Lance and Harris talk about their thoughts on IPCPR 2017, the change of venue from the the Sands Expo Center at the Venetian to the Las Vegas Convention Center attached to the Westgate Hotel, and the good and bad of this year versus last year. They also discuss Tobacco Outlet Cigars, New Blends and the lack of new cigar companies because the new FDA rules have made it nearly impossible to start a new cigar company with new blends.
Listen to the podcast here:
IPCPR 2017 | Aging Room | Good and Bad
Got Lane and Harris hanging out at Cigars and More in Birmingham. We’re catching up after our time in Vegas at the trade show.
What are you smoking?
I’m smoking something actually out of last year’s trade show. I was smoking in the Aging Room Solera from Boutique Blends and had the opportunity to talk to some of the guys from Altadis and Boutique Blends since they announced their partnership collaboration back in May. It was one of their stakes. I smoked this at the show. It was released at last year’s show. I became a pretty quick fan of this stick. It’s a little hard to gauge some of the smokes when you’re in Vegas, at least as far as last year when you’re smoking constantly. I definitely felt like I smoked fewer sticks this year. Maybe I smoked fifteen in four days of the trade show.
It wasn’t normal where everybody’s like, “Light this up. Light this up. Light this up.”
Where somebody’s putting a cigar in your mouth and you smoke an inch and a half for a bit and put it down, which is good because I got the full intimate experience of everything that I smoked. I was left coming home with the promotion and sale samples and everything to begin to go through those at a more normal pace.
Which actually is better really because after you smoked two or three cigars, you’re not going to really get an accurate picture of what it is even.
What did you think of the show as a whole?
I thought overall it seems pretty much like normal to me. Most of the normal vendors there were all at the same events. For us, buying cigars is normal; finding a few new things, getting new blends from all the normal guys. I didn’t think the venue, being at the other convention center, was quite as convenient or nice as being at the Venetian Complex. It’s hard to beat that.
At the Venetian Complex were able to literally walk from the inside of the Venetian directly to the Sand Center without having to go outdoors.
To me, those are little things. We’re there to buy cigars and try new things and we did that.
We had to walk across the street last year anyway staying at Treasure Island. We still had to walk across the street staying at the actual convention hotel this time around just because they weren’t directly connected. First day was really weird because the first day you walk across and everything, then you walk down little ways and it was more like, if you’ve ever been to Miami International, their international arrivals where they send you on a quest to reach customs. I think it’s probably a mile and a half walk to get from your airplane to being re-admitted into the US in Miami.
There are minor things. I’d say the biggest thing to me that maybe I didn’t like, which is almost a huge deal, I thought people are a lot more spread out at different hotels. There wasn’t as much as like a central meeting place.
Where was the hotel where Jason Jackson was staying?
The SLS. There are a lot of people there and a lot of people at the West Gate. It’s a little more spread out. You don’t run into people as much and hang out.
The casino at the West Gate, it showed its age. Everything was smaller than what we had come to expect. Even at Treasure Island, the casino there is easily eight or ten times the size of the two Craps tables and a couple of Blackjack tables.
I think it was built in the ‘60s maybe.
That’s all it is. It’s showing its age. I felt like there was a line for everything that we had to do.
It was not set up to handle having those people.
That was certainly less convenient than years before.
I was a little disappointed being that that’s the actual convention center hotel.
The SLS ended up being really just as convenient because you could just take the tram straight from SLS into the West Gate or into the convention center.
There may be places next year. Everybody has got a good thing to say and had a really reasonable rate to it. Everybody’s always seems to buy into that.
The West Gate was cheap.
I’m talking about SLS but West Gate was cheap too.
I didn’t have any issues with my room. I didn’t have any issues with anything broken or anything like that, but I heard a lot of people complaining at the front desk about little things: bathtub not draining, to, “My room is dirty and no one ever showed up to clean it.”
I don’t think they’re quite as on top of things as The Venetian or some of those hotels. I have heard that it looks like it will be back at the Convention Center again.
Did anyone come out and said why it’s not at The Venetian and why it’s not the Sands Expo anymore?
