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Written by Puff Staff

Sunday, 07 August 2005

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Look here for the Day One update on the happenings from the 2005 RTDA show in New Orleans!

RTDA 2005 - Preview

New Orleans … The Big Easy! Home to Mardi Gras, Bourbon St., and some of the best restaurants in the country. The city that never sleeps, well maybe naps now and then. Top25Cigar travels to Cajun Country to make our fourth consecutive appearance at the tobacco industry’s premier event, the Retail Tobacconist Dealers Assoc (RTDA) Convention and Trade Show. The show is being held at the New Orleans Convention Center next to the famous Riverwalk area adjacent to the French Quarter. New Orleans is one of the most cigar friendly cities in America and the RTDA did well to bring the show here. The only thing hotter than the newest cigars will be the weather!

The main feature of the convention is over 200,000 square feet of exhibit space filled with more than 300 exhibitors filing more than 1,200 booths. 5,000 buyers and exhibitors are expected to attend. Every cigar brand and personality you’ve ever heard of is here…. and a few you haven’t heard of. Most companies use the RTDA to kick off new products or offer special promotions.

Since this is our fourth year at the show, many companies know us so fewer introductions are necessary.  Couple that with the article about T25C in todays Chicago Tribune, and the words getting out. In short, we save time and should be able to talk to more people than in previous shows. As in the past, we will spent most of our time with premium cigar vendors because cigars is what Top25Cigar is all about. We will look for new cigars, trends, and maybe a little cigar industry gossip. In short, our report will focus mostly on the interests and needs of the cigar smoking public. We don’t pretend to be experts in the cigar trade, we just enjoy and appreciate good cigars and want to tell you about the companies that produce them.

We also promise to provide numerous pictures of how Rob looks in beads.  We also promise never to show how he got them.

RTDA 2005 - DAY ONE August 7

Day one of any trade show is usually the busiest day for the vendors.  The RTDA show is no exception.  Our show schedule was mostly driven by how busy each vendor was with his customers.  Many thanks all the companies who spent time with us today since we don't represent any additional revenue to them. 
 
All of the vendors we talked to were enthusiastic about the reviews that you, John Q. Public, post on the Top25Cigar site.  All said that they visit the T25C site regularly and some said they visit daily.  Many were interested in being interviewed.

Okay, a couple disclaimers...we publish this day one update prior to our visit to Bourbon Street, and prior to our attendance at the C.A.O. "Jam-Balaya 2005" party tonight.  This is probably a good thing for our readers, as we all know Rob "The Beadman" Shibata has a tendency to get out of hands at these things.

Graycliff Cigar Co.
Mustard yellow Graycliff G2's on the left, and the "Paolo Pink" Chateau Gran Cru on the right.

Graycliff Cigars is owned and operated by the same energetic proprietor as the famous Graycliff Hotel, Enrico Garzaroli.  Together with his son Paolo, they have established the Graycliff cigar lines as one of the premier super premium brands.  Part of their success can be attribute to the watchful eye of Avelino Lara overseeing manufacturing.  Lara is the master roller and blender formerly responsible for the Cuban Cohiba brand and Castro's personal cigars.  Paolo and Sharon Garzaroli took time out to talk with us about their cigars.

New for this year are the G2 and the Chateau Gran Cru.  The G2 comes in 3 shapes and is meant to compliment the value priced Bahiba line.  The main difference is that the G2 is all long filler tobacco, where the Bahiba uses a combination of short and long filler.  The G2's are packaged in bright mustard yellow boxes.
 
The Chateau Gran Cru is the new edition to the premium side of the line.  The Chateau comes is 5 shapes including a Salamones that looks and tastes absolutely spectacular.  Paolo gave us one to sample on the spot.  The wrapper is beautiful and the construction is typical Graycliff, near perfect.  The taste is distinctly different from the rest of the Graycliff lines with complex flavors, less spice, and a fantastic aroma.  We asked Paolo how much tobacco they bought for the Chateau line.  He told us that won't be a problem since the cigar is made primarily with estate tobacco.  Estate tobacco from Graycliff?  Yes, they now have their own tobacco production under the supervision of John Vogel, formerly of Consolidated Cigar.  Look for this cigar to be one of the next big things to hit the market.
 
Last but not least we were surprised to hear that Graycliff will enter the cigarette market.  They are going to leverage their reputation for quality cigars and distribute high end cigarettes through their existing customers ala Nat Sherman.
 
Paolo told us that sales were up across all lines and that business is good, although he is cautious to say that the cigar industry is in another boom.  Jokingly, we asked about a special run of Graycliff cigar for Top25Cigar and he generously agreed.  More on that in the future.

