As the audience clipped the pointed head off their second anniversary cigars of the morning, Cigar Aficionado executive editor Gordon Mott returned to the podium to announce the seminar on New Cuban Cigars and introduce the man who would lead the presentation: European editor James Suckling.
"I've said it before -- James has the job we all want," Mott said with a smile, as Suckling made his way to the dais. Mott then ticked off the enviable topics that Suckling covers for Cigar Aficionado and Wine Spectator magazines: vintage Port, Bordeaux, Italian wines and, of course, Cuban cigars.
|An audience member watches Suckling's PowerPoint presentation.|
All joking aside, it takes a great many miles traveled, a large dose of patience and dogged persistence to procure the information Suckling finds on his regular visits to Cuba. He goes there several times a year to get the latest information on Cuban cigars, and he arrived in Las Vegas (after traveling some 8,000 miles) armed with photos of many of Havana's latest cigars.
|A photo from Suckling's presentation: Cohiba Behikes waiting to be boxed.|
Suckling showed a photograph of the finished box, a masterpiece created by renowned humidor designer Elie Bleu. The lid is accented in stingray skin and the inside lid bears a plaque that is inscribed with its owner's name. The cigars inside are as fat as the Cohiba Siglo VI, yet are finished with pigtail caps.
"The word is no one has smoked one," said Suckling, "but I've had three." He credited friends in Havana for the taste.
Suckling showed a slide depicting a cigar roller named Norma, a roller from El Laguito who personally created each of the 4,000 Behikes. "She was the personal cigar roller of Fidel Castro back when he smoked," said the good-humored Suckling, adding that Norma would guard the tobacco and cigars herself so that the CIA couldn't replace one with an exploding robusto, as was rumored to have been attempted in the 1960s.
|Suckling opened the floor to questions late in the seminar.|
Suckling then opened the floor to questions, and there were many. He listed his desert-island cigars (one was a Siglo VI), offered aging advice on Cubans and scoffed at the notion that some non-Cuban cigarmakers are releasing new cigars made with genuine pre-embargo Cuban tobacco. He warned the audience to beware of such offers. "I have a Rolex Submariner that I can sell you for $50," he said.
Photos by Camilla Sjodin
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