I’ve heard different stories. One story, which I think is true, is that someone bought out the convention dates for the next two years. There is clause where if they pay a certain amount, they can basically boot you out. You don’t have a choice. I think that’s probably true but I’ve also heard that that complex, The Sands Expo Center, got tired of old cigar people violating the rules, smoking cigarettes where you’re not supposed to. I thought everybody had been pretty good about it, but people doing it where they weren’t supposed to. I’ve also heard that they just finally said, “We’re done with it.”
They purposely had somebody shopping around and said, “We have this weekend available. It’s this March.” Then they met their contractual obligation and said, “You are the reason we can’t have nice things.”
It would be interesting to see after next year if they just stay there or do they try to go back? I don’t know. You hear conflicting things. These are from IPCPR people who’ve taken oath.
I’d met your brother before but this is really the first time I spent any real amount of time with him and everything. I know he works at the other side of the business for you and everything. He works with the different cigar market than you do here at Cigars and More. It was cool getting to see where premium cigars fit into his market in tobacco stores and stuff like that to see that is a market that’s really being serviced still.
Even so, a good number of cigars, there are a lot of bundled cigars, mostly like well-known brands.
We talked about how there’s not really a $5-cigar in the market anymore. There wasn’t a cigar in the $3 and the $4 price point. Maybe it doesn’t have all the complexity of what we’ve come to expect. Absolutely for an entry level cigar smoker, it is a much better bridge and really a better product than they’re going to get buying their king-sized cools and their Marlboro Lights.
There’s tobacco, the source of a lot of machine-made cigars. These are all a huge step-up from machine-made things. I think he had a good time. That was the first time he had been in the IPCPR and he goes to some of the other shows like NATO, which I think NATO cancelled their show. It’s just the TPE show now or something. I think NATO now is only lobbying basically. They just killed their show and they’re just lobbying against things.
I’m going to talk about some of the things that are really in some of our blog post and stuff. There were definitely some good things that I noticed this year over last year. There seem to be a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt in regards to the FDA’s deeming regulations and everything. Last year, no one was really quite sure how that was going to play out. The mood seemed to have improved. I’m guessing it was for a couple of different reasons. The first reason really boils down to what the IPCPR and the CRA and the CAA lawsuits that are going into place. A lot of the regulation has been slowed down that we don’t have a hard move on the predicate date at this point but they’re delaying a lot of the implementation of the rules at this point, so there’s that. I think also Dr. Kenneth Gurkha right before the show started talking about how, “This is an enterprise for us. This is our business. We’ve already started doing that on our processes to be in compliance with the FDA.” You don’t want the world in that. I think coming from a couple of different standpoints that improved the mood. I don’t want to give the impression that there was no impact from FDA regulation to the trade show. One of the big things that I noticed was most of the brands tended to be fairly tight with samples. I don’t mean that they weren’t giving away samples. I mean that to get a sample, you had to be present for the sale, whereas we talked earlier about everywhere you turn, somebody’s putting a cigar in your mouth and just about lighting it for you, “Have you tried this blend? Have you heard of our brand before?” That was very prevalent in 2016. It did not occur this year.
Do you think that has a lot to do with FDA? They’re worried about FDA define sampling as a reasonable amount to save all your product.
I actually felt like this average sample size, if you’re there for a purchase, tended to be three or four cigars. I think that meets the requirements for the FDA that this is a reasonable sample size. There were not a lot of instances of people handing you ten cigars and saying smoke one of everything they got. We didn’t get a box from PDR this year. There was basically one of everything they make. That was very different. I wore a couple of different hats this year. I was very thankful to have been able to see it from your view sitting along for all the retail portions of the show. As a general rule, unless I was actively doing an interview and no one was handing me a cigar if I wasn’t with you.
That was a good changed really. I wonder why if IPCPR really drilled that in to be careful.
There seem to be a lot of supposition that the FDA had agents on site looking to bust people of the sample size. I don’t know if that was ever corroborated or confirmed. That seems possible. The reps seemed genuinely concerned about that. I imagine that’s something that came down organizationally from within each of the cigar makers. I heard that from more than one person that they’re worried about that.
I think they don’t want to be seen as using the rules. The FDA has so much power now. I think one other thing that was a little different is we asked a lot of the manufacturers, “What do you think about attendance? Up, down same?” It seemed like everybody said, “Attendance is down but the people who buy are here and our sales are up.” They all seemed happy with their sales. They’re like, “Definitely less people, but it’s the people who don’t buy.”
