I flew into New Orleans Monday afternoon for the start of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers show, also known as the IPCPR.
Today was all about getting into town, getting settled, and getting ready for a busy week. The long taxi ride from the airport showcased the typical New Orleans summer weather. I was treated to a spectacular lightning display as bolts of white thundered down from the heavy, charcoal gray clouds covering the city, followed by a hearty southern rainstorm.
I checked into the Windsor Court hotel, and before too long the storm abated, and I met up with executive editor Gordon Mott and the rest of the crew from Cigar Aficionado for a smoke and a pre-dinner cocktail. New Orleans, alas, has gone the way of most American cities, and smoking is a largely outdoor activity here. Here that means smoking on a terrace, so we pushed aside the sodden cushions and hunkered down for a cold drink (Abita Amber in my case, a great local brew) and a fine cigar.
I’ll be smoking new cigars all week, so I started with something I knew well to calibrate the old palate, a My Father No. 1, our No. 3 cigar of 2009. It was rich, hearty and balanced, with a fine amount of sweetness. I love that cigar. We were soon joined by Tim Ozgener, Jon Huber and Mike Conder from C.A.O. International Inc.
They were toting the new C.A.O. La Traviata Maduro, which I had tried before, and I tucked one into my shirt pocket for later. (IPCPR strategy: never walk around in shirts without pockets, or without a bag, because you will inevitably run out of space for your cigars.)
The show begins in full Tuesday morning, and I’m eager to see the retailer turnout. This show is always held in the middle of summer, and whenever the site is hot and humid, subject to hurricanes, tough to get to, or not Las Vegas, people fear the retailers who are here to buy might stay away. I’ve heard a good crowd is expected—I certainly hope that’s true. We’ll see tomorrow.
New Orleans is a food city, and we began our trip with a delicious meal at August, a restaurant located only steps from the hotel. We ate with Litto and Ines-Lorenzo Gomez of La Flor Dominicana and Jorge and Mary Padrón of Padrón Cigars. The meal was exquisite: pork belly, lemon fish, long-cooked ribeye that worked oh-so well. August is truly a find here in New Orleans. The restaurant was filled with cigar industry folk, including a crew from Graycliff Cigars; folks from General Cigar; and Matt Krimm and John Anderson from W. Curtis Draper Tobacconist in Washington, D.C. (those guys like to eat well, bumping into them in a restaurant is a very good thing).
With our bellies stuffed, we headed back to the hotel for more cigars, this time Padrón Family Reserve No. 45 Maduros, Cigar Aficionado’s Cigar of the Year. I paired mine with a Macallan 18 single-malt Scotch. I could have stayed on the terrace smoking into the true wee hours, but tomorrow is going to be a very busy day. Time to get a little rest and prepare for the big work coming ahead.