Cigar Aficionado

Great Start To Whatever It Is

We had a warm up dinner for the cigar show in Las Vegas at Bouchon Restaurant in the Venetian. There were about two dozen cigar producers standing out on the terrace of the restaurant. Obviously, we couldn¹t smoke in the restaurant. So thank God it was not boiling hot. We sat down to a three-course dinner and smoked, drank and talked.

I was really stoked to be hanging out with some of the new and old legends of cigars from Manuel Quesada to Jose Blanco to Jaime Garcia. They were all handing out cigars like Starbucks hands out lattes. I didn't know what to smoke first. Blanco, who as you know works for Aurora, handed me a small panetela or short lanceros-sized smoke. He said it was special. But the cigar had an Aurora 100 Años band on it.

That little bitch of a cigar blew me away. It was rich and flavorful yet balanced and fresh. It was so long on the finish and clean. It had an almost menthol-like finish too it. Cool and hip. 91 points in my book. Blanco said it was an experiment with Cuban tobacco (obviously they can't sell it in the states!). They replaced the normal 100 Años wrapper with one from Pinar del Río. Bastards! If only they could do it all the time, I told Jose.

Anyway, it was an awesome way to start the RTDA. I mean IPCPR. That stands for International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers. Come on. Apparently they changed it from Retail Tobacco Dealers of America because they didn't want "tobacco" to be in the name. Or maybe it was the word "dealers?"

I tried a number of other smokes including Fonseca Cubano Viso Fuerte, Oliva Serie V, GAR Corona Gorda, and a Rocky Patel Summer Collection. They were all outstanding smokes. 90 points plus. The best of that group, however, was the Oliva Serie V. It was so balanced and refined with a creamy, cappuccino, coffee and tobacco character. I loved it. 92 points. Get this 5-inch by 59-ring gauge smoke and see for yourself.

The dinner conversation was mostly about Cuba. I GUESS I BRING THAT OUT IN CIGAR PRODUCERS! I kept my mouth shut and just listened. I didn't want to get thrown in the nearby swimming pool! Jose "Pepin" Garcia and his son Jaime Garcia were the most passionate. They just left the island in 2000. They are making fab smokes at the moment, especially for my buddy Pete Johnson. Jose says that the Cubans use a lot of tobacco from Las Villas area in their top cigars, but I am not convinced. I decided I didn't want to argue it. What do I know anyway? It's nice to hide behind a cigar!!

But it was a great start to the show. Hell. I would have come just for the dinner.