Everybody talked about how they’ve had record years. Ultimately that was Rocky Patel, Christian Eiroa. It wasn’t just the big guys. It wasn’t just the little guys. Everybody basically said, “Our numbers have been great.” We talked to Steve Socker. We talked to Island Jim, everybody, Boutique, Puros or whatever; everybody seemed to really indicate that it was a good year. I heard different numbers settled down. Attendance is down somewhere between about 14% and 18%. The impression I got from all the people that I talked to was that it was primarily the tire kicker, I think was the exact term I heard used a couple of times, that weren’t attending this year.
In my mind, to me you still want those guys there because they go back and they talk about, “I tried this.” I do think probably you still want those guys there. In the end if the sales are up, everybody’s happy.
Something else that I thought was cool is a lot of times while these cigar lines are going to have trade show specials where for the month of July and August, this is what happens if you buy. This year, they were really specific that these are attendee-only deals. There were other stores, not just locally, from around the region. We know just because people in the cigar industry know each other who didn’t attend that we knew upfront were not going to attend, and they didn’t get exposed to those deals at least from a chunk of the companies.
I know the IPCPR for years has been complaining about the manufacturers basically offering deals. You don’t have to be there to get them. That’s a lot of people’s argument, “I don’t have to go to get the deals so I’m not going to spend money to go,” which I think is a mistake because there’s a lot of other positive things about going to the show. I could see that too, especially if you have one store and you run it yourself, it’s hard to go. I was very surprised to sit down in some place knowing what their show deal was and being ready and they’ll be saying, “By the way if you do this, we’re going to give you.” A lot of times it was pretty significant that’s something extra percentage discount or product or something like that. I don’t know what the IPCPR did to finally convince these manufacturers to do it. This is really the first year that there really was a significant extra incentive for a lot of the companies to be there. If you weren’t there, they will still give you their standard chef’s special or whatever. I think that was positive to see. That should encourage more people in the future to come.
A lot of the special deals, you didn’t know about them before you were sitting down with them.
They did not tell us.
It was, “By the way, here are the shady backroom deals.”
It was a good way for manufacturers to get retailers to buy a little more too. Most of the deals were, “If you buy a little more, we’re going to make it much better a deal overall.”
Whether it turned into some credit or deeper discount, whatever it ended up being. That was one of the things that I noticed, observing and participating with you. You submit your order and then your rep goes over and says, “If you buy two more boxes of this, the discount becomes this. You’re actually getting these two boxes for free or these two boxes for a reduced rate or we’re going to discount your entire order by this much.” They were very involved in making sure that you had access to all of the discounts available to you as a reward for attending the show. Do they normally do that when you’re placing a routine order later on in the year?
No. I think it’s one of these things that people go back and probably talk about. Hopefully IPCPR promotes that a lot. I think the cigar companies did a good job of making it where they did get everybody to buy a little more too. That probably contributed to the sales being up.
What are you smoking? We haven’t talked about that really.
I’m smoking the Vegas Cubanas from My Father Cigars under the Don Pepin Garcia brand. This was one of the first cigars that Don Pepin released after he started this company. It was one of the first couple ones. We had this cigar a long time and it just disappeared, so they re-launched it at the show this year. It’s nice. It’s medium body. It has the classic My Father little bit of spice to it but not too much. It’s really a nice medium cigar with a little bit of spiciness to it. I’m enjoying them. This year, another big change was that Davidoff did not have their big Black coming down with, which I heard the plan is to bring it back next year. That was a big change.
With the venue moved, they ended up losing.
They lost their space for it. It’s a great thing to get people entertained.
Who else did we have dinner with?
It was at Morton’s The Steakhouse in Vegas. They rent out the entire restaurant. It’s not limited to certain events or whatever.
You were sampling rums.
Yeah, nice rums. I haven’t tried a lot of rums lately.
Who else were with you? Were you with Gurkha? The CLE dinner was cool because they shared their company dinner.
We went to Mesa Grill with Ken from Gurkha.
Bobby Flay’s restaurant there in Vegas.
