Cigar Aficionado

Vegas Becomes Cigar City For A Weekend

The Big Smoke Las Vegas Weekend, Cigar Aficionado's signature event, turned Sin City into Cigar City this weekend. More than 4,500 cigar lovers from around the United States and across the globe gathered at the Mirage Hotel and Casino for a three-day celebration of all things cigar.

Friday and Saturday evenings brought a sold-out crowd to the Mirage for hours of puffing handrolled, premium cigars and sipping fine, top-shelf spirits. Many of the world's most famous cigar celebrities, including Carlos Fuente Jr., Jorge Padrón, Pepin Garcia, Rocky Patel, Robert Levin, Pete Johnson, Jonathan Drew, Javier Estades, Michael Giannini, Christian Eiroa, Alejandro Martinez-Cuenca, Bill Paley, Charlie Toraño and Rafael Nodal, were there to give out the cigars personally.

Saturday and Sunday mornings featured seminars on cigars and fine living. The sold-out crowd of 500 received eight premium cigars, including Cigar Aficionado's Nos. 1, 3 and 4 of the year, to smoke along with their makers.

Complete coverage of the event along with a photo gallery will appear on the site all of this week.

"I have been in the boutique cigar industry for about 8 years and I have been to many cigar related events, but this was my first 'Big Smoke'. Overall, I would rate this event as fair to middling. Here are my reasons. 1) The lines were terrible. I understand that people are excited to see and take photo's with Rocky Patel, Carlito Fuente and Jonathan Drew, but why not then make 2 separate lines? This would have helped to move traffic along, rather than forcing attendees to wait 20 minutes to collect a cigar from each booth (for that matter, why more people weren't lined up to meet Don Pepin, arguably one of the industry's greatest blenders, is BEYOND me.) 2) Food and Drink - The Food situation was passable at best. While Burritos, Sliders and Mac n' Cheese were enjoyable, they did not come nearly close to where my expectations were. As far as the 'Drink'/bar situation was concerned, there was no centralized bar location (as far as I could tell) where you could get a beer or a cocktail or a glass of wine (or even a glass of water!). I became annoyed with drink vendors who offered a 'taste' of their product as part of your ticket or a 'drink' if you properly tipped them $10 for a glassful. One booth said to me directly, 'the more you tip, the more I pour'. However, this only pertained to 2 or three booths that I visited. Ron Zacapa, Bulliet, Stolichnaya and a few of the other booths actually took the time to speak with you, mention what you were drinking and offer pairing suggestions - rather than encourage you to throw a twenty into a metal bucket so the vendor girls could pour a red silo cup's worth of straight vodka down your gullet - I am completely capable of going to a bar to do that myself, thank you. 3) The 'Cheapening' of a brand - Look; I'm not going to mention which booth spent the entire evening throwing their product wildly into the crowd with people diving atop one another to get an extra baggie of smokes, but what I will say was that it was disgraceful and turned me off to the brand. That is not what this event was supposed to be about, and it, in my humble opinion, cheapened the brand and the event itself. Shameful. 4) Seating - there was none. Every table was packed with guys sitting and smoking. Nothing wrong there; it just would have been nice if there were some extra chairs floating around so if you wanted to sit you could. 5) Missing Vendors - Where the heck was Casa Fernandez!? Their booth was barren with a pile of crumbled voucher tickets thrown atop their table is mild disgust. Pity too; I like their product line. However - I was pleased to see the number of cigars given out. I feel that the 40 cigars given MORE than makes up for the value of the ticket. Despite feeling as though the room was crowded, traffic moved well, with the only exception being the long lines. I also was able to really speak to a lot of the vendors one on one; most participants came, got their cigars, then stood for 20 minutes on the Guinness line to grab a free beer. Meanwhile, it was nice to speak with Jaime Pepin Garcia about the growth of the My Father Factory, and to speak with West Coast Sales Representatives who I only ever get to speak with at the IPCPR. At the end of the day; not a bad show. The question is, would I travel all the way to Las Vegas to do it again - answer: I think I'll be staying on the East Coast unless CA REALLY steps it up a gear for next years show." —November 13, 2013 17:31 PM
