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Big Smoke = Big Names in the Cigar Business
Thursday, 20 November 2008

Last week, I reported on Cigar Aficionado's Big Smoke Weekend in Las Vegas. Just the festivities of Friday night took up a three part article. The events were fun, festive and informative. You can see the Friday night coverage at the following links ... Big Smoke Part I :: Big Smoke Part II :: Big Smoke Part III Now, on to Saturday and Sunday at the Big Smoke in Vegas! I have to say that Las Vegas is one of my favorite towns. It's the ultimate adult playground. As a side note, as I write this I am listening to The Best of Frank Valli and The Four Seasons. The Big Smoke was held at The Venetian, which is one of my favorite places to stay in Vegas. The Venetian is the host of the show "Jersey Boys" and the elevators constantly played the Four Season's music. It's still stuck in my head after two weeks. Father & Sons Seminar The first seminar theme on Saturday was "Father & Sons". It featured The Padron's, Toraño's and Fuente's. Only one of the father son teams was complete. Charlie Toraño and Carlos Fuente Sr. had other pressing matters to attend to that day. The crowd easily forgave their absence and thoroughly enjoyed the presentations and wonderful stories. We received the following cigars on Saturday; Padron 1926 Anniversary, Toraño Exodus 1959 (which I am smoking as I write this), Fuente Don Carlos Gran Reserva and the Fuente Fuente OpusX Lancero. The OpusX Lancero is rare and generally not available at most retailers.   The Padron's Jose and Jorge Padron kicked off the first seminar with Jorge translating. Jose Padron started off by saying, "I apologize that I am a man of the jungle, but I thought it was more important to make cigars than to learn English. That way I could bring a lot of pleasure to others." His statement was met with resounding applause. Here are a few more excerpts from Jose Orlando Padron, translated by Jorge Padron. "He'd like to thank all of you for having learned so much about cigars and also cigar tobacco. He remembers being back in ’64, when you know the cigar consumption was completely different. It was a total different marketplace. Many people were looking for mild cigars instead of the more full-bodied cigars like now. Obviously that's changed tremendously over the years, due to large parts of the knowledge that all of you have gained from cigar publications and the information that has been accessible.""There is more knowledge of cigars and more good cigars to smoke than ever before, but the cigar industry is entering a very difficult time also. With all the petitions that we have, our right to smoke is being taken away. But there will always be cigar stores especially when you make quality products.""We were never interested in making millions and millions of cigars. We are interested in making 5 or 6 million cigars a year and making the best possible for the price and quality." (Large applause). We heard an interesting story when an audience member asked, "What was your father's most difficult challenge?" First he got a round of laughter when he abruptly answered, "Not having any money!" Then we heard of Jose Padron's humble and difficult beginnings. One big challenge: At the beginning, making 200 cigars a day and then having to sell them at night. And he would sell them. He started in Miami and started with one cigar, it was called the the Fuma, which sold for 30 cents apiece or $6 a box. He couldn't pay for his help, so he had to make the cigars himself during the day and then sell them himself at night. At that time the Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco was very strict. And he worried that he would not be able to make his cigars if he didn't get his permit. In order for him to get the permit, he had to have an actual space that he rented to sell and manufacture cigars.  He had to rent the place first and ended up paying rent for 6 months waiting for the permit with no production going on. So, all those months between, he wasn't making any money. The only money that he could make was the money he was making at working carpentry, which is a summer thing. Now we both are very proud to be hearing lots of compliments from many of you last night and hopefully tonight of how happy you are with our cigars and it's what satisfies him the most. One of my favorite comments from Jose Padron was, "Remember you have to stroke the tobacco when you handle it, because the tobacco is like a woman and it responds to good treatment." For kicks, I asked him to repeat that to my Cuban Girlfriend, Laura, after the seminar. They ended up talking at length, as Jose only speaks Spanish, and they are both Cuban. Jorge Padron warned me, "You will never get him away from her now", as we laughed.   Toraño Carlos Toraño, told us of how he started as a tobacco grower and later transitioned into becoming a cigar manufacturer. He spoke of his Cuban ancestry as in relation to the cigar they handed out: the Carlos Toraño Exodus 1959 Double Corona. At first they just named it the Exodus without the year, 1959. He explained how some people didn't know which exodus they were referring to, some thinking it was when Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt. They later added the date 1959 referring to the year Cubans began to leave Cuba after the Castro Revolution."A little bit of our history is in each one of the cigars that you are smoking, which is made from a blend of tobacco from five countries: Nicaragua, Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic."Toraño expressed his opinion that the Cuban Embargo would soon end and Cuban cigars would start entering the U.S. market legally. "I am not afraid," he said, noting the marked improvements in non-Cuban cigars in recent years and that they are making the best cigars that the industry has made in 40 years. "I would welcome the Cubans as we have better product and better quality control."He told a great story of visiting a cigar store in Puerto Rico. Some customers came in looking for Cuban cigars. The store had none, but Toraño said he could accommodate them if they came back later. He then sold them "10 unbanded Montecristo No. 2s," for $25 each. They came back later, wanting more and saying that they were the best Cubans they had ever had. Carlos returned to the humidor and came back with a box of his own Carlos Toraño Nicaraguan Selection, with 10 cigars missing. These were the cigars he had given the customers to begin with! He offered them the rest of the box at no additional charge to the $250 they had already paid. Their humbled reaction was interesting. "They said they were so happy because otherwise they never would have tried them."   