To me, it was good but I guess maybe expectations were too high, but it was not quite what I had in mind.
If we weren’t drinking a margarita, we got no suggestions ordering some stuff like that.
The service was not quite what I felt it needed. It feels like Flagship restaurant.
I feel like every time that Bobby Flay does a TV show or something, he’s always cracking up some cocktail and stuff like that. Really the only recommendations we got were have a Margarita or have what they call the Paloma or something like that. It’s like, “What if I want something a little different?” He’s like, “I don’t know.” I ordered a rib eye or something like that and said, “I’m going to have a big fat cab or a Spicy Shiraz or something like that.” The server is like, “We don’t have any Cabernet. We don’t have any Merlot.” “What kind of steak house is this?” The food was good. I was not disappointed with the coffee chili rub that was on the steak. I was very happy with the dinner as a whole. It didn’t seem to line up with what I imagined Bobby Flay’s concept would be for that.
It was interesting. I feel like most restaurants you go to in Vegas at any level, they’re really on top of things. It just seemed a little off.
Then we got to do Benihana with Heath.
Benihana to me was one of my favorite meals. It was not anything crazy; your normal ‘they cook in front of you‘ Japanese steakhouse. It was really good.
It was funny because eating at Benihana, I saw what a knock off every Japanese steakhouse I’ve ever been to really is. Even the show seemed more impressive than if I went down to Mt. Fuji down the street or Ichiban in Estadia. Heath set it up so I finally got to drink tequila with Mitch. I survive to tell the tale.
I probably helped but I don’t think Mitch had been there the night before.
In fairness to Mitch, I only have one sole concern that if the Japanese place had the Tequila Blanco. If they have had the actual tequila that he intended for me to drink, there might have been more than two.
That was a funny experience trying to order tequila at Benihana. Tequila is not their specialty. They were confused several times but they’re helpful.
The bar that we sat down at first wasn’t even really Benihana. It was a sushi place attached to the Benihana. They were two different restaurant fronts in the same space.
That was confusing to me.
We went up to the top floor of Benihana, sat down at the big grill, drink sake and did all the normal Japanese things. That was the last night, wasn’t it?
I think it was. We went to the Cigar Bash. It was hosted by IPCPR and some of the cigar companies.
That one was over at the Mandalay Bay at the LIGHT Nightclub.
Which is a cool place but to me it’s really far.
It was the complete opposite end. We weren’t really on the strip to begin with.
It’s like the end of the earth for venues.
We were past the pyramid.
To me it was a little bit of effort to get there. Then we tried to ride the monorail back and it only went two stops. That was confusing too.
We got lost on the monorail and said, “All right, whatever. Where’s the airport?”
Everywhere in Vegas is definitely the way to go everywhere. What was your favorite thing?
I have a couple of favorite things. I talked earlier about wearing multiple hats this year, coming at it from the retailer side, coming at it from the podcast host side and everything. I feel like every year, one of my favorite things is going to be getting to talk to people, having the opportunity to network and everything, setting up and doing the interviews which we’ve got video this year which is a little better plan. I got some technology, not really suggestions but ideas. I found a studio review using a microphone adaptor so that they can have a phone microphone mounted on their Go Pro to get better sound.
Sound’s a problem there, so is background noise.
There’s that, how tripods keep all the videos stable and everything. There’s that, but also the exposure to the business’ goings on was a really cool experience this year.
It’s interesting seeing the other side of things a little bit. Every company does things differently. Some do nothing, the drone and Fuente because they don’t have to in diamond crown.
You walk down and make that signs up that say, “No samples.”
“No samples, no deal accounts. Don’t talk to us, we’re good. Come by and look at our tower of Opus X.” I feel like they tempt everybody with that. They had a display of Opus X 20 Years that you can’t find anywhere. They had all kinds of oddball rare Opus that you can’t get samples of any of it. They’re on display for people.
I might have totally been the one to steal that, reclaim the woods Xikar cutter that they have that had gotten a crown booth there. That was an amazing Xikar cutter.
I thought the watch was pretty cool too; the Opus X 20 Years Watch from Hublot. There are two versions. One was $15,000 and one was $30,000. I think I read maybe on Halfwheel or another site, they were saying that after day one, Fuente had sold six watches. I don’t know which levels but they were commenting on that those six watches were probably more than ten to fifteen of the cigar companies at the show getting sales the entire show. Fuente sold a few watches.
