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Written by Puff Staff

Sunday, 16 November 2008

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leisure and relaxationspecial events
the big smoke
Attending the Big Smoke was quite the experience. I was lucky enough to attend the Big Smoke in Las Vegas at the beginning of November. The Big Smoke is an interesting event to say the least. My thought was that it’s goal was to help cigar lovers learn more about their passion, and also introduce them to many of the faces behind the brands they love. I’m sure this was the case when it started, but I’m not sure it is anymore. In the interest of full disclosure, I have never been a Cigar Aficionado fan. They don’t devote much magazine space to cigars, and their ads and features are about products that I will likely never afford. Even if I did have unlimited money, I’m not sure I’d be dropping it on that $45,000 watch or that Aston Martin DBS that James Bond drives. But hey, obviously someone does, as they have targeted that person with their “lifestyle” magazine, and likely drug in a few low life cigar smoking schmucks like me along the way. Full disclosure number 2. Throughout the years as I have attended cigar trade shows, and spoken with the varying manufacturers I have heard stories about the Big Smoke. The unanimous feedback from the manufacturers was that the show was not very beneficial for them, but they felt obligated to attend at the risk of pissing off Mr. Shanken and company. Many voiced the concerns that they are simply there to hand out cigars, and get little or nothing from a PR perspective from the show. A few have even mentioned the fear that their cigars would suffer in the reviews at CA if they didn’t attend. The event was held at the Venetian Hotel, a fabulous resort with outstanding rooms, amenities, and service. Considering Big Smoke tickets are around $500, and two nights stay is around $600, you’re dropping some serious cake for the chance to attend. If you have to fly in like I did, add another $500, and you are up to $1600 for the privilege. Now I get the fact that many use the show as a front for a trip to Las Vegas with their friends…and all the power to you. It’s just that I have created some pretty heady expectations for an event that gets as much press and build up as the Big Smoke. I attended with some folks I had recently come acquainted with through the sale of Top25Cigar and Club Stogie. Jon Caputo and his wife Shari, owners of puff.com, Dan from Cigar Live, and Kevin from Cigar-Review, and myself were attending. While I didn’t have high expectations for the event, meeting the aforementioned folks was a fantastic time. They reassured in me that the true spirit of the cigar smoker is alive and well. Everyone was a joy to be around, and we all held that common thread of enjoying a fine cigar and the pursuit of knowledge about our passion. Most the big guys were in attendance. Industry icons like the Padrons, Fuente’s and the Torano’s, many of the personalities from General Cigar, Alec Bradley, CAO and many others. In addition there were the ancillary folks, including scotch manufacturers, wine merchants, and even a few high end automotive organizations. In fact Harley Davidson was there with the new 2009 vRod, and wow is that one nice looking bike. I’m sure the model they had by it added to the experience, but really, I was focusing on the bike…really I was. Once you are at the Venetian, and see all the folks wandering around smoking cigars, it’s hard not to get excited about hanging out with a bunch of cigar smokers in Vegas. There are folks smoking cigars at the blackjack tables, crap tables, and roulette wheels. In fact this has to be one of the most hated nights for the casino employees, as I received many more than one dirty look from a dealer when I walked up with a lit cigar. I would have felt worse if the tables at the Venetian had not been in full “Hoover” mode and sucked money out of my pockets as fast as I could put it in. The good news though is that since the gambling was putrid, I could focus on cigars. That folks is the set up for the event. In the next article I will describe the mass chaos that ensued when I attended the opening night festivities. The line was long, and what I saw when I got in helped me understand much about how the opinions of the manufacturers had been formed.



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