I said hello to Ernesto Padilla, and asked when he would begin rolling cigars in his Miami factory. He’s hoping for September. He handed me a new Padilla Dominus, but I put it aside for later—from what he’s told me, this is not a morning cigar. We walked together to the Tabacalera Tropical booth to talk to president Paul Palmer and tobacco grower Arsenio Ramos from Aganorsa. Ramos once worked for Cubatabaco, and he’s knows Jose Orlando Padrón very well. We spoke about the differences between Nicaraguan and Cuban tobacco growing. Ramos talked about the humidity differences, saying Cuba averages 80 percent humidity while Nicaraugan humidity can drop to 50 percent. “In Nicaragua, you have to work a little more,” he said.
Palmer handed me a Casa Fernandez Lancero, which I lit up immediately. It’s not new, but it’s not a terribly well-known cigar. It’s all Nicaraguan, with lots of earth and power, maybe a medium bodied plus. Excellent smoke. Ramos, who grows the tobacco that goes into the cigar, took out one of his own, showed me that we were going to smoke the same thing and said, “That’s a man’s cigar.”
I next went to the Graycliff booth and spoke with Paolo Garzaroli. The newest from this company, which rolls cigars in the Bahamas, doesn’t yet have a name. “We’re having our customers name it for us,” he said. They hope to have a good suggestion by the end of the show, and the winner gets a free trip to Nassau. Good deal. I smoked the unnamed mini perfecto—it was very earthy, with a touch of a steely note and good balance. (Lots of balanced cigars so far at the show, which is a good thing.) The Bahamas being a high-cost place ot make cigars, this will retail for about $14. The Garzarolis are also making a cigar for Bill Paley, whose family founded CBS. Paley wasn’t at the booth, so I’ll get more on him later.
Alberto Medina has a new version of PIO, which is a small brand rolled in Miami. Pio Ressurrection is box pressed, made with a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper. The cigars will be $7.50 to $10.50 each.
If you read my Cigar Aficionado story called Under the Volcanoes, you know Ometepe as a very unusual place in Nicaragua that grows intriguing tobacco. General gets most of it, and is finally promoting it in a big way. I met up with Debo Mukherjee, General cigar’s vice president of marketing, and Victoria McKee, the head of General’s public relations, and they showed me the company’s other new smokes, including Punch Uppercut, which has a footband complete with the image of Ometepe and its twin volcanoes, plus the word “Ometepe” on the box.
I stopped by the Camacho booth (now conveniently located right next to the Davidoff booth) and talked to Dylan Austin and Matt Booth about the Room 101 cigar. I also smoked one, and found it very nice, with some licorice notes, a coffee bean note and that trademark Honduran Camacho earthiness. I also sat down with Christian Eiroa and Sal Fontana from the company to chat. Sal remarked about my graying hair. “My wife says it makes me look distinguished,” I said. Sal fired back without missing a beat. “Extinguished,” he corrected. Thanks Sal!
Lunch in New Orleans can be a grand thing, and after plenty of cigars I was ready to eat. I have a tradition of eating with Matt Arcella, owner of the Davidoff shops in Las Vegas, whenever we're at a trade show, and we were joined by Venice Fabella, the general manager of the Davidoff stores in Las Vegas.
Matt picked a great place, Cochon, on Tchoupitoulas Street. When we arrived, I spied Matt Krimm and John Anderson, the owners of W. Curtis Draper in Washington, D.C., and they looked like they knew what they were doing—they raved about several dishes and promised I would have a memorable meal. Cochon delivered—we ate like kings. Fried rabbit livers with pepper jelly, fried alligator with chili garlic aioli, paneed pork cheeks with onion gravy, rabbit and dumplings, cochon (the namesake, a type of pulled pork) and my first New Orleans oyster roast. Wow. Thankfully Cochon isn’t located in New York City—I would be even larger than I am now. I think I need salad for dinner.
Back at the show, the Fuente family had a large amount of new releases, which is unusual for them. This year they have an Arturo Fuente Chateau Fuente Queen “B,” a robusto sized smoke with an Eecuador sun grown wrapper, the Chateau Fuente Pyramid (with Connecticut shade) and the long awaited King T, the first Arturo Fuente packed in a tube. And what a tube! Wayne Suarez and Karl Herzog showed me the line, and the tubes are eye popping, mostly black or white, highlighted in gold and red, arranged so that they resemble the keys on a piano. Wow. Nicest tubo I’ve ever seen. They’ll be out first week of September, $8.75 each for the 7 by 49 cigar.
Yesterday I spent time with Jose Oliva and Sam Leccia at the Oliva booth, but I didn’t have time to smoke their newest, Cain.
I fired the Habano version up at their booth today. Sam promised it would be strong, boasting of the three types of ligero it has, and he’s right—Cain is the strongest cigar I’ve had so far. If you like your cigars very, very strong, this is it.
I have a little rest before heading back out. Tonight I’m seeing Alan Rubin and the team from Alec Bradley for drinks before heading out to dinner at Commander’s Palace—I hope they have children’s portions available!