Less than 24 hours into the 86th annual IPCPR trade show, and there hasn’t been a dull moment. If anything, there has been too much excitement.
Members of the cigar industry awoke early Sunday morning to a series of emails, texts and phone calls alerting them of an electrical fire at the Las Vegas Convention Center, where the trade show is being held. Thankfully the damage was minimal—the fire began early, setting off sprinklers in one small part of the vast trade-show area. The sprinklers soaked the carpets and displays beneath them, causing damage that is being cleaned up as I type these words.
The great news? No one was injured and the sprinklers only seemed to harm carpets. The bad news? A three-hour delay to the start of day two.
The show opened on Saturday, and it was a good opening day, with an upbeat crowd and what looked like decent traffic on the show floor. Cigarmakers were happy, basking in the glow of the good news from Washington that delayed the long-dreaded FDA warning label scheme that would cover cigar boxes and ads with a rotating series of warning labels that would mar the gorgeous artwork that appears on most cigar boxes.
“It was the first positive outcome that we’ve had from the litigation,” Robert Levin, owner of Ashton, told me as we smoked Ashton Symmetry cigars in the office that’s part of the Ashton booth. “But it’s not a solution.”
Despite the FDA handcuffs on making new cigars, there are new products on the floor—or at least, products that are new to most, but that have gone through the necessary hoops to make them FDA compliant. Others are going with the strategy of pointing retailers to older brands. Regardless, the show began with much of the energy of old.
The show’s main goal is that of business, with cigar retailers walking the aisles, meeting cigarmakers and test smoking their wares, buying what interests them. The other added value of being here is the camaraderie, the relationship building. It’s hard to imagine a greater gathering of premium cigar industry talent under one roof.
Yesterday morning I had a Gran Oferta with the Garcia family of My Father Cigars, caught up with Pete Johnson of Tatuaje, smoked an Oliva Serie V Melanio with José Oliva of Oliva Cigars, smoked Ashton Symmetrys with Robby and Sathya Levin of Ashton, lit up an Epoca with Michael Herklots of Nat Sherman and met several newcomers to the business.
All before lunch.
After, it was more of the same, meeting Nish Patel, smoking new cigars with Jon Huber and Mike Conder of Crowned Heads, saying hello to Bill Paley and Sam Philips at La Palina and having a Fonseca with Manuel Quesada and other members of the Quesada Family.
The evenings here in Vegas are also memorable. Last night I dined with Fernando Domínguez, premium cigar director of Imperial Brands, Javier Estades and Rafael Nodal of Tabacalera USA and the Plasencia family at Jaleo, by cigar-loving chef José Andres. (If you go to Vegas, and you love Spanish food, stop here. You won’t be disappointed.) After, it was time for yet another cigar—number seven if I didn’t lose count.
Soon it will be time to head back to the trade show floor, meet more people, take more notes and smoke more cigars. There’s a lot of trade show left.