Cigar Aficionado

What a Weekend!

I had just had one of the best weekends on the year. The Las Vegas Big Smoke. I know. I know. How can anyone take a comment like that seriously when it comes from the Executive Editor of Cigar Aficionado? After all, it is our event, and I work for the company that puts it on.

But this is a case where being objective shouldn’t matter. Here’s the rough outline of the weekend. I went with my wife. We had dinner with my favorite cigar makers (basically all of them) on Thursday night. Our table included my favorite Yankee fan, Jose Blanco of La Aurora, Ernesto Perez Carrillo of La Gloria Cubana, Chip Goldeen of Ashton, and Mike Gianinni of La Gloria Cubana, among others. We had a great time, laughing and talking seriously about the SCHIP tax situation, but generally just having a good time.

We relaxed on Friday during the day, soaking up the pleasures that are offered by Las Vegas and the Venetian Hotel, including the Canyon Ranch Spa. The 1st Big Smoke of the weekend kicked off at 6:30 on Friday night and nearly 3000 people showed up during the course of the three hours. Each attendee walked away with at least 32 cigars, they got to drink great spirits and beers and each food from a top Vegas restaurants. What could be so bad about that?

On Saturday, more than 500 people joined the Big Smoke seminars. Over the next few days, you can read detailed coverage about each of the seminars. Based on feedback from the attendees, it was one of our most successful programs ever. That’s what I thought, but I am only repeating what others told me. Big Smoke No. 2 of the weekend was Saturday night, and again, about 3000 people enjoyed the scene.

Sunday’s lifestyle seminars were a big hit too. At 9:30 that morning, which is amazingly early after three days in Vegas, the room was packed with people ready to sample Charlie Palmer’s breakfast. The Roll Your Own seminar was successful as always, and although I left before the end of Jack Bettridge’s single malt Scotch seminar, I’ve been told people hung around for a long time after its official end to sample all the wares.

So, come back frequently to the web site this week. We’ll have extensive coverage of the weekend, from reports on each seminar to photographs. And there’s the single most important reason that I’m writing this blog today: You really should make plans to come to next year’s Big Smoke. There’s nothing like it.

"Friday was the first BIG SMOKE I have ever attended and I have to say I was very impressed with absolutely everything. I attended with my wife and she had a great time as well. Any cigar aficionado or just anyone who wants to have a great time should really make it out to next years event. What could be better than great food, great cigars, and such a delightful crowd of individuals from the attendees to the vendors. My wife made the comment that more single women, or women period do not attend the event because it would be a wonderful place for women to mingle with such a delightful crowd of men. I read a comment in the current issue of Cigar Aficionado from a reader about how the magazine only caters to the rich. Well I will tell you that the big smoke has wonderful stuff for all financial backgrounds. Being a business owner in my mid 30's I really enjoyed seeing a lot of the high end merchandise as well as the affordable luxuries that were on display. I mean isn't that what cigars are, "affordable luxuries". Anyone and I mean anyone could afford a wonderful cigar from time to time and I really enjoyed my conversations with Joe the Jr. college teacher from Seattle, Harlan the pro shop employee from Everett WA and his friend Aaron who is a member at Everett CC. Nov. 9th just happened to be my 37th birthday and I can't think of anything I would have rather done on this occasion. I just regret that when I saw Gordon Mott walk by alone I didn't take the chance to pick his brain about some of the wonderful experiences that I have enjoyed reading about in the magazine. I did take a second to tell Marvin about what a wonderful golf course the Olympic club is and I hope he gets a chance to come out to the bay area a play it soon. Marvin if you get a chance to play the O club and need a fourth, send me an e-mail I would love to play with you. Viva Las Vegas and Cigar Aficionado! See you next year and for years to come!!" —November 13, 2007 01:28 AM
"The Las Vegas Big Smoke - 2007Wow - what a weekend! This was my first "Big Smoke" and seminar, but it will certainly not be the last. I'm a relatively new cigar smoker although introduced to cigars nearly 10 years ago it¿s been only the last 3-4 years that smoking cigars has become a regular experience. My son-in-law has recently (a year or so ago) become a cigar smoker as well. We enjoy a couple cigars together at family gatherings and at our monthly ¿Old West Poker Night¿. Smoking cigars has become a regular element of all our family events and really every time we get together. Buy the way neither of us smoke cigarettes. When we decided to go to this year¿s Big Smoke we were pretty excited about it but really had no idea that it would be so remarkable. The Friday Big Smoke was simply unbelievable! We received at least 40 great cigars, tasted different adult beverages offered to enhance the cigar smoking experience and we met most of the attending cigar manufactures and/or their representatives.The Saturday seminars were fantastic as well, with the highlight of the day being the ¿Cigar Wrappers¿ panel. It was incredible having the ¿JR¿s¿ on the panel and listening to each of them discuss their family and hearing of how the struggles and successes they went through evolved their ¿brand¿. The rich tradition and compassion so eloquently presented by Carlos Fuente Jr. and repeated throughout the weekend by other ¿JR¿s¿ and long time manufactures really brought the cigar to life. The Sunday morning ¿Charlie Palmer Breakfast¿ was extraordinary, although I have to say I wasn¿t too sure how listening a chef discuss food preparation food was going to fit in an otherwise ¿manly¿ series of offerings - well I was not only surprised but was very impressed with Mr Palmer¿s seminar. His presentation was fascinating and the blend of food, drink and cigar was superb! The roll your own seminar was both fascinating - watching a master roll cigar after cigar with confidence and ease; and frustrating - trying to figure out which side of the leaf went up and rolling my own ¿something¿ that might remotely look like a cigar.Overall, it was a memorable weekend and my son-in-law and I can¿t wait to attend next year¿s Big Smoke!Thanks Cigar Aficionado for a job well done!" —November 13, 2007 00:44 AM
"Overall an outstanding Big Smoke! Only one regret, not enough seating/tables, my dogs were barking something fierce by the end of the night." —November 12, 2007 15:16 PM