Then whatever they were actually there to do.
I like the cufflinks a lot too. They have some great Opus X Cufflinks that were very huge and massive. I think they were in the $300 to $400-range.
The accessories were good this year. They gave us that Palio cutter for being an attendee.
That was smart of them to do that because it gets everybody to try and it’s a great cutter. They’ve lowered the prices on them too. I think they got them now more on the $25 to $30 range.
They’re worth that all day long.
They were in the $50 or $60 range. They were bought by Quality Importers. They brought the brand and now it’s one of their brands.
I hadn’t taken my old one yet. I’ve got more that’s got miles and miles of cigar cutting on it. Some of the finish have rubbed off and everything. I love that cutter but it’s gotten gummy and it’s just not the best shape. They’ve updated their warranty now to match Xikar where they just don’t ask any questions anymore. If I were to take it to a retailer, the retailer would deal with it. I don’t know that there are really any new retailers in Birmingham anymore.
There were a long time ago.
I don’t remember if I got it from you or from another shop. It’s probably an eight-year old cutter at this point. There was that. The only thing I’m a big fan of is we know the Xikar stratosphere lighter, but Xikar has also re-released the Forte Soft Flame. Having that lighter is amazing. We got one over at Patton Creek right now. I’m eventually going to buy one. It’s on my Amazon wish list. If anyone wants to send me one, I don’t know how that works for podcast hosts. I know how it works on Instagram for girls and stuff. If somebody wants to make that happen, let’s find a way to work this out.
I feel like Xikar had some new releases that were better than their normal release. Not that that wasn’t good releases but Forte Soft Flame was a really good one.
Someone finally explain to me why the XO cutter is worth $100, seeing the mechanism that drives it.
A lot of engineering went into it.
That was my first question. I was like, “I can get an Xi1 depending on which one I get, $40 or $50. Why do I need to spend $100 on a different Xikar cutter? Is it just because it will cut an 80-ring gauge? I’m not going to smoke an 80-ring gauge.” They’re like, “No. Look at this, press with one finger.” I was like, “Okay.”
I think that’s been the challenge with the XO cutter. A lot of people look at it like that, “Why do I need this? There are other great cutters that are less expensive.” It seems like people are just now starting to figure out, “Here’s what’s different.” It helps with us knowing more and being more educated on this.
I’m going to lay out the Lane Oden endorsement on the Stratosphere Lighter. It’s $29.99. It has the Xikar lifetime warranty, it’s waterproof, it’s wind-proof. If you have a golf bag, if you have a fishing tackle box, that’s the lighter you want it in.
That’s one of their more indestructible ones too.
It’s plastic. It’s got a good cover on it. It’s got a lanyard so that you don’t lose it. The element that it lights with is really cool. It’s got a wire filament down in it. It’s not exactly a hard flame and it’s not exactly a soft flame. It just like glows.
It’s very different than their other mechanisms. I can’t remember the name for it. There’s a name for it. It’s like a coil torch or something like that. It makes it very wind-proof and they work at high altitudes. That’s the other thing. Here at Birmingham we’re at low altitude.
If you need a solid lighter and don’t want to blow your budget on it, for $29.99 you can have a Xikar with a lifetime warranty that you can stick in your golf bag and not care about.
Another new thing that had a smart addition to what they have already was the High-Performance Butane. I think they’ve been producing this for a while for Colorado and other states, the high altitude states. The regular Xikar butane doesn’t work well with higher altitudes. This is the super-charged butane. What they showed us is you can take an old lighter for that and it will make flame twice as big. If you think your lighter’s dead, you put that in and it’s great.
I took an empty CLE torch with me as being the sacrificial lighter. Once you gas up a torch, the TSA won’t let you back on the plane without even a check in your pocket. It doesn’t matter. It’s not going to light. I took an empty lighter with me with the intention of filling it up once I got there. The first booth I visited was Xikar for that High-Proof Butane. The guys at Xikar are like, “Don’t tell anyone,” like I’m the only person with this idea. They gassed me up with it and it lasted the entire show. On the last day, that horrible CLE torch went the other way.