"The long line ups for cigars were created by the alcohol, ticket/draw or humidor boots in the middle. Maybe place them on the ends instead of the middle of the lines or in own there areas. I would of liked to spend more time at all of the displays but I was in a rush to get cigars and then to get in line for sprits sampling were to long . Hard to please every one but there has to be a better way." —November 12, 2013 22:48 PM
"I was part of the London contingent who flew over especially for the event. We had a great experiance and although at times it was nothing short of carnage we really enjoyed ourselves. I learnt a lot on this trip: 1) A career as a cigar roller is unlikely. 2) Men from NY seem to be able to disappear for 2 nights to Vegas without there wives knowing..(u have no idea how lucky you are) and 3) According to my new friends from Boise, 'A cigar isnt a cigar unles you are holding a gun in the other hand'....well you live and learn. Many thanks to all those involved, 10,000 miles is a long way to travel but it really was worth it. " —November 12, 2013 10:47 AM
"This was my first time at the Vegas event after a couple of visits to the NY event. I really enjoyed the seminars, especially the cigar rolling, but more so the people who I met from all over the US. And we had a great lunch with the 3 fellows from London! The negative is the 3 hours of mayhem which I think could be managed more effectively and made a more enjoyable experience for all." —November 12, 2013 09:29 AM
"This was the first Big Smoke Weekend that Drew Estate formally participated in. We were extremely pleased with the energy of the crowd and the excitement of the weekend. Next year I hope to attend more of the Seminars, which I heard were very educational and informative by many attendees. Thank you to everyone who stopped by the DE booth and said hello. We will certainly see you next year. Best, JD" —November 12, 2013 05:06 AM
"Steve, Neil and I came all the way from London for the event and we were not disappointed. The seminars were fascinating with the opportunity to hear some interesting people and the speakers were all accessible to chat with after. The cigar rolling contest was excellent. The Big Smoke Party was a true experience. Yes there were lines, but we Brits are used to that! The atmosphere was fun, the food really good and the people showed a true cigar camaraderie. well done CA and thank you!" —November 12, 2013 04:47 AM
"This was my first visit to the big smoke event and although I did enjoy the experience I walked away thinking I probably wouldn't return. My concern going in was cost but you certainly get a lot for the money. So why did I walk away thinking that it would be my last experience? The lines! Part of the issue for me was that although there was good food and beverage samples available I was there for cigars so I ended up spending most of the three hours there waiting in lines. Maybe the most frustrating aspect is that it seemed some people would wait in line while others would just reach in and grab their cigar. Setting up the booths to help with organization would go a long way in making this event a lot better. Going from line to line felt like a lot of work and I wish I had more time to enjoy the people, the food samples, alcohol samples and of course the cigars. Undecided about big smoke 2014....." —November 12, 2013 01:28 AM
"The dickhead at the entrance didnt give me a coupon book and then after arguing with the puto for a while, he gave me one with missing coupons. Chinga tu madre!" —November 11, 2013 22:34 PM
"I attended the Big Smoke on friday evening in Las Vegas and was rather disappointed. By the time the line diminished enought to get into the event, the Cigar Aficionado apparel booth had nearly sold out, stating "we have to save some for tomorrow night". The high quality of the food found in previous events was not present, as well as the serving areas being somewhat scattered about. Many of the premium spirits booths were also out of thier product and we were told "we have save some for tomorrow night" as well. This was my fifth event in a row, and must say, my lease enjoyable. It lacked for a bit of organization. I am looking forwaed to this event next year and pray the bugs have been worked out. I am not try to bash the event, but it did not live up to the grandure of previous years. Thanks for listening....Sarge " —November 11, 2013 18:23 PM