My first appointment of the day was with Kurt Van Keppel, president of Xikar, Inc, who was kind enough to grant me a second interview in as many months (see the June Ashes-to-Ashes). Today, Kurt expanded on the proper way to season a humidor and spoke about the Xikar crystal-based humidifiers. Additionally, Xikar is also marketing an adjustable digital humidifier. You need to do the salt test to calibrate it, but once you set it, it sticks. I got the very informative segment all on video, too.
Kurt then introduced me to master woodworker, Jon Bixler, formerly of Madelaine, who is now making top-grade and affordably-priced cigar humidors under the Xikar name. Jon takes great pride in his work, and I videotaped a short segment with him on his methodical approach to making cigar humidors, and how he gets the woods so lustrous. These are beautiful boxes and they come fully-equipped, too; really thick walls, aromatic Spanish cedar, Xikar digital hygrometers & humidifiers, and they all make that great WHOOSH! sound when you drop the lid. I also learned a little about wood veneer. Jon’s veneers are all genuine oak, mahogany, ebony et. al – not painted on – and you can really tell. In fact, if I didn’t know better I would have thought all of the humidors were solid wood.
Right next door to Madelaine was Jesus Fuego, who treated me to my first cigar of the day, a Jesus Fuego Gran Reserva Corojo No.1.Corona. I’m a huge fan of Jesus’s work, and it was a wonderful smoke. His cigars are really starting to catch on, and I wish him the best of luck.
After that I stopped by the SAG Imports booth, where I had a very enjoyable conversation with one of the cigar industry greats, Manuel Quesada, master blender and founder of Fonseca Cigars.
I asked Manuel how he thought the show was going, and he was very candid, saying it was a good show, but it could have been much better. We also spoke about the impact of the smoking ban here in Las Vegas. In case I haven’t mentioned it yet, smoking is no longer permitted in public areas in Las Vegas except in the casinos. (Even at the Davidoff dinner last night at the Bellagio, we were only permitted to smoke outside on the patio outside the ballroom, in the humid, 90-degree heat.) Manuel told me it took four months of negotiations to get permission to allow smoking in The Sands Expo Center, and the deal wasn’t even set in stone until two days before the show opened. He also felt that the formation of private cigar clubs could be one of the best solutions to the ever-increasing smoking public bans.
This year Manuel has introduced two new blends both of which will only be available at B&M cigar stores. The first is Casa Magna, a full-flavored Nicaraguan puro which he developed in collaboration with Nestor Plasencia. The second is the Cubano Viso Fuerte an more full-bodied follow-up to his highly-rated Fonseca Cubano Limitado cigars selection. This blend features a Dominican longleaf and Broadleaf filler blend, Dominican binder, and is wrapped in a lush Honduran-grown Cuban seed Criollo Viso leaf. Manuel handed me some samples, which I’ll review in the weeks ahead.
Well that was pretty much it for this morning. Later today, I’m going to be doing a video with Nick Perdomo who will talk about his new Perdomo Patriarch cigars and some other new lines they’re introducing.
So, I’ve got a lot of work ahead for me in the next few weeks. Please look for my reviews on these cigars and the videos as they get posted, and until then…