It’s only slightly more expensive. The 8-ounce can is only $10. I think it’s $13 for the Super Butane. I definitely think it’s worth it.
Still can’t use it in your S.T. DuPont lighter.
They say that. They don’t want you to, that’s for sure. I’ve tried that many times and it seems to work fine. They try to claim it will void your warranty but I don’t really know how they would know.
Maybe there’s some special French perfume mixed in with their butane that they can test for.
I don’t know. S.T. DuPont butane is very expensive. I think it’s about roughly three times the cost of Xikar butane. I am sure it’s the best of the best, but people don’t seem to, at least for us, care that much for butane.
Do you carry it at all in any of the stores at the Dolo?
We used to.
What happen is people get like, “Fill up my lighter with that.” We do a lot of quiet refills.
We have to log butane refills with those lighters. S.T. DuPont is now distributed by Davidoff. They were in the Davidoff booth this year. I think last year was the first year maybe. They had some incredible pieces, their ultra, custom, high-end things that they make ten of.
I’ve decided I need a Slim 7 to go along with my Forte Soft Flame.
The Slim 7 is not expensive. It’s somewhat reasonable. It’s not $1,500 lighter.
They retail for $1.75 or something like that, and you could find them for less than that. I think the one on my Amazon wish list is $148 or $151 or something like that, brand new and ready to ship and be at my house in two days.
I will say it’s a lot easier now that Davidoff sells them. Davidoff represents them now too. I feel like S.T. DuPont never had very good representation. Maybe it’s just that they ignored Alabama probably. They had that truck thing that was like $150,000.
Their $1,000 pens.
Their pens are awesome. If I were to just spend a ridiculous amount of money off-hand, I would definitely get one of those. I’m probably not going to.
What’s funny is I’ve had no knee thing or anything in Vegas at all. Apparently I need to move to Vegas.
You’re walking ten miles a day and you’re fine, then you’ll come back to normal stuff.
I’ve been in the hospital since. My other knee last year I guess or early this year, I had problems with my right knee. This summer, it’s been my left knee. The same thing, the same no cause just, “You’re getting close to 40.”
How’s that cigar?
I like the Solera. It starts out a nice nutty, earthy sweetness, a little bit of citrus on it, not like an orange but more like a lemon rindy sweetness on it develops in some pepper spice cinnamon in there. It’s a really complex, very pleasant cigar. Altadis will do well with this partnership with Boutique Blends.
I don’t know all the details. You probably know more than I do because you’ve interviewed them. Are they planning to pull Rafael Nodal into some of their blending like they’ve done with AJ Fernandez doing a lot of their blending or partnering but not all of it?
Yes. That was part of the intent. I got to talk to him. I got to talk to Pedro Ventura about blending. I thought that was really cool. We’ve had guys like Jose Blanco on the show and we’ve had Oscar on the show. I feel like our blender questions are fairly strong. Getting to talk to Pedro and Rafael about how they go about making their blending choices and stuff like that, you could just see their eyes light up when they realize that someone’s coming to them with those types of questions.
Things they’re excited about. They probably don’t get asked about all the time. With FDA rules changing and everything going more in that direction, I wonder if we’ll see more partnerships like that where Boutique Blends, Rafael Nodal partner up with Altadis. I think you knocked on a lot of the big companies, Altadis, Davidoff. They don’t have a face so they’re blank. They’re a faceless giant company versus a lot of these smaller brands. You’ve got Nick Perdomo. His name’s on everything. He’s doing everything. People associate that with them. I think also this with Rafael Nodal, AJ Fernandez get more involved, it gets them some people.
Speaking of AJ Fernandez, how does that man have enough time to do any of the things that he does, much less all of the things that he does?
He was involved in everything with the show and the company.
Caldwell has a collaboration with him right now. The Altadis brands have more than one collaboration with him right now. He’s got all of his own lines. He has a hand in just everything right now.
That was another new thing at the show. There always are collaborations of different people but this was the first year we’re seeing that he seemed like doing everything with everybody. They’re all good blends for the most part. People welcome big sellers. I don’t know how he can have that many things going on. He does all this internet stuff too. He’s taking over the cigar world.