Paul Shoberg (T25C) and George Rico of Gran Habano in front of the new Gran Habano V.L. display.

Gran Habano

We spent some time with George Rico from Gran Habano.  George is responsible for one of the hotter medium producers in Gran Habano.  Fans of their cigars will be delighted with the introduction of the new Gran Habano V.L., a limited edition release cigar, with production numbers no greater than 250,000 sticks.  We would love to tell you a little it more about the cigar, but truth be told, we are only about 1/4 of the way through the samples he gave us as we type this up.

It's good to note that Gran Habano has seen an increase in business year over year.  Another sign that good cigars make the company.

La Tradicion Cubana

Luis "Mad Scientist" Sanchez introduces the American Born Cubans line of cigars in their 10th anniversary year of operation.  We have always liked La Tradicion Cubana for their approach to cigar making.  Luis and staff seem to always focus more on the cigar than the marketing side.  American Born Cubans are made in honor of the new generation of Cuban born Americans (ABC) and all their accomplishments.  ABC's are a medium to full bodied cigar wrapped in a gorgeous maduro wrapper.  It's sad to note that much of La Tradicion Cubana's inventory was destroyed when the roof gave way to rain and caved in on their existing inventory.  Get 'em while he has them.

Luis was also one of the manufactures that cautiously spoke of a resurgence in the industry.  This is refreshing to hear with all the legislative issues tobacco faces these days.

Estate Seleccion ESV Vintage 1991 from Tabacalera Perdomo
Tabacalera Perdomo
 
As we passed the Perdomo booth, Nick Perdomo himself invited us in and took time to talk to us about their new products.  New is the line extension for the limited production Edicion de Silvio which sold out last year.  They have added a maduro de Silvio line as well as a line to commemorate Nick's uncle.

Also hot off the roller's tables is the new Estate Seleccion ESV Vintage 1991.  The ESV Vintage 1991 is an all Nicaraguan vintage tobacco puro.  This puro is special because after the death of Nick's father, Nick discovered a batch of 1991 wrapper that his father acquired in 1995.  So even after death, Nicholas Perdomo is still helping the company.

The ESV Vintage 91 was a special cigar to sample.  Another hit from Perdomo, this may have been the best cigar we have ever tried from them.  The construction on this smoke was flawless, leaving an ash with symmetry that would make a mathematician proud.
 
Perdomo marketing director, Al Argenti, told us that the entire Estate Seleccion group is selling well.  They have had a lot of positive press lately with favorable reviews from Cigar Aficionado and the Robb Report.  "We're making the cigars of our lives right now." Beamed the tireless Argenti.
 
In other Perdomo News, Nick told us that the Estate Seleccion Champagne line is doing "extremely" well and is outselling the more established lines.  The Campay, which was released last year was also received well. Also doing well is Perdomo's flavored line of cigars sold to other manufacturers as an OEM item.

Padilla 

This is Ernesto Padilla's third year as a cigar maker, although he is certainly not a newcomer to the cigar industry.  Ernesto greeted us warmly and talked about his latest creations: The Padilla Habano and Padilla Miami 8/11.
 
The Habano is targeted at value conscious premium cigar buyers with a $5 to $7 price point.  The cigars are made by the Oliva Family with Oliva estate tobaccos. Although we haven't sampled them yet, we expect the quality to be as good as the rest of the Padilla line. 
 
The new cigar for the higher end is the Miami 8/11 named after the Miami factory that makes them.  "I think these are among the best cigars being made in the world today" states Padilla.  The line has 6 shapes with a centerpiece Salamones that looks beautiful.
 
Padilla reported that the Hybrid and Maduro are his top selling lines although the Connecticut is also doing well.  The Maduro has become sort of a limited production cigar since the Mexican San Andreas maduro wrapper is in limited supply.  With sales up, Padilla is obviously pleased with the success of his cigars but reluctant to say that a new cigar boom is underway.  We look forward to trying the Habano and Miami 8/11 cigars and reporting back to you.

Best Smokes and Trends

As always we smoked far to many cigars today.  That being said, we both agreed the Graycliff Chateau Gran Cru Salamones and the Perdomo ESV 1991 stood out from the crowd.

It seemed like all the manufacturers were trying to get more control over the production process.  This is leading to increased use of estate grown tobacco.  You can give Fuente some credit for starting this trend with the Opus X, and many others are following suit.

Of course the useage of scantily clad women to help sell cigars was in evidence again this year at the RTDA.  This is a trend that is hard to ignore, and seems to have the full support of the male dominated attendees of the RTDA!  We know, we know, where are the pictures.  We are serious journalists, and only took a couple hundred shots of this.  We'll post them at the right time.




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