According to most of the manufacturers I met, although the show was under-attended, orders were strong. This being my 7th show, I couldn’t help but notice that the hall was quieter, the aisles roomier and there were only a handful of exhibitors who had noticeably large crowds.
Although I didn’t do a video interview with Jose Oliva of Oliva Cigars, as I have in the past, I spoke with him about nub cigars creator, Sam Leccia’s new blend, Cain cigars. Referred to as a “straight ligero,” Cain is rolled with 25% EstelÃ ligero, 27% Condega ligero and 30% Jalapa ligero for a grand total of 82%. Jose explained that no cigar can be entirely of Ligero. If so, it wouldn’t burn, there must be at least 20% of other tobaccos which have better combustion properties to help the ligero along.
Another lesson I learned came from Jose Blanco of La Aurora Cigars concerning the making of Lanceros. The secret to rolling a good Lancero is the placement of the ligero. Because the cigar is so thin, the roller must place the ligero precisely in the center of the roll to achieve the proper flavor and burn.
Kinky Friedman is always a trip. In the Kinky Cigars booth, Kinky talked about making another run for Governor,. He believes the market should determine where one can smoke, not the government, and if elected, he’ll fight for smokers’ rights and try to restore some sanity with regard to our fundamental constitutional freedoms that are being stripped away by overly officious officials.
The latter issue was the most ubiquitous among all of the manufacturers I spoke to. Premium cigar smokers make up a very small portion of smokers overall, which means they have to speak that much louder. Most of the manufacturers survived SCHIP (this time), but the day-by-day domino effect of smoking bans being passed in virtually every state remains the biggest threat of all. Nick Perdomo reminded me that Perdomo Cigars is the only manufacturer who actually lowered his prices in spite of the SCHIP tax. It’s seems to be paying off, too, as most of his cigars are now priced within most consumers’ “comfort zone.”
One of the highlights for me was doing a video interview with Jose Pepin Garcia. When you see the video interview you’ll have a better understanding of why Pepin’s cigars are in such high demand. His passion for tobacco is nothing short of Zen-like. In spite of his success Pepin remains ever the humble tabaquero because he’s focused solely on blending great cigars.
Another cigar family made its debut this year, the EP Carrillo selection from former La Gloria Cubana creator Ernesto Carrillo. I’ve have spoken to Ernesto many times over the years, and he’s always gracious. Just as impressive were his new business partners, his son and daughter Ernie Jr. and Lissette, respectively. They’re both bright and talented (Lissette is a Columbia Law School alum), and I have every confidence they’ll carry on the tradition and honor of the Carrillo name.
On our last night in New Orleans, our group had dinner with Yadi Gonzalez-Vargas and Roberto Alonso of Flor de Gonzalez Cigars. I mention this not only because they are two of the nicest people I’ve met recently in this business, but I finally had a chance to try the “official cocktail” of New Orleans, The Sazerac. It was a bit too sweet for me, and unfortunately I couldn’t smoke a cigar with it in the restaurant, but at least I had “the experience.”
My apologies to those with whom I didn’t have the chance to spend more time, such as Jorge Padron of Padron cigars, Jon Huber of CAO Cigars, Charlie Toraño of Toraño Cigars, Christian Eiroa of Camacho Cigars, Manolo Quesada, Gene Arganese, Avo Uvezian, Pete Johnson, Dion Giolito of Illusione Cigars (who I would have liked to get to know better), Chris McCalla, legislative director of IPCPR, and Gary J. Arzt, who was covering the show as we were, but we just couldn’t seem to find each other. Thanks also to Rich Perelman and Pat Harris of Cigarcylopedia.com for letting Hayward and I chill-out in their booth for some well-needed downtime.
Finally, I want to thank all of the manufacturers we spoke to for taking the time to grant interviews with us, not to mention Rocky Patel, Cusano Cigars, and Drew Estate who also treated us to some fine New Orleans cuisine during our visit. Special thanks to Catherine Llibre, Executive Director of ProCigar, and master blender, Hendrik Kelner, who granted us a video interview about the annual ProCigar Festival, and the organization’s commitment to preserving the high standards of cigar making in the Dominican Republic.
And so another IPCPR show fades into a haze of blue smoke…
~ Gary Korb