The first of two completely sold-out Big Smoke sessions, which were held on November 21st, started at 4:30. By 4:00pm there were already 200 people gathered on the 6th floor of the hotel; mostly men spanning every age group (18 and older, of course) dressed in everything from polo shirts and jeans to suits and ties.
Standing behind me was a small group of men with a very attractive young woman. Notepad in hand, while identifying myself as someone covering the event, I asked her what brought her to the show. Before I could finish my sentence, one of the gentlemen she was with interrupted me and bellowed, “Her Dad brought her here!” (Note to self: Be wary of overprotective fathers when asking questions to young ladies at mostly-male attended events.)
As I mentioned in my blog last week, the show reminded me of a mini Retail Tobacco Dealers Association trade show for consumers. There were display booths covering every wall and aisle, interspersed by liqueur company booths. Beautiful models offered practically every variety of beer and liqueur for the taking, while the throng of cigar smokers puffed away on any one of 37 cigars that came with the $175 cost of admission.
The ticket also got each attendee a multi-course meal provided by Del Frisco’s, one of the country’s leading steakhouses. Served buffet-style, you could dine on everything from crab cakes to sliced filet mignon and wash it down with vodka & pineapple martinis. Del Frisco’s was located in a separate room next door, which also provided a pleasant break from the thick blue smoke that permeated the main ballroom. At one point I thought to myself, they must have to bring in Servepro to get rid of the stale smoke smell after the event.
Two of the first people I was greeted by were Ernesto Carrillo-Perez and Michael Giannini of El Credito Cigars who treated me to a La Gloria Cubana Churchill. Their booth, as they’ve done in retail stores around the country, had a cigar rolling event where attendees, coached by a professional torceador, were able to roll their own cigars.
From there I worked my way around through a passage that took me to the La Aurora Cigars booth where sales representative Rene Castaneda offered me an Aurora 1495 Robusto. At their booth was Philadelphia Flyers Hall of Famer (and radio announcer) Brian Propp, signing postcards with his image in full game regalia. Brian was kind enough to autograph a card for a friend of mine who’s a big NHL fan.
Directly across from La Aurora was Helix cigars, which was adjacent to the Don Tomás, Bolivar, and Punch Cigars booths. Sherwin Seltzer, a veteran executive at General Cigar, focused my attention on the Punch photo booth where Big Smoke attendees could have their photo taken with a Marilyn Monroe look-alike. I must say, she looked a lot like the original in just about every way. 😉
From there I moved down the aisle to the Rocky Patel Cigars booth where I said hello to sales executive Mark Weissenberger, and the man himself, Rocky Patel, who handed me a Rocky Patel Sun Grown Toro and an Olde World Reserve Toro, the latter now being one of my current faves.
Around the next corner you could hear the music get louder as shapely silhouettes danced inside neon-lit “go-go” booths. To the right was a set of stairs that led to another section of booths that included Zino Platinum and Camacho Cigars. To the left was the CAO Cigars booth, which was indeed the most crowded, and no wonder. At one end of the booth were the sexy Flavourettes taking photos with anyone lucky enough to get close. Then you had Soprano’s star, Frank Vincent, signing CAO The SopranosSM baseball caps. I didn’t get the chance to personally congratulate Mr. Vincent on his movie and TV work, but I got off a couple of good shots with my own camera (see The Big Smoke NYC 2006 Gallery.)
As I came around the next bend, I was stopped by Mike Chiusano of Cusano Cigars who recognized me and, always the gentleman, offered me a Cusano C10 and a Cusano 18 Double Connecticut, which I enjoyed while writing this article.
Others I had the pleasure of saying hello to were Marcos at Padrón Cigars, who gave me a Padrón Delicias, and Dave Wagner from The Oliva Cigar Family, who was kind enough to give me an Oliva Serie O Petit Perfecto (another luscious little cigar that was just added to the “O” line this year). I also spent a few moments talking with Cigar Aficionado’s senior editor, Dave Savona, and this being my first Big Smoke, I congratulated him on a great job.
Although at times the atmosphere was a bit “close” in the main ballroom (it’s a miracle I didn’t get my sport coat singed during the evening), I thought The Big Smoke was a good time. Moreover, living in times as these, when cigar smokers don’t often get the chance to enjoy good cigars, specifically indoors in such large numbers, The Big Smoke is a “must-do” event.
As I drove home from New York, I tuned my car radio in to WBGO, Jazz 88.3. Awilda Rivera was on the air doing her “Latin Jazz Cruise” program. What an apropos way to end the evening. œ
To see the pictures from Cigar Aficionado’s The Big Smoke-New York, click here.