It's hot. So very, very hot. You step outside and your clothing immediately sticks to you like a bad lamination job. It's 90 in the shade. The good news is the humidity is perfect...for keeping cigars moist. Too moist, actually. Outside is like trying to lead a life in a perpetual sauna. But inside the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center...it's pleasantly cool. Gentle wafts of cigar smoke billow out of the main room like the welcome embrace of a loved one. This is the first day that the convention floor is open and it's open season for many eager cigar aficionados, retailers, and even exhibitors. It's a chance, for everyone, to see what's new. And by jove, that's what I did. So here it is, the day 1 summary. Ready? Here we go.
Old School Cigars: An interesting boutique blend that I'd heard about but never had seen in the flesh. I got a chance to shoot the shit with Danny, the vice president. Very nice guy. He explained a bit about his brand and it was cool to see the passion behind it. Made for them by Camacho, they have several brands under the Old School name: the Old School Originals, Stixx, GR8, and the Randello (which I tried). The Randello was a pleasantly spicy and robust cigar that had both power and balance. Nice stuff. The Randello Robusto was $6, which I think is a fair price for the cigar.
La Aurora: La Aurora has some pretty awesome stuff coming out. I spent a goodly amount of time talking with the La Aurora Twitter guru, Amaury Abreu. La Aurora / Miami Cigars has released the La Aurora Corojo, which looked tasty as hell. There's also word that they're in the process of tweaking the lancero blend for the La Aurora 107. Nestor is releasing the Art Deco, which is a veritable smorgasbord of corojo, criollo, and habano of different ages, blended and manufactured in the Pepin factory. However, the piece de resistance is the Guillermo Leon cigar. The cool part about it is the double binder of both Cameroon and Corojo (for clean and sweet tobacco taste as well as some punch). Interesting to see how it works. I have a sample and my cameraman has already smoked it. He said it was delicious, with a leathery taste and sweet spice to it. Nom.
General Cigar Co.: General has quite a bit in the works.
Macanudo gets a few newbies to their line-up: the Grand Cru and the Vintage '97 Maduro. While I'm not entirely sure what's in the Grand Cru (I do have a sample that they graciously provided), the Vintage '97 is what I want to talk about. It has these funky bands on them that only a select few of them will get. It's a metal band that helps "gauge the appropriate humidity of the cigar", according to the rep. If the band is too loose, the cigar is underhumidified. If it's too tight, it's over-humidified. An interesting idea but honestly a little far-fetched. I've heard that they'll be about $8 which is pretty steep for a piece of steel wrapped around a Macanudo. But maybe I'll be proven wrong.
La Gloria Cubana gets the Artesanos de Obelisco, a pyramide shaped vitola with a curiously aged looking band. The specs on it are as follows: Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper with a Connecticut broadleaf binder all delicately snuggling Dominican and Nicaraguan filler. It also gets the La Gloria Serie N, which is mostly Nica with, I think, an Ecuadorian wrapper.
I think there was something else from them but I didn't get to see it. Their massive booth was pretty busy. Although I did manage to receive a fresh-rolled La Gloria from the very kind roller there. The man loved his Diet Coke, I'll give him that.
Altadis: The highlight of this entire booth was the Warlock, simply because I am a huge damn nerd and it entertained the hell out of me. I don't even know what the specs on it are because everyone was busy but it was just mesermizingly nerdy so that's all I remember from the booth. Whoops. EDIT: Some more info on the Warlock. It's an Omar Ortez with an Ecuadorian Cubano wrapper and Nicaraguan binder around Dom. and Nica fillers.
Xikar: They came out with a few lines of new cutters/lighters. The first is the Mayan collection which, honestly, is self-explanatory. I'm not much for the pseudo-tribal kinda vibe so I wasn't feeling it, honestly. However, I WAS feeling the Drew Estate collab. stuff they were going, including the Acid cutter (which, despite the fact that I'm not a huge Acid fan, was very well done) as well as the Liga Privada lighters which I would buy in a heartbeat. Cool stuff.
Hammer and Sickle: You're just gonna have to wait on this one. I'm doing an entire post dedicated to this one. Sit tight.
*insert break for lunch at Mulate's here*
J. Fuego: Two things here: the release of the 777 Maduro (same as the 777 except a maduro wrapper). However, what I really found awesome were the Origens, a 100% corojo cigar that comes both in boxes but also in small hand-rolled cheroot like bastards, called Originals. They look very, very tasty.
Ashton: The biggest deal here is the La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor. A Pepin cigar comprised of a Mexican Cuban-seed wrapper with Nicaraguan filler, everyone at the booth (including the employees) seemed excited about this thing. Although, if I got to sit around and smoke them all day, I'd probably be pretty excited about them too. Also, the specials booklet I picked up looks distinctly like a Holt's catalog. I wonder why...
Also stopped by the Illusione table to see Dion, who was extremely generous and gifted me a pack of Cuchillos Cubanos (because I'm an idiot and didn't hear about them somehow). They were goooooood. I'll save his stuff for a later date.
After the IPCPR we took a brief respite then headed off to two parties. The first up was the official launch of the La Aurora Guillermo Leon, which took place down on Bourbon Street. It was absolutely fantastic. A fat kid can't say no to a catered event with an open bar. Senor Leon gave a short introduction to his brand as well as his goals, which was well-received. He's a nice guy, that Guillermo. Also, very busy.
The last party of the night was the Cigar Press party at Don Leoncio's on Canal. Dion Giolito, Jon Huber, Thor Nielson, and Pete Johnson all took turns spinning tunes (and gulping cold beers in the stifling heat).
All in all, a fun first day. I'll have the second day up tomorrow and the third day up...uh....y'know what, just stay tuned. I'm doing the best I can here. Don't forget this is free, ya bastards!
Oh, have some photos:
On to Day 3!