Have you smoked the new Camacho Rum Barrel-Aged stick yet?
How was that? Mine’s still sitting in my humidor right now.
I really liked it. It was not as strong as I expected it to be. Just the bourbon barrel-aged cigars to me are pretty strong, pretty full-bodied. To me it was more being you. It has some really unique taste to it. Before you light it, smelling the cigar, you really can smell a little bit of the rum-barrel aged tobacco that seriously give a hint of part of the scrap. It’s so unique, really smooth.
My wife likes rum cigars and everything. I’ve got sitting in my humidor right now and I haven’t decided if I’m going to smoke it or if I’m going to pass it on to her. It’s not like a rum-dipped cigar?
I’m keeping it.
It’s not that. She might not want it. I think of the Gurkha, Ron Abuelo rum-infused cigar. When I smoked that I was thinking, “This is going to have a big rum taste.” It really didn’t.
Like their cognac, their coppertop-type stuff.
It’s like the rum; with that one, the rum infusion. I’m not exactly sure of the process they did on it. It’s like it took a really strong cigar to knock the edge off of it in a good way. I really enjoyed that cigar.
One of the blends that I really enjoyed from the show, I’ve always been a fan of the vintage Rocky Patel lines. They’ve always been medium body. The 2006 San Andreas Rocky Patel Vintage that they’ve just released is a notch up from there. It’s going to struck somebody who prefers a stronger cigar. It’s a little spicy. It comes back to how we’ve talked about with Edgar Hoill and with Caldwell that San Andreas wrapper, Mexican tobacco is not necessarily a bad word anymore.
All of a sudden they have decided to get a grip, especially the wrapper. I like that Vintage 2006 a lot. I feel like Rocky Patel, I don’t know what they changed with their blending but their new blends are between the Catch 22, the Fifty-Five in a good way.
Then they’ve got this new Java Red.
It’s a Dark Cherry. I’ve not served that yet but everybody I talked to really liked it.
I haven’t smoked one yet but we’ve got them in Patton Creek. Some of the guys had been coming and smoking them and they’re like, “Have you had a Cherry Cigar?” I was like, “I’ve had cigars where they’re that dried fruit; maybe it’s raisin, maybe it’s cherries, maybe it’s fig.” There’s something in there. I drink cherry Dr. Pepper when it’s available for that infused cigar. Even if the java line isn’t really 100% infused, that may be one that I can find a sweet spot in.
I think that one really do well. I think they’ve been working on it for several years.
In Drew Estate in their infused lines, I had a couple this year with Candela wrappers. They did the Kentucky Fire Cured, the Swamp Thang and the Swamp Rat and everything. Now they’re putting them on Acids.
I’m not sure of that one either. I have it in my stack of want-to-try. I’ve heard a lot of buzz about people are just like, “We’ll try it.” It looks different and just stands out from their Acids.
One of them is like a Blondie Candela. It’s like, “What are you doing here?”
That goes back to big news from foreign shows with Jonathan Drew coming back on as CEO of Drew Estate or President of whatever, basically running Drew Estate again. I don’t know if you ever talked to him. He is one of the most interesting people in the cigar industry. He is just so out there with cigar blends. He’s thinking of stuff that nobody has.
I’m starting to feel ashamed right now. I don’t get to talk to Jonathan Drew when I talk to Drew Estate. This is no shame on Pedro. I like Pedro. I like talking to Pedro. He is the best brand ambassador that I think Drew Estate can have. How can we talk to Jonathan Drew?
I did not talk to him at the actual show. At the show it’s hilarious to me, in their booth nobody can talk to him. He is protected in a rugged off area and nobody has access to him. I had talked to him. We had an event one time and we went out to dinner afterwards. I bet he talked non-stop for two hours, maybe three hours. It was from one thing to the next; all the things he was thinking about, the cigars. He is very, very smart. I could see why they needed him back. He is the creative force behind that company. I don’t think you can recreate that by just bringing somebody to run it.
There were really only a couple of other people at the show who were not really accessible.
Carlito Fuente, not accessible.
