The Trade Show

The Trade Show
Photo/David Yellen

It’s Sunday morning in Las Vegas, and most of the people who make and market handmade cigars are out here with me at the industry’s largest American trade show. 

Once called the RTDA, then the IPCPR, the organization went through its third name change, officially changing its name on Friday to the Premium Cigar Association. While the name has changed, the show’s mission has largely stayed the same, putting cigars on display for the organization’s retail members to peruse and buy.

While new products are not quite as prevalent as they once were, due to FDA regulations that make it more difficult to create new products, there are plenty of new products, arguably even more than last year. We’ve reported on many of these new cigars well in advance of the show (click here for our news channel) but now we are getting a chance to light up and smoke some of these new cigars.

Here’s what’s impressed me so far.

The Gatekeeper is a cigar produced in tandem between Ernesto Perez-Carrillo and Alec and Bradley Rubin, the namesake brothers from Alec Bradley Cigars. (Their father, company owner Alan Rubin, named the company after their first names.) The cigar is quite good, with a pleasant mix of tannic structure and sweetness. I smoked the Robusto size last night (5 by 50). Look for it in August.

My first cigar of the show was a new one coming from Rocky Patel, the LB1. When he was describing it to me, Nish Patel told me it was not spicy, and medium in body. Often the description of a cigar doesn’t match my thoughts on it, but it was spot on—medium bodied, balanced, and quite tasty. It’s from Honduras, priced at $8.25 to $10.90 and coming in September.

The third smoke I’ve had that has stood out as impressive has been the new La Flor Dominicana 25th Anniversary. It’s strong, but not too strong—this is no Chisel. It’s made with a Corojo-seed wrapper from Ecuador wrapped around a filler and binder blend of Gomez’s home-grown Dominican tobaccos. It’s quite good, and builds from a medium, medium plus to something closer to full bodied. It’s 7 by 52—52 is 25 backwards. It’s an $18 smoke that should ship in two months.

The show is early this year—it typically begins in mid July—and after a run at the uninspiring Las Vegas Convention Center it has returned to the posher and far more professional Sands Convention Center, attached to the Venetian and Palazzo Hotels. The change has been universally applauded. Less popular has been the move to the earlier date. Cigar companies always fret about getting enough people at the show to make their trip here worthwhile, and people are worried that being so close to July 4 could be a problem.

I thought the first-day crowd looked pretty good, but I’ve had a mix of feedback. One person told me he had a record day, but several people told me it was quiet. As I sit here drinking my coffee, it’s almost time for the doors to open on day two. I’m ready for my first cigar.