Cigar Aficionado

New Cigars From TAA

I’m on my way back from the annual Tobacconist Association of America conference, which was held in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The TAA, as it’s known, is a small group of American cigar shop owners and many cigarmakers. They gather annually to discuss important issues facing the cigar industry and to do a little business. I look upon it as a much smaller, more social version of what used to be called the RTDA show.

Traditionally cigarmakers release their new wares at the summer trade show, but many are uncorking new items now. Four years ago, the TAA would have been a lousy place to do that, because there just weren’t that many retailers at the show. That’s changed. This year’s show was busy and vibrant, and at the mini-trade show that took place Wednesday one cigarmaker said with a smile “this is the first time this show has had more retailers than manufacturers.” That’s a good thing. A once sleepy show has turned into a serious gathering.

I tried two of the new cigars at dinners. The first I smoked after dinner in downtown Puerto Vallarta at Café des Artistes, an ultra-fancy restaurant with wonderful food. I ate with the folks from Altadis U.S.A. Inc., and we did a version of a tasting menu. The standout dishes for me were the sea scallops in a seafood broth, and the local sea bass done with some hollandaise. We’re right on the Pacific Ocean here, so I’ve taken advantage of the fresh fish.

Café des Artistes has a posh, small smoking room, replete with leather chairs and a selection of Cognac that would make Jack Bettridge drool. The room is operated by Gerald Cohen, who runs the local La Casa del Habano, so it was full of legit Cuban cigars. We took a look, but the restaurant owners bent their rules and let us light up right at the table.

Jim Colucci handed me a dark robusto, and asked my opinion. It was great—verging on a full body, with lots of wood, smoky meat and earthy notes. As we talked, I found myself going back to it often. It’s a cigar that will come out at RTDA (I have a hard time calling it by its new name, ICCPR). He said it would be called Cuevo y Sobrinos, and it has a wrapper grown from Cuban seed in Ecuador. Real nice stuff.

The second new cigar I smoked and enjoyed was the Rocky Patel Summer Blend, in Churchill size, which I smoked last night at a great casual restaurant called Agave Grill. This was a typical Rocky meal—we were supposed to arrive at about 9, so we arrived at about 10, and a party of two or four turned into a table of about 16. The food was authentic Mexican, and very good, from the fresh salsa prepared tableside to the red snapper done in garlic and olive oil or with hearty Mexican spices. Combined with a little tequila, it was a blast.

The Rocky Patel Summer blend was a bright, medium-bodied plus cigar with a very pleasant flavor and a nice finish. It was rich and very pleasant.

In the old days, you usually had to wait until summer for new smokes, but now there’s a mini-wave of new cigars each spring. I think it’s a good thing—what about you?

"Dave: Nice trip, I will have to take some time and visit Puerto Vallarta. I just got back from my birthday getaway held in Cancun, Mexico. I stayed at the Grand Oasis Cancun, and it had a great cigar bar & lounge. I also visited La Casa del Habano en Cancun to have some excellent mojitos, along with authentic Cuban rum and cigars. I have great pictures of the sunset while sitting on the wooden balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico while smoking a Montecristo petit Edmundo and sipping on a delicious Cuban mojito. Then enjoying a Cohiba Maduro 5 (magico), while slowly drinking a Havana Club gran reserve rum - Great birthday celebration!" —April 7, 2008 13:50 PM
"Thanks for the update David. I look foward to trying that Rocky Patel." —April 5, 2008 16:11 PM
"I still can't get it right. " —April 3, 2008 21:18 PM
"..... that is.... IPCPR, IPCPR, IPCPR, IPCPR ... International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association... say that three times fast and you deserve any cigar you want." —April 3, 2008 17:45 PM