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Written by Puff Staff

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

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Day Two and the effects of Las Vegas set in.

Day Two, and exhaustion sets in.  The combination of Las Vegas and this show can be draining.  We have heard from many manufacturers that while attendance in Vegas is higher than other locations...the other locations have more focused buyers attending.  Sounds like the glitz and glitter of Vegas attracts retailers with more than the idea of buying product.

We quickly realized that there is no way we can do justice to all the folks we want to cover in our limited two days of attendance.  For that reason our third part of the article, our show summary, will also include our plans to cover some of the more poignant announcements in more detail.

La Aurora has some focused new products debuting at the show, headlined by the Aurora Puro Vintage 2003.  The Vintage is a Salomone sized cigar made up entirely of vintage 2003 tobaccos.  Only 12,000 pieces of the Aurora Puro Vintage 2003 will be made.  A Lancero sized cigar has been added to the Preferidos line.  The small ring gauge and longer smoke of a lancero should allow smokers to enjoy the Preferidos flavor for a longer more intense experience. 

We look forward to trying all the new cigars, but like always your palette gets fried pretty quick at these shows.  It's hard to do justice to any cigar in the dry environment of Las Vegas.

We stopped by United Tobacco, makers of the 601 line to see what was new and were met by Eddie Ortega.  "Are you guys smoking cigars or what" Eddie exclaimed with a big smile as he handed us his newest cigar, the Cubao. We smoked a toro with a smooth, darkish brown wrapper, firm feel, and a perfect draw. The cigar started out with a lot of spice and flavor then smoothed into a medium to full bodied smoke with complex flavors. Another cigar smoker's cigar from the folks at United Tobacco. We think it should be named the Cu-Wow instead of Cubao.

Reyes Family Cigars, who are they? They are the folks who made Puros Indios and Cuba Aliados. The Puros Indios cigars are still made under the direction of Rolando Reyes Sr. in Honduras. So why the name change we asked marketing director Frank Santos. Santos explained the strategy saying that the family wanted to unify and strengthen the brand under the Reyes family name much in the same way the Torano and Padron families have done. So Puros Indios will continue as a core line of products, but under the Reyes Family brand rather than as a stand alone brand. One example is the Puros Indios Viejo line. It has been entirely renamed as the Reyes Family Vintage line, but the blend remains the same. New to the market are the Reyes Family Premium and Classic lines. Both lines come in four shapes. The Premium has a Ecuadorian Sumatra maduro wrapper and Nicaraguan filler and binders. The Classic has an Ecuadorian Binder and fillers from Ecuador, Nicaragua, Brazil, and the Dominican Rep. beneath a natural Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper.

Perdomo is undergoing a re-branding of sorts along with introducing new products.  The popular La Tradicion Cabinet Series is being renamed into three separate lines under the brand name Perdomo Reserve 10 Year Anniversary.  The lines are the Maduro, Criollo, and Champaign.  The only line that stays exactly the same from a blend perspective is the Champaign line.  Being announced this year is the Perdomo Patriarch.  The Patriarch was created by Nick Perdomo Jr. as a living tribute to honor his late father Nick Perdomo Sr.  With Corojo and Maduro wrappers around Nicaraguan fillers and binders, the Patriarch harkens back to days of old in sizes and flavor profile.  The Perdomo Squared is also being re-announced and offered in boxes holding 40 cigars each.

It was a complete pleasure to have the opportunity to chat with Daniel Marshall, creator of high end humidors and cigars.  If your looking for the definition of "class", look no further than Mr. Marshall.  A true gentlemen with a passion for quality and doing things right, Daniel Marshalls products can be counted on to fulfill every expectation.  His experience and knowledge of the industry is evident in every conversation he has with his customers.  If your one of those people that likes to buy from "good guys"...here's one of them.

Spending time with Michael Argenti of Cuban Imports always yields an interesting industry perspective.  Makers of the Exile, H. Upmann Signature, and El Rey Del Mundo Olvidados, the cigars now come with a secondary band labeled "Hermanos Argenti", acknowledging the role Michael Argenti has in the blending of the cigars.  Mr. Argenti wants his name to become part of the cigar lexicon.  New from Cuban Imports is the Exile Wired, a medium to full bodied blend with a Ecuador Havana Seed Criollo wrapper.  Also announced is a bargain priced Sumatra wrapped line of cigars called the Xerez.

Industry Trends Department

The cigar business is doing well even in a slow economy. Most of the retailers and manufacturers we talked to said that their business was the same or a little better than last year. Many industries in the US are experiencing much tougher times.

There are a lot of new, small cigar makers at the show. We haven't seen this many new guys since the boom in the 90's. Where did they come from? Just like during the boom, when business is good, a lot of people get into it. How long the new "Don Whatever" brands will last is anyone's guess, but maybe there is another Drew Estates or Padilla out there.

Cigar distribution: Consolidation, changes, and expense control. Nat Sherman is now being distribute by cigar giant Altadis. Joya de Nicaragua has moved from SAG to Drew Estates. Dunhill is now being distributed by Torano. General Cigar did not host a retailer's reception as they have always done, and the mega CAO party was hosted by three company's instead of one.

Interesting Products Department

Dr. Nick is in the house!  Dr. Nick the dentist that is.  Granted tobacco smokers are a fertile ground for the dental industry...but having a booth at the show?  Well, if tooth whitening, and breath freshener are your game, maybe this is the right spot.  We have some samples of Dr. Nicks products and look forward to doing a focused test of his whitening and freshening products.

Wrong Turn Department

Picture framing, beauty products, and a dentist (okay maybe we understand that last one). How did these guys end up on a cigar show anyway? They must have set up in the wrong trade show by accident.

Best Booth

When we thought about the best booth award, Paul stated flatly "Well, there's Graycliff and then there's everyone else." Congrats to Graycliff on their innovative booth design consisting of hundreds (or thousands) of hanging silver beads creating a shimmering curtain above their booth. Owner Paolo Garzaroli told us that the beads alone took two days to set up. It looks great guys...all your missing is a Disco Ball, John Travolta and the Bee Gees!

Stronger Cigars

Many cigar makers continue to try to make cigars that are stronger. But are they better? We think that many of the stronger cigars are giving up smoothness and complexity in exchange for a storm trooper attack on our taste buds. The result? The potential to turn off new and experienced cigar smokers alike. C'mon, enough of the machismo stuff. We smoked some these "more full bodied" cigars from manufacturers that should know better.  It's not a race to offend, a cigar should be a journey.

Flavor, Flavors, Flavors

Purists, cover your ears. The number of cigar smokers marching to the tune of flavored cigars continues to grow. This trend was confirmed to us by Drew Estates President Steve Saka. The trend is also evidenced by the number of manufacturers large and small making commitments to flavored cigars. CAO's flavored cigar sales continue to grow and General Cigar has purchased and has re-vamped Havana Honeys.

What's Next

Our show summary will follow up with more of our personal thoughts on the show, along with some trends, both encouraging and discouraging that we took note of.  One thing is for sure, Las Vegas did not go very far on helping themselves get this convention back anytime soon.  The environment for cigar smokers was hostile at best, with confusing rules on where you could enjoy a cigar.  Vegas is a great city for a convention, but it looks like the tobacco police have even been able to infiltrate what was once called "Sin City".  They can soon change the name to "Politically Correct City".

Look for thoughts on the best cigars we smoked, interesting changes at the show, companies missing in action, and more in our final, more detailed, thank goodness we are home, report.  Right now, we are tired, and smelling like an ashtray.




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