I got a yes out of AJ Fernandez and his people, but then we never actually connected. I still haven’t talked to Litto Gomez Diez. I don’t know how this happened. Jonathan Carr is like, “Get with me. We’re going to set it up and everything.” The week got away from us and it still didn’t happen. That’s not Litto not being willing to talk to us. It’s not really an accessibility issue. It’s just that he didn’t happen to be around.
Their booth seemed very busy the whole show. La Volcada coming out another blend.
I don’t think I actually got any samples for that.
I think I have one.
I smoked an LFD 1994 when I was there. It’s not like I didn’t smoke with La Flor Dominicana. I just don’t think I got whatever it was that they were sampling out for their promotion stuff.
They were looking at raising a lot.
That’s probably why.
Hopefully, we get some of those guys on the podcast. I’ve been chasing Jonathan Drew for a while about it. He can’t say never. He always says he’ll be on and “We just have work to do.”
Litto’s always been agreeable to coming on the show. That was one of the things I was going to try and do had Litto, “Come on, man. Let’s put this on the counter; let’s do this.” Another missed opportunity.
Any other thoughts on the show? We’re meant to have part two.
It’s weird that we’re just having our first whole show episode today. I felt reassured that the cigar industry has not died in spite of the FDAs attempts to make it happen. One of the cool things that I thought was that some of the seminars where there were talks going on. Recreational marijuana was legalized in Vegas a week before we got there. One of the speakers was talking about, “You should really go to a dispensary to see what it is that they’re doing.” That’s another industry that’s not even 100% clear that it is legal, but it’s very heavily regulated
A lot of it is self-regulation. They’re trying to get a hand of it and he was talking about that.
He talks about how the minute you walk into one of these places, regardless of where you stand in the political spectrum of that, he had high praise for people being carted the minute they walk in the door about how everything that you need is available. The transport bag that you have to have to be legal, all of that is available and it’s very much a one-stop shop. They’re very service-oriented and stuff like that. Right now they have to deal in nothing but cash because they can’t bank with all that. Regardless, talk about it. We never went to one but they indicated that from that whole recreational marijuana industry, maybe the cigar industry has things to learn from them.
That was something I had not thought about really know about. It sounded like they are doing a good job of trying to come up with one of their own regulations even before FDA’s requirement so that they can be as responsible as they can. It showed the FDA, “We’re doing these things.” He was commenting the cigar industry is a little more scattered. You have some people doing a good job of these things, some people not. That would be something to learn from.
That’s something that really tells you, you should have asked, “What else did you think about the show?” I’ve forgotten about it. Going through some of the things that we learn the talks; a lot of the talks tend to be about business retention and growing your customer base and stuff like that. They’re very retailer-focused. This came from a different place but it’s still, “What can the cigar industry learn from this other industry that is also very heavily regulated? How do we learn to thrive in spite of the regulation?
That seem to be overall this was maybe the first show that allow people to see the little more positive. With regulations here, it might get changed a little bit probably for the most parts here. It doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. Everybody should be able to keep doing what they’re doing. They might change a few things.
Crack industry or not, this is still a machine.
Obviously it makes life harder on the ultra-small boutique companies.
That was one of the bad things about the show. They were not as well represented this year as they were the year before. It’s not just that there weren’t retailers coming. There were brands that didn’t show up this year.
I think we’ll see more of that. It’s very expensive to have one booth at the show. A lot of companies do lose money by being there, it’s not big enough. That will be interesting to see what happens with that. I know that our stories on the humidors does feel like we have less boutique brands, but once we do have, it seemed to do it well. Maybe rather than having 25 different ones, we have ten but a bigger presence for one.
You’ve got your own rum craft. You’ve got Caldwell. You’ve got Boutique Blend and Hublot Boutique brand. Those brands are doing fairly well.
The new regulations won’t see as many new ones. You may not see any new boutique brands. I don’t think that’s a terrible thing but at the same time I think you lose some of the innovation, new ideas, by not having some new people. We’ll see what ends up happening.
It was good catching up.
I’ll see you next time.
- Cigars and More
- Aging Room Solera
- My Father Cigars
- Quality Importers
- Forte Soft Flame
- S.T. DuPont
- Rafael Nodal
- AJ Fernandez
- Pedro Ventura
- Rocky Patel
- Drew Estate
- Litto Gomez Diez
- Jonathan Drew