente, Janny Garcia of My Father Cigars, Ines and Litto Gomez of La Flor Dominicana, Eric Hanson of Hammer + Sickle, Sathya Levin and Manny Ferraro of Ashton, Les Mann of Colibri, Eric Newman of J.C. Newman, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo III from E.P.C. Cigar Co., Jorge Padrón of Padrón, Bill Paley of La Palina, Alan Rubin and Ralph Montero of Alec Bradley, Stan Shuster of the Grand Havana Room, and Alejandro Turrent of Te-Amo cigars.