Last Saturday night, about 200 well-dressed souls embarked on The Standard High Line hotel in New York's Meatpacking District for Cigar Aficionado's Cigar & Spirits night, where they enjoyed fine smokes and an array of premium spirits.
The crowd sampled premium Bourbons, ryes, vodkas and beer from a variety of producers. Heaven Hill Distilleries poured, among other spirits, Bourbons Evan Williams Single Barrel, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, Henry McKenna Single Barrel, Larceny, and two ryes: Rittenhouse and the new Pikesville. Four Roses Distillery was sampling it's Small Batch, Single Barrel and Yellow Label Bourbons, while Beam Suntory offered guests Maker's Mark, Hibiki and Knob Creek, along with Pinnacle vodka and Hornitos Black Barrel Tequila. Constellation Brands rounded out the premium alcohol offerings with Svedka vodka and Negra Modelo beer.
The point of the event was to not only enjoy premium spirits, but pair them with cigars, something we at Cigar Aficionado know well. While there was no smoking inside the third-floor ballroom where the drinks and smokes were being passed out, a balcony with plenty of outdoor seating was made available. Unfortunately, the night was a bit gusty and more on the chilly side, but guests still ventured outside to light up.
On hand was Bill Paley of La Palina Cigars, passing out his newly blended Pasha, a 7 inch by 50 ring gauge cigar that originally hailed from in The Bahamas but is now rolled in Miami's El Titan de Bronze factory. The new Pasha showcases about a half-inch of exposed filler tobacco on the end (Paley calls it a brushed-foot), which gives the smoker a chance to taste the Nicaraguan filler tobaccos before the burn hits the Ecuadoran wrapper. It's a very good smoke and a good choice for new and casual smokers because the exposed foot allows one to taste how a wrapper imparts flavor to a blend.
Rafael Nodal, who owns Boutique Blend Cigars and makes the Aging Room and Swag cigar brands, was also at the event, handing out the ConcertoS vitola from his Aging Room Quattro F55 line. (It's longer brother, the F55 Concerto, was named Cigar Aficionado's No. 2 cigar of 2013.) Draped in an Indonesian Sumatra wrapper, the ConcertoS is balanced and flavorful, offering notes of nutmeg, cedar and coffee bean. I lit one up and found it paired well with the vanilla and baking spices found in the Pikesville rye.
Altadis U.S.A (or should I say Tabacalera USA now?) also had a table at the event where they passed out a lighter cigar, the new Montecristo White Vintage Connecticut. Given that many of the guests were inexperienced cigar smokers, I thought this cigar was a smart choice in that it's approachable, consistent, and still pairs well with a beverage.
There was a lovely flow to the event, as partygoers would smoke, drink and converse on the balcony before heading back inside to refill and try another beverage with their cigar. Smoke, drink, talk, refill, and repeat. While it's a challenge to taste the nuances of a cigar in the outdoors, it was nice to see a little wind and cold didn't stop people from trying. I guess it must be that New York toughness I've heard so much about.