It was a long time coming. After two years of waiting, the Big Smoke finally returned to Las Vegas on November 5 and 6. Cigar aficionados from all around the country and the globe gathered for the ultimate celebration of handmade cigars. And, of course, the high spirits came with a range of fine beverages.
The smoke-filled event spanned the course of two days. It all began on Friday as cigar enthusiasts rolled into The Mirage hotel on the Las Vegas Strip throughout the day. You could tell who was there for the event as people were smoking cigars all over the casino floor and at lounges, exchanging stories as well as cigars.
When the Friday night event began, people lined up eagerly outside the doors of the convention center. Every attendee held their Cigar Aficionado tote bags, ready to collect more than 20 premium cigars, many handed to them directly by their favorite cigarmakers. When the doors opened, the crowd (led by those who had purchased VIP tickets, allowing them into the show an hour earlier) made their way around the spacious floor as they talked to the personalities behind some of their favorite products and smoked some incredible cigars. It was like being within the biggest humidor in existence.
The cigar brands handed out consisted of Aging Room, Alec & Bradley Gatekeeper, Arturo Fuente, Cohiba, Diesel, E.P. Carrillo, El Septimo, Epic, H. Upmann, Hamlet, Illusione, J.C. Newman, La Aroma de Cuba, La Aurora, La Flor Dominicana, La Palina, Montecristo, My Father, Nat Cicco, Nub, Oliva, Padrón, Plasencia, Rocky Patel, Romeo y Julieta and Tatuaje.
Dispersed amongst the cigar stands were the spirits and other beverages to pair with them. Bacardi, Alberfeldy, Bird Dog Whisky, Calumet Bourbon, Cincoro Tequila, D'USSÉ Cognac, Dewar’s Scotch, E. León Jimenes Rum, Guinness Stout, Johnnie Walker, Tears of Llorona , Corralejo and Uncle Nearest Tennessee Whisky were poured for the thirsty guests, with different finishes, blends and styles. There was also San Benedetto water on hand, along with coffee for those not partaking in alcoholic beverages.
There were also several cigar accessories on display on the floor, including Daniel Marshall and NewAir humidors, Boveda humidification systems (whose bags came in very handy for the many cigars that were passed out during the seminars), Rabbit Air smoke eaters and Integra Boost humidity systems.
Food stations were arranged throughout the room, with carving stations, pasta dishes and an array of desserts, including gelato. A band played along as the guests ate, drank and smoked the night away.
The companies came back for a second night on Saturday after a day filled with fun and interesting seminars where the cigarmakers taught an audience of hundreds of cigar lovers what went into each handrolled smoke. The outcome was another spectacular night filled with smoke, spirits and even some delicious grub.
Michael Brophy from Plymouth, Massachusetts came for both nights. A member of a beer distributor for a host of states from the northeast down to Virginia, Brophy was sent by his 91-year-old boss, who smokes one or two cigars a day. “You should go down to Cigar Aficionado’s Big Smoke in Las Vegas,” Brophy’s boss said. And so he did, sitting front row at the seminars and smoking his fair share of cigars.
Across the convention floor, you couldn’t miss a group of guys wearing matching red jackets, all of them smoking cigars. Lohn Weber and his friends from Kansas City thought it would be a good idea to bring his son and his friends to Las Vegas for his 22nd birthday—and it was a brilliant idea indeed. “We were supposed to come for his 21st birthday, but then Covid happened. So we were ecstatic when we found out it was coming back this year,” said Weber with a smile. While there wasn’t a “Best Dressed” competition at the Smoke, this group would’ve been in contention. They even had custom Cigar Aficionado lighters made for the group.
Waiting in line to meet Rocky Patel himself was Ron Taniwaki, a NASA camera engineer from Denver, Colorado. Taniwaki makes sure he lights up a cigar at each rocket launch—occasionally taking an engineered photo that makes it appear like the spaceship smoke is coming from his cigar. It wasn’t his first time at the event, as he also hit the Miami Big Smoke at the Fountainebleu, and he’s no stranger to cigars. He actually runs a cigar lounge and kitchen at Burning Man, a music festival in the desert where everyone shares everything they have. If you find yourself at the annual event, make sure to look for Ron for some free smokes or to cook your own food in his kitchen.
Everyone was all smiles all weekend long. After what felt like a decade, the party seemed like something everyone needed.
COMING TUESDAY: COVERAGE OF THE SEMINARS.