I've always looked at the IPCPR as being the World's Fair of cigars, full of small booths, large pavilions and exhibitions from all over the world of tobacco. This year's convention was my 11th show. When I went to my first IPCPR in 2005, it was called the RTDA (Retail Tobacco Dealer's Of America). A few years later, the name was changed. I always thought it would have been wonderfully wry to simply call it the CPR but I'm afraid the irony might have been viewed as antagonistic and most wouldn't have appreciated the joke anyway. Funny how the PC police have such an underdeveloped sense of humor.
Like every show, this IPCPR filled me with the same boyish combination of excitement, awe, and sometimes confusion. And also, like every show, I never get to visit everyone. There's never any calculated or politically motivated reason why I get to some exhibitors and not others, it just works out that way. For example, I barely got to see Dion Giolito of Illusione cigars, someone I see every year. I only got a brief look at his new Juniperos behind a glass case, the first new size added to the Fume D'Amour line. Granted, it took me a while to find him. Illusione was part of the Casa Fernandez booth and a bit obscured by one of the dividers. When I tried to say hello, he was busy, and vice versa.
I blame the IPCPR for me missing Illusione so many times on so many passes. Rather than a series of adjacent aisles, the show consisted of one long concourse, requiring an unusually long walk to get from one exhibitor to the next. Not only that, but it seemed like every exhibitor's booth was either installed backwards or obliquely, so whenever you walk down the main concourse, you see the back end of the booth, rather than the marquee banner.
I had no idea I was standing right in front of the Ashton booth until I saw Sathya Levin. He took me around and showed me the new San Cristobal Ovation. It's a limited-edition, single-size release with its own blend. Ashton had so much success with the La Aroma de Cuba Noblesse limited edition last year that they decided to employ the same concept with the San Cristobal brand. It's a dark toro with a secondary crimson-and-gold band that reads "Ovation." He only gave me one and I haven't smoked it yet, but the cigar looks delicious. And the Noblesse is getting another size. It's a Robusto. God bless limited editions. People love to complain about them and then turn around and buy up every limited edition out there. I smoked the Noblesse Robusto, and it's a fine cigar.
Mombacho is finally coming into its own, but you might not have heard of these guys. I remember the brand was brought to my attention years ago by a guy named Claudio Sgroi, who's now Mombacho's master blender. Do you know Claudio? He used to work for Christrian Forcade of Forcade Cigars, which were made by My Father Cigars in Nicaragua. Forcade was a good cigar, but it disappeared years ago and so did Christrian.
Since then, Claudio joined Mombacho and would rove IPCPR shows handing out samples of the Mombacho brand but they had no booth. Now, after getting U.S. distribution last year, Mombacho finally has a booth of its own. Some will remember that he, along with co-founder Markus Raty, changed the product name to Tierra Volcan. They are made in Grenada, Nicaragua, and the company is still called Mombacho Cigars S.A. The Tierra Volcan cigars are quite impressive, especially the new lonsdale. Who's releasing a lonsdale anymore? Kudos to them for sticking with tradition rather than trend.
And speaking of tradition, Kyle Gellis of Warped Cigars vowed to me that he'll never produce a 6 by 60 cigar. I've been told this before. In the meanwhile, his Don Reynaldo was quite good. I got the chance to smoke one with him over a coffee. Those are made in Miami at the busy El Titan de Bronze factory. Other Warped cigars like the Flor del Valle Sky Flower and Futoro are made in Nicaragua at TABSA. One Futuro caught my eye—the Selección 109. It's made with a classic 109-style head, which can best be described as a blunted belicoso tip. I love the size and am anxious to smoke it. His booth was located on the far end of the show floor, right near the food court and on the edge of a large rift in space that separated the cigar section from the vaping and hookah section. Thankfully, none of their fruity aromas wafted over. Call me segregationist, but vapists should have their own colony.
General Cigar is one of the few true pavilion exhibitors of the show. No surprise, as they have the history. General Cigar was actually an exhibitor at the 1964-65 World's Fair in New York City, so I guess they've been doing this longer than anyone else at the convention. They had to make some room this year for Toraño cigars as well as Leccia Tobacco, both of which were acquired last year. I wonder if that's part of the reason why Foundry Tobacco was so modestly displayed. For the past few years, Foundry (General's subsidiary for experimental cigars) enlisted the services of Hill & Partners to create dramatic and elaborate showrooms for the Foundry range of products. This year, the Foundry display was a small pile of cigar boxes and a few display cases. They've re-branded the sleepy Bolivar and Ramon Allones lines, which are now under the Foundry umbrella.
One particularly interesting new cigar from General was the Dunhill Heritage. They've brought back the classic Dunhill "White Flower" bands and put them around these dark, box-pressed smokes. Well, just the robusto is box-pressed, the rest of the cigars are straight-sided parejos, but I must say that they are quite delicious and without a doubt my favorite Dunhill cigar since General took over distribution and production. Covered in an Ecuadoran Habano wrapper, the rest of the cigar is full of bold, tasty Nicaraguan and Honduran tobacco. They may be on to something here.
At $10.15 per Dunhill Heritage robusto, it isn't exactly the cheapest cigar at the show, but nowhere near the most expensive. That would go to Gurkha. The Maharaja was on display in a regal Mahogany box and each cigar goes for $2,000 a stick. Or, $20,000 for the box of 10. Think it's crazy? They got a buyer. A big congratulations to M.A.'s Smoke House in Shreveport, Louisiana. According to Gurkha, M.A.'s is the first domestic provider for the Maharaja. Unless Shreveport is home to some secret demographic that likes to consume $2,000 cigars, the nearby Dallas casinos should also help to sell these things. That was the one cigar that Gurkha was not giving out samples of. No matter. I have so many cigar samples to smoke that they'll all probably be on the market by the time I get through them.