Connecticut and Celebrities in Vegas

Those who say "it's not the heat, it's the humidity," have never sat outside in Las Vegas in 105 degree heat. Trust me, it's the heat. But I'm not here in Las Vegas to enjoy the (all too copious) sunshine and blazing temperatures, I'm here to attend the biggest trade show in the premium cigar industry.

It's the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers trade show, and it opened on Monday. If you have trade show experience, you know it involves booths with people selling a product (in this case great cigars, and items that can fill cigar stores, such as lighters, humidors, walking sticks) and people walking around hoping to buy (in this case, people who own retail stores.) The booths range from the simple--just a table or two displaying some product--to the ornate. There are a few booths with cars on display (Oliva, Drew Estate and Phillips & King), Padrón has painted Millennium humidors on display behind glass, Alec Bradley has a bar. New companies try to attract attention with various methods, including spokesmodels in slinky dresses. One booth even has an unfortunate actor dressed up as a Roman Centurion, holding a sword toward the ceiling.

I'm here with the editorial team from Cigar Aficionado to cut through the fluff and find out about the cigars, for today, the IPCPR trade show is the launching point for many of the new cigars that come out each year. Yesterday I smoked up a storm to get a few first impressions of what's coming out soon.

I noticed a few new smokes with Connecticut wrappers, which follows the finding from our last issue of Cigar Insider, which contained our survey of U.S. cigar retailers. Many noticed the trend in new cigars with Connecticut wrappers, and some said Connecticut is back. (The cigar companies known for selling Connecticut-wrapped cigars contend Connecticut has never left, but there is some newfound buzz about the golden-hued wrapper, which is known for a mild taste.) The La Gloria Cubana Retro Especiale has a Connecticut seed wrapper grown in Honduras, wrapped around a more traditional La Gloria blend. I puffed it and found it quite pleasant. Ashton has a new version of San Cristobal made with Ecuador Connecticut wrapper called San Cristobal Elegancia. Sathya Levin of Ashton told me that it was meant for those who found San Cristobal too powerful. The EPC Cigar Co., owned by Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, is selling its version of Connecticut called EP Carrillo New Wave Connecticut, which debuted before the show. It had some dry wood notes, definitely milder than traditional San Cristobals.

Some folks are pushing the opposite end of the spectrum. Litto Gomez of La Flor Dominicana had The Digger on display. This is an 8-inch long cigar with a 60 ring gauge. It looks like a weapon, and knowing Litto's knack for making strong stuff I believe him when he says it packs a punch. I'll smoke that one later.

There seems to be more people here than last year, which had low attendance, and several companies reported having a very good first day. I'll get more information on the attendance in a later blog.

There were a few celebrity sightings on the show floor. Comedian Ron White, known for puffing cigars on stage, spoke at yesterday's breakfast, and was at the Davidoff booth (he's a spokesman for the Zino brand.) Las Vegas mainstay Wayne Newton appeared at the General Cigar booth to accept a check to the U.S.O. for $20,000. Newton was gracious and smiling, posing for photos with the happy retailers who met him. And I heard Arturo Sandoval was seen at the Fuente booth.

Dinner last night was at Carnevino, the killer Mario Batali/Joe Bastianich Italian steakhouse in the Palazzo. As Gordon Mott mentioned in yesterday's blog, it's a new day for cigar smokers here. We had a private room and the cigars went all night. Again, there seems to be an ashtray shortage here, but no one minded using a bowl to tap their ash.

After dinner I went to the circle bar at the hotel, where it seemed half the cigar industry was talking, smoking and having one last cocktail.

"Going to Vegas for our annual trip to the Big Smoke in October..made a reservation or Carnevino while we are there, can't wait! " —August 14, 2011 21:27 PM
"Yes I too ate a meal at Carnevino w my wife who is a steak junkie. Wanted to lick the bottom of the plate in case it touched or sat on something in the kitchen it was soooooo good. Told them it was our anniversary and the chef whipped up a little desert creation that was a visual as well as a taste bud delight. Then we went to the Circle Bar and smoked a great cigar, a Padillo Miami from the original Miami batch I got direct from Ernesto. Now that's a night you'll never for get. Ahhh Las Vegas!" —August 2, 2011 14:20 PM
"Dave. Does Crowned Heads have a booth, even though they dont have a cigar yet? What about Pete Johnson? Tatuaje is supposed to unveil two new smokes this year. " —July 24, 2011 00:05 AM
"Will the Digger be a regular production cigar for LFD or is it a limited release? A vilota that size sounds perfect for a whole nights worth a cigar smoking. Can't wait to hear more details" —July 21, 2011 23:44 PM
"I saw Short Rossi on the show floor and Dennis Rodman, I think. I was impressed by the number of new and small cigar makers out there that are not participating in this recession and making some fine cigars. The guys at the CRA booth were awesome and make me proud to be a member." —July 20, 2011 14:51 PM
"finally someone that understands give the non-smokers there restaurants but leave the sports bars and taverns (ie hooters) for the smokers that way both sides are happy . HAY CANADA ARE YOU SEEING HOW COOPERATION WORKS BOTH SIDES HAPPY" —July 20, 2011 10:10 AM
"Awesome. Enjoy! yes, please let us know how that LFD was.... happy smoking!" —July 20, 2011 00:57 AM
"David enjoy Vegas, and make sure you let us know how that "Digger" was!" —July 19, 2011 22:21 PM