It was a long time coming. The much-anticipated, inaugural Big Smoke Meets WhiskyFest took the floor at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on October 30, 2021—hosted by Cigar Aficionado and its sister publication Whisky Advocate. The event featured cigars from some of the world’s biggest cigarmakers, the people behind the brands, a plethora of fine spirits, live music and delicious food. It was a party that everyone seemed to need.
A line of cigar and whisky aficionados stretched from the opening doors of the ballroom through to the casino and an outdoor patio. Each of the nearly 2,000 people in attendance held a Cigar Aficionado tote bag in their hand as they readied to gather a selection of handmade cigars—some of them handed to them by the people who made them—and to sample from more than 150 spirits, the lion’s share of them whiskies.
The show had actually begun earlier that day with a sold-out series of cigar and whisky seminars. Such cigar luminaries as Carlos Fuente Jr. of Arturo Fuente Cigar, Jorge Padrón of Padrón Cigars and Rocky Patel of Rocky Patel Premium Cigars took to the stage. The seminars concluded with a special treat: a tasting of the 2020 Cigar of the Year, the E.P. Carrillo Pledge Prequel, paired with the 2020 Whisky of the Year, Larceny Barrel Proof Bourbon. Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, the man who makes the Pledge, stepped to the podium for the presentation and was awarded a plaque for his victory, the second time he had received the award.
The Florida event wasn’t the only smoke-filled gathering of the year. After two years of waiting, Big Smoke Las Vegas finally returned to The Mirage on November 5 and 6. Three thousand cigar aficionados from all around the United States gathered for the ultimate celebration of handmade cigars. And, of course, the high spirits came with a range of fine beverages as well.
The smoky event spanned the course of two days. It all began on Friday as cigar enthusiasts rolled in from The 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.
On Saturday morning, the seminars began with cigarmaking stars such as Litto Gomez of La Flor Dominicana and Rafael Nodal of Aging Room cigars. Perez-Carrillo and Padrón again shared their award-winning smokes with the audience, and in a surprise treat the makers of Arturo Fuente cigars passed out unicorns—Fuente Fuente OpusX Destino al Siglo Lanceros—to the sold out crowd. That night, the Big Smoke was held once again, with more drinks, more cigars and more camaraderie. A band played along as the guests ate, drank and smoked the night away.
Big Smoke Meets WhiskyFest will return to the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida, on May 28. The Big Smoke Las Vegas weekend begins November 11 at the new Resorts World Las Vegas. Visit cigaraficionado.com for tickets and updates.