Cigar Aficionado

Derby Day

Memorial Day might be the traditional kickoff for outdoor activities for most people in America, but the Kentucky Derby is my personal clarion call to spring. That’s because our good friends Jay and Tammy throw a killer Kentucky Derby party, a wonderful affair with southern food, great music and cold, sweet Makers Mark mint juleps.

Saturday was a gorgeous afternoon, one made all the more precious by the ominous forecast (rain) and the cloudy, drizzly sky we all woke to. But by the three p.m. party start time, the sun had broken through the sky.

My wife and all the ladies came dressed in their Derby finest, with wide brimmed hats and festive dresses. Most of the men were in jackets; my buddy Russ even broke out the seersucker just for this occasion, and my pal Tim had a bright green tie that would have looked appropriate even in the infield at Churchill Downs. I went with a Cuban theme, breaking out a white guayabera (with a front pocket loaded with cigars) and a straw hat.

The cigars in my shirt were for me (long party—can’t run out of smokes) and I brought several boxes of goodies for the crowd. I had some A. Turrent 6 Generations and J. Fuegos for those looking for a medium-bodied smoke, and for those who wanted a more powerful cigar I had Rocky Patel Winter Blends and Alec Bradley Tempus Creos.

Jay and Tammy live on a cul-de-sac, and that quickly became party central—everyone wanted a taste of the sweet, spring breeze. By four, the cul-de-sac was full of guests dressed in their finest, many of them puffing on cigars and enjoying the great weather and the fine food, especially the biscuits with southern ham.

We had an auction for the Derby (which raised money for a great cause, the Tommy Foundation for pediatric cancer research), and piled into Jay’s basement bar to watch the most exciting race I have seen in a long time, with Mine That Bird (a 50-to-1 longshot!) darting from the inside and screaming to the finish line. Wish I could say I had a bet on him!

The party went well into the night. I had a few sips of Makers, filled my belly with biscuits and chicken, and had more than my fair share of cigars. Not a bad way to start the season.

"Great post! Your party sounds similar to ones I attended in Nashville--good friends, lots of Makers, and even more cigars. I'm interested to know what you were smoking that day. When I'm at parties like the one described I find that I can't dedicate enough of my attention to the cigars. I always feel guilty about smoking something special and not giving it the attention it deserves. Do you find the same to be true for you? Keep up the great posts!" —May 7, 2009 17:27 PM
"Thanks Brian. Personally I started off with a Padron 3000 at my friend Mark's house (before the party), then lit up a Fuente Fuente OpusX PerfecXion No. 2 upon my arrival, and finished with one of the Alec Bradley Tempus Creos. I understand your concern with smoking great cigars in a chaotic environment--you definitely don't get all the nuances, especially outdoors. But on the other hand, when I'm surrounded by great friends and my lovely wife (who shared the Opus with me) I find that enhances the cigar smoking experience. So while a party such as the Derby party isn't the ideal lab smoking situation, the added benefits of being in a great setting, surrounded by loved ones, makes up for whatever you lose. Smoke the good stuff at great parties. Cheers." —May 7, 2009 18:09 PM