A line of cigar and whisky aficionados stretched from the opening doors of the ballroom all the way through to the casino at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Each person held a custom Cigar Aficionado tote bag in their hand, ready to make their rounds to gather more than 20 cigars directly from the people who made them. To sweeten the deal, the first ever Big Smoke Meets WhiskyFest came with a Glencairn nosing glass so each attendee could sample their choice of more than 150 spirits, the lion’s share of them whiskies.
When the doors opened for VIP hour at 5:30pm, it was like the flood gates had opened. Cigar and whisky lovers made their way past carving stations serving up fresh food—while the DJ turned the volume up—into the massive grand room loosely packed with booths of the best cigarmakers in the world from Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and the United States.
Names like Aging Room, Alec & Bradley, Arturo Fuente, Diesel, E.P. Carrillo, Epic, Espinosa, Hamlet, J. C. Newman, La Aroma de Cuba, La Aurora, La Flor Dominicana, Montecristo, My Father, Oliva, Nat Cicco, Nub, Rocky Patel, Padrón, Plasencia, Tatuaje, Trinidad, VegaFina and Warped handed out their smokes to each attendee.
The room was also filled with a selection of fine whiskies, rums, brandies and more. Everyone was sampling the fine spirits—some of which were up to 21 years old—from classic and boutique brands such as Aberfeldy, Bacardi, Balcones Distilling, Bardstown Bourbon Co., Dewars, Diplomatico Rum, D’USSE, E. León Jimenez, Elijah Craig, Larceny, FEW, Four Roses, Gentleman Jack, George Dickel, Glen Moray, Glendalough, The Glendronach, Grand Brulot, Hard Truth, Heaven Hill, Jack Daniel’s, Middle West Spirits, Old Fitzgerald, Old Forester, Ole Smokey, OYO, Paul John Single Malt, Peerless, Skrewball, St. George, Templeton, Virginia Distillery Company, Widow Jane, Woodford Reserve and Zafra.
Keith Johnson, a retired military veteran from Las Vegas, made it out to the show for his fourth time for both the smokes and the Scotch. After sampling five different Paul John Single Malts, he finally found the right smoky one in the peated whiskey while he puffed on a cigar.
Brothers Chuck and Mark Dimovitz from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, got tickets as gifts from their wives. “We love the magazine, I’ve been getting it for years,” said Chuck. “We’ve been looking forward to the event for a while and hoping the show wouldn’t be cancelled,” said Mark.
Friends Avi Kraus and Shay Yona made the trek to the event all the way from Israel. “We discovered the event on the website, and we love cigars. So we got the tickets and came.” The two smiled eagerly as they were collecting cigars.
The event was large: in addition to the main ballroom, there was a spacious outdoor area (complete with a live band) fueled by the many spirits of Bacardi, including some cocktails. Each guest got their fair share of smokes, tasted copious amounts of liquors and enjoyed delicious food while smoking whatever cigar they so chose.
Cigar Aficionado will return to Florida. Stay tuned to this website for updates.
Coming Tomorrow: Coverage of the Big Smoke Meets WhiskyFest Seminars