Carlos Fuente Carlos "Carlito" Fuente Jr. honored his absent father by saying, "I can't speak about cigars without speaking about my father. When they made that mold they broke it."He said he cherished bonding with his hardworking grandfather and father. "My father still works around the clock and lives breathes and dreams cigars."Carlos supplied the crowd with two cigars; the Fuente Don Carlos Gran Reserva Robusto, the preferred smoke of his father, and the Fuente Fuente OpusX Lancero, one of the hardest cigar shapes and sizes to roll. Just one cigar roller rolls the entire production of the shape, rolling 50 cigars a day. The cigar isn't available in general distribution. Sales from it's limited release are donated to the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation, the company's charity for children in the Dominican Republic.He also talked about the ongoing challenges in the cigar business posed by weather and climate. "Every year there is a new challenge. Last year the fields at Chateau Fuente were flooded twice, resulting in a loss of 50 percent of the crop." "You can't replace it. It's our greatest resource." Cigar Rolling, Cuban Cigars and Cigar Blending The rest of the day Saturday included a Cigar Rolling seminar, talks on Cuban Cigars, and a Cigar Blending panel with José Seijas from Altadis, Rocky Patel, Mike Chiusano of Cusano Cigars and Tim Ozgener of C.A.O. This was one of my favorite panels as we got to do a cigar tasting, similar to a wine tasting. Each attendee was given a small wooden cabinet four-pack sampler containing a flight of cigars: three petit coronas, and one robusto. The small cigars were puros, made up of only one type of tobacco. They were supplied in this small size just like a flight of wine to be used for a sample tasting only. The larger cigar, the CAO Lx2, was a combination of all three tobaccos. We smoked each small cigar one at a time to taste it's flavor profile. Then we smoked the large cigar, which was a blend of all three. The Commemorative Big Smoke Wooden Cabinet The goodies inside The first tasting was of Dominican Piloto Lunch With The Experts Saturday's lunch was a starter course of baby field greens salad and mild herb vinaigrette dressing paved the way for a Wagyu beef filet topped with wild mushroom fricassee and porcini jus, followed by an artfully presented dome-shaped cheesecake for desert. Lunch was complemented by ample pours of Rodney Strong Meritage red wine from California. Representatives from the cigar industry sat at every table, each giving out samples of their cigars for later. After lunch, The Big Smoke recessed until Sunday, (there was a Saturday night event, but we did Friday's instead, as you choose one) but the crew and I went to Casa Fuente inside the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. The bar features tropical cocktails, wine and cognac served by hot babes in scantily clad outfits.Casa Fuente's rich, Cuban-influenced interior is inviting - all warm browns, reds and mustards. Mosaic tile graces the floors, and picture murals of the Fuente family surround the bar. The massive walk-in humidor features some of the world's finest cigars, and all sorts of accessories - from lighters to books - are available in the store. A patio outside the store offers additional seating and a respite from the fast pace of the mall as well. I smoked a delicious Casa Fuente, available only at this location.   Sunday Morning Charlie Palmer Breakfast There's nothing like a gourmet wild game breakfast on Sunday. We had wild boar sausage en croûte, a crock of potted eggs topped with wild mushrooms, bacon and cheese; fingerling potato fricassee; and a slice of corn bread, along with assorted pastries ... AND ... the perfect Sunday morning hangover cure ... a spicy Skyy vodka Bloody Bull. "Don't forget the bomb!" said Palmer, referring to the cherry tomato buried within the drink - it was loaded with lemon Skyy vodka. I ate everybody's at my table! Breakfast was paired with a Coronado by La Flor Double Corona cigar. This was after breakfast, as you can't smoke where there's food in Las Vegas. This was fine with me, as I prefer to eat first and then smoke anyway. Charlie Palmer, five-star restaurateur and gourmet chef gave a wonderful cooking demonstration focused on how to prepare and cook wild game. "Cooking any kind of wild game is much, much different from cooking what you buy in a store," he said. "You need to introduce basting, or fat.""When you're cooking wild game, well done is not what you want," said Palmer. "Anything more than medium is going to have that livery taste." Sunday also had a Roll Your Own cigar rolling contest and a Tequila tasting. I wish I was still there. I didn't want to go home. I guess coming home to South Florida isn't so bad though and there will be more cigar events coming up. Until then, I will relish the great memories of the Las Vegas Big Smoke. The Saturday morning crowd Happy in a haze of cigar smoke A dapper young man Fuente Fuente OpusX Lancero Jon Caputo, Owner of Padron 1926 Anniversary, Toraño Exodus 1959 , Fuente Don Carlos Gran Reserva and the Fuente Fuente OpusX Lancero   Shari & Jon Caputo of  


Cruising & Cigars in the Caribbean – Puerto Rico, St. Marten, St Thomas, and Nassau
Tuesday, 28 October 2003

Cruising & Cigars in the Caribbean – Puerto Rico, St. Marten, St Thomas, and Nassau


Sunday, 21 January 2007

New Cigar Line Extension for Cuba’s Oldest Continuously Made Cigar Brand in Six Years


Friday, 04 August 2006

CAO Cigars Gifted at Miami Vice Premiere Luxury Lounge


New Toro-Shaped Cigar Gift
Thursday, 10 August 2006

J.C. Newman Cigar Company offers New Toro-Shaped Cigar Gift Set


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