With the Oscar’s coming up and all that hoopla you read about every year about the Oscar gift bag being worth $30,000 or some other ridiculous number, I thought I’d talk about the contents of a gift bag that fellow cigar smokers would be much more interested in: The ProCigar Festival swag bag.
Blue and fat. That seems to be the theme so far surrounding this year’s ProCigar Festival, which officially kicked off Sunday night in the Dominican Republic. I’m here at the Casa de Campo resort enjoying the first leg of the festival. At this point, it’s more like a vacation than a hard-core cigar excursion.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. The weather’s great and the grounds are beautiful, as are the beaches and the restaurants at the marina. And after a few nights in New York with the temperatures in the single digits and the Hudson River full of floating ice, I welcome this sort of getaway.
But getting back to blue and fat. Blue is for the pervasive color this year. It’s the color on all the swag in the goodie bag. Fat is what most of the cigars in the goodie bag are. Is that what people want? I had a talk the other day with Javier Elmudesi, the main factory manager of Tabacalera de Garcia, which turns 50 this year. Have you ever been? The place is massive. And it’s the largest premium cigar factory in the Dominican Republic, perhaps the world. If you’ve never been, go.
Anyway, Elmudesi is in awe of the fat ring gauge trend. Ten years ago, he said, there may have been one cigar with a 60 ring gauge coming out of the factory. Today, he’s making more 60-plus ring gauge cigars than he ever thought the factory would be producing. More than petit coronas, coronas, lanceros and other traditional sizes. Welcome to the new tradition.
Not sure why ProCigar picked blue this year. I always prefer black, but so be it. The goodie bag itself is blue. The Smartex Apparel shirt inside the bag is blue (more sporty than dressy). The Xikar lighter is blue, the butterfly cutter, mostly blue.
And the packaging is full of blue accents. All the cigars come neatly stowed in that very smart-looking box you see in the photo. Do not ignore the packaging. It’s the work of Vrijdag Premium Printing and was made just for the festival to showcase the packaging possibilities and capabilities they offer to the industry. Did you know that the Vrijdag company is nearly 115 years old? Yeah, they print all the fancy Cuban Cohiba bands, but they do a lot of work for Dominican cigar brands too—and they’re not cheap either. But, if you want the best, you have to pay for it.
Don’t underestimate the power of good packaging. It’s all part of the cigar-smoking experience. Good packaging should foreshadow a good cigar and reflect the product overall. Whether you know it or now, the two are connected.
As for the cigars, we have the following:
Fuente Fuente OpusX 20th Anniversary God’s Whisper, which is a 56 ring gauge perfecto. The cigar is casually referred to as Opux Blue because of its striking blue band. That’s what I call it anyway.
Saga Short Tales Tomo VI. That one is made under the supervision of Nirka Reyes at the De Los Reyes cigar factory. It comes in at a plump 58 ring.
A. Flores 1975 Gran Reserva Desflorado Double Magnum. It’s a 6 by 60 and made by Abe Flores at his PDR Cigars factory.
E.P. Carrillo Capa de Sol Piramides No. 5. Funny, how at 5 3/4 by 52, it’s one of the thinner ones.
Same goes for the Montecristo Pilotico Pepe Mendez Toro. It’s a 6 by 52, but I swear it seems fatter. Must be the humidity here. Remember, Pilotico is a proprietary varietal of tobacco only found in this cigar and grown by the Maruschke family. It’s sweet and it’s distinct.
Then there’s the La Flor Dominicana Ligero TCFKA Natural. It has a natural Ecuadoran wrapper with darker accents at the tips. This is a limited-edition perfecto and TCFKA “M” stands for The Cigar Formerly Known As Mysterio. There was a trademark issue with the name Mysterio, so here we are with an even more mysterious name.
The La Aurora Puro Vintage 2007 Edicion Limitada. It didn’t come out in 2007, but has tobacco from a 2007 harvest. It’s a 6 1/2 inch Salomon but measures 60 ring gauge at its thicket point, so another fatty.
Here’s something a bit more manageable: the Davidoff Winston Churchill Limited Edition 2019. It’s a 5 by 50 robusto and came out last month.
But wait. What have we here? Is this actually a Churchill? It is! A La Galera Habano Churchill and it’s a classic 7 by 47. Beautiful.
Is it too much to hope for another Churchill? By Jove, it isn’t! The Partagas Heritage Churchill comes in at 7 by 49 and wears a stunningly dark and oily wrapper.
The eleventh cigar is a shocker. Here’s the cigar that defies trends: the Quesada 1974 Corona at 6 by 43. It’s like we went back in time to…well…1974. The new brand commemorates the company’s first year in business.
I’ll take any one of these cigars over a $1,000 pair of Gucci sunglasses any day.