If you're a sports fan, you know the collective endorphin rush that comes from being part of a huge audience when the home team wins a major victory. There is an undeniable energy that builds and peaks with the crowd's enthusiasm. For cigar smokers, the Cigar Aficionado Big Smoke is like the Super Bowl, the World Series and a heavyweight boxing title fight all rolled up into one weekend -- but in this case there are no losers.
The 12th annual Las Vegas Big Smoke was held this weekend at the lavish Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino, a palatial destination grandiose enough for the largest good-life gathering in the country. Hours before the first Big Smoke evening on Friday, one could tell by strolling the marble corridors of the Venetian that a cigar event was imminent. As early as noon, it would not have been odd to see Jorge Padrón, Carlos Fuente Jr. or perhaps Rocky Patel circulating through the hotel. Nor would it be odd to see groups of people holding cigars by the fistful, longer-than-usual lines at the Davidoff shops within the hotel, or unlit cigars in people's mouths.
|Rudolph W. Giuliani with Marvin R. Shanken on the event floor.|
When the doors opened at 6:30 p.m. and people began entering the huge room, it was as if they had jumped right onto the pages of Cigar Aficionado magazine.
|Eager attendees show their evening session passes before heading inside.|
Presidential hopeful Rudolph W. Giuliani, a longtime cigar lover who once appeared on the cover of Cigar Aficionado magazine, was among the attendees striding the floor. He walked with Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher of Cigar Aficionado, meeting many of the cigarmakers in attendance.
Ten-year smoking veteran Michael Mehringer of Los Angeles has been coming to Las Vegas Big Smokes for three years, but this is the first time he brought along a lady. Usually a guys' weekend, this time he decided to expose his fiancée, Andrea Chen, to the world of premium cigars.
|Michael Mehringer of Los Angeles with his fiancé Andrea Chen.|
Most patrons chose to go straight for the cigars, eager to meet the personalities behind the tobacco, as much of the premium cigar industry was present to fill their canvas bags. Attendees received cigars from Arganese, Arturo Fuente, Ashton, Aurora 1495, Bolivar, C.A.O., Carlos Toraño, Challenger by Alec Bradley, Cuba Aliados, Cuesta-Rey, Cusano, Cuvée, Dom Rey, Don Tomas, El Rico Habano, Flavours by C.A.O., Helix, Hoyo de Monterrey, La Aroma de Cuba, La Caya, La Flor Dominicana, La Gloria Cubana, Maxx, Oliva Serie G, Padilla, Padrón, Pioneer Valley Especiales, Rocky Patel Premium, Te-Amo World Selection, Zino Classic and Zino Platinum. Many of the cigars were handed out by the brand owners themselves, and people lined up for a handshake and for autographs.
Click image to watch a video!
Click image to watch a video!
Aaron brothers Christopher and Thomas from Los Angeles have been showing up to the Big Smoke for seven years now. This time they brought along their cousin, Damon Mack, to show him what this cigar weekend is all about.
"It started as a brothers' night out," said Christopher Aaron, "but it came to the point where we've gotten up to 40 people to come out with us."
Dean Zarbaugh from LeGrange, Ohio, has been to six Big Smokes, and now that his son, Dean the second, is 21, they can both enjoy the smoking and drinking.
"No matter how much you think you know about cigars, you always learn something new," said the elder Zarbaugh.
|Jeff Marks, Joe Hernandez, Isaac Ysais and Jason Hernandez at the Cigar Aficionado booth.|
By the time that most of the cigar smokers had finally decided against hijacking the Corvette, filling it with cigars and dancers, and making for the Mexican border, the night ended. So much sensory stimulation makes three hours pass like three minutes. The only consolation is that you are leaving with a bag full of cigars and enough memories to last until the next Big Smoke.
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