There was sad news to report as the trade show began this morning. I found out that Jean Clement, the cigarmaker who was better known by the name of his cigars, Juan Clemente, died here at the trade show. But, as with all things in this world, life must go on, and so did the trade show.
Try as best you can, there's no way to see everyone at the show. I set out this morning ready to cross the final names off my list and meet as many people as possible and smoke as many cigars as I could.
I started off with Jon Huber at the C.A.O. booth, and he showed me the new C.A.O. La Traviata Maduro, which I've smoked before. C.A.O. has plenty of new things, including a La Traviata Ninfa (four by 38), which comes in tins of five ($14.95 per tin.) It looked like a good way to start my day, but they didn't have a sample, so I moved on to my next stop.
I smoked my first cigar with Alejandro Turrent, the maker of Te-Amos and the grower of San Andres leaf from Mexico. He has a new cigar made in Nicaragua by Omar Ortez, and the cigar (called Dos Familias by Ortez y Turrent) is roughly a 50/50 split between Nicaraguan and Mexican tobaccos. Very nice blend. I found it salty and nutty, with a touch of sweetness and just a bit of earthiness. It's about $6.
La Palinas, made by Graycliff for Bill Paley, now have four new sizes. I puffed on a La Palina Alison while talking to Paley, and I asked him if he had encountered any resistance to his prices, which run $13 to $23. "I expected tons," he said. "I've had little resistance. People understand what it is, and where it belongs." It's not cheap to make cigars in the Bahamas-the duty is enormous. I found the Alison very pleasant.
I was less enamored with a bargain smoke from Jesus Fuego, a $2.50 little cheroot known as a Origen Original. It's rustic, made with a binder leaf to save some money, and it's nice and cheap, but I found the flavor disappointing.
Illusiones are typically some of my favorite smokes, and I paid a visit to Dion Giolito, owner of the brand. He has a candela lancero-few people smoke candelas, and few smoke lanceros...how many smoke lancero candelas? Dion has your cigar! I opted to try his Illusione Singulare, which he changes each year. This one is lovely, made mostly of seco tobacco (from low on the plant) in what Dion calls "the mildest cigar I've ever made." It's very, very flavorful, with a sweet, nutty richness that I enjoyed very much. I followed that with a Padrón Family Reserve No. 44 in natural wrapper, which is consistently wonderful.
In my quest to see all the big names at the show, I sometimes forget to look for diamonds in the rough. Yesterday I tried a new Dominican smoked called Pride, and found the lancero fairly tasty and well made. Today a retailer suggested I visit a tiny booth called Curivari, a Nicaraguan cigar I had never tried, made by Andreas Throuvalas at Tabacalera de Nicaragua in Estelí. I tried the Curivari Reserva Limitada, which was spicy with notes of Cuban coffee and a good amount of nose spice. It wasn't the best cigar I've smoked this week, but it was far from bad, and had nice character to it. It's about a $6.50 smoke and I plan on smoking a few more.
As the show winded down, I popped in on Drew Estate, where the music was still playing loud. Alejandro Martinez-Cuenca, owner of the Joya de Nicaragua brand, showed off his newest sizes of Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Dark Corojo, all of which are named in a somewhat evil fashion. He has a size called La Niveladora. "It means flattening you," said Dr. Martinez with a hearty chuckle. He's having great fun with this brand.
My final meeting was with Ernesto Perez-Carrillo and his son Ernie, and they finally have their core line ready. I was too burned out to smoke it then, but put it into my overstuffed briefcase for later.
It's off to dinner with the Ashton folks tonight. New Orleans is no place for the tired, or thin of stomach. Back to the rich food, cold drinks and rich cigars.