IPCPR 2013 Post Mortem

Drew Estate

It’s been nearly a week since IPCPR 2013 ended, and I could help but reflect on the events of the show, good, bad and otherwise.

Bad Boys of IPCPR
It makes sense to start at the beginning. After answering questions about it all show, I started to regret making it public, but there was too much comic value in Jerry and I getting kicked off the floor. The embarrassing high-speed security scooter ride, the attempt to confiscate ALL my cigars (including the ones I brought from home to smoke!), it was too good not to tweet about. Not to mention this all happened while the Social Media Seminar was in progress just down the hall. And, let’s face it, we were a little steamed about it.

Some thought we didn’t belong on the floor, others were surprised. The facts of the debacle are these: Press has always had set-up day access to the show, and we use it. (Doc StogieFresh was kind enough to confirm this going back as far as 2003.) There’s no better time to do your still photography, and get quick video booth tours than the afternoon before the show opens. Cases are polished, product is untouched, and booths are nearly empty. Sometimes you get lucky and get a few interviews in as well.

And let’s not forget that we’re are paying members of IPCPR, our annual dues are the same as a retailer’s dues. When we tried to make our case after being ejected, it fell on deaf ears. All we were told at the time is “not this year”. That’s something that would have been nice to know BEFORE we made arrangements to arrive at the show early. For us it means cost of a missed day of work (that’s right, we have day jobs), and an extra night in the Venetian. And even more importantly, our coverage of the show suffered for it. (Though I’d argue that we still did a pretty good job.)

Look at me, I’m getting a little steamed again, and that’s not my intent. The end of the story is Jerry spoke with the folks at IPCPR and was assured this wouldn’t be a problem in the future. I was happy to hear that. I support the IPCPR’s mission and love the event. More than anything else, I value the relationships we make and strengthen each year. Covering the show for Stogie Review is a lot of work (I limped my way onto the flight home, no joke), but it’s also immensely satisfying. Our fingers are crossed for next year.

What’s New And Hot?
The questions we hear repeatedly at the trade show are roughly “What’s the best thing you smoked at the show?” and “What’s got the buzz this year?” The first question is a tough one to answer. Believe it or not, we generally don’t smoke may cigars while on the floor. The ones we do light up we often don’t get to finish. I try to avoid smoking someone else’s cigar while interviewing a manufacturer, and in the hustle partially smoked cigars wind up forgotten in an ashtray. Other times we hear “put that down, you gotta try this.” But here are a few cigars I enjoyed and some general observations.

It goes without saying that large ring gauges were everywhere. The 6 x 60 is no longer a surprise when you walk into a booth, not having one is starting to seem unusual. You know times are changing when Jesus Fuego is making and happily smoking 60 ring gauges. This year the 7 x 70 (and larger sizes) is what the 6 x 60 was a few years ago. And as with every year, a few take it to comical excess. (For example, the full-sized tobacco football I spotted on the floor.)

Speaking of big, a number of booths grew as well, and there was some noteworthy consolidation. I didn’t measure it, but I heard the Drew Estate booth was 30% larger this year, making it seem like a city of cigars and art within the trade show. Tatuaje and My Father Cigars teamed up for a large booth in the center of the floor, and similarly EP Carrillo and Crowned Heads joined forces for a larger space this year.

Fire-cured tobacco was definitely something that was talked about on the floor, and I had a chance to smoke an example or two while I was there. My concerns about it being too overpowering seem to have been put to rest. I plan to spend more time burning it soon.

Drew Estate’s Nica Rustica samples were highly sought after at the show, and by the second day, they were long gone. I heard great things, and from my perspective, it seems like buzz for the Nica Rustica may have eclipsed their Kentucky Fire Cured MUWAT offerings. Retailers and manufacturers alike spoke well of the new cigar.

Sam Leccia was back, occupying a large part of the Torano booth, and man was he busy. We finally caught up with him the last day to talk about his new lines, and I asked him about the fate of the Debut line that never made it to market. It’s something I’ve been wondering about. He confirmed that the cigars are still around, and may appear on the market at some point in the future.

Alec Bradley shot their new Mundial cigars into space, nearly. Working with a company that sends up weather balloons, they launched their cigars into “near orbit” and then collected them after they parachuted back down into the desert 2 hours outside of Las Vegas. The plans are to auction off and donate the proceeds of the first cigars in space to charity.

One of my local retailers clued me into something interesting at the Esteban Carrera booth, a cigar called the Bloodline. the cigar employs a process I’ve they’re calling “The Soft Crush”. It originates with the perfume industry and involves pressing the individual tobacco leaves to bring out the oils. I can’t wait to try one.

Another fun find was a French puro cigar named Le Navarre, tucked away in a corner of the trade show (almost the exact same location as the Panamanian puro I came across a few years ago). All the tobacco is grown, and the cigars rolled in Southwest France. Most importantly, it’s a solid cigar. I lit one up just this morning and found it to be an enjoyable experience. They may be a little hard to find right now, but I noticed Smoke Inn has them in stock if you’re interested.

I spoke with another local retailer on the plane back, and he couldn’t say enough good things about the CAO Flathead. He lit it up and loved it. I haven’t smoked it yet, but is a pretty interesting concept, and a box-pressed lancero has me intrigued. Who doesn’t love cars, cigars and retro pin-up girls?

Patrick Vivalo, a sales executive for Rocky Patel blended a cigar for his trips to the factory, and through a series of fortunate events, it wound up in the hands of a couple retailers. Not only did they like it, they asked to have it made for them as a house blend named Vivalo. Jerry and I smoked a sample and dug it. Stories like this are one of the fun parts of the show, we made a point to talk to him about it on camera.

Another couple cigars I did have the chance to light up were RoMa Craft’s CroMagnon Mode-5 and Craft La Campana De Panama Sobrerana. The latter I smoked on evening at the Venetian’s infamous Circle Bar, and it surprised me how much I enjoyed it. Not because I expected it to be bad, but because it lit up after a few drinks, a number of cigars and a full day on the trade show floor and it really shined through. Also it’s a great looking smoke.

I don’t smoke many Macanudos, but I found the new Estate Reserve very enjoyable first thing one morning as we waited for the show to open. The Cru Royale remains my favorite Macanudo, but this may be in second place.

As with every year, there are a few booths that we just don’t get to, or people we have trouble tracking down. Usually it means they’re hard at work selling cigars, but it’s shame to miss a chance to talk. My apologies to anyone who feels slighted that we didn’t stop by, it wasn’t intentional. You have an open invitation to drop me a line when you swing through Atlanta, or perhaps we can catch up soon in Chattanooga.

And finally, a big thanks to Drew Estate for their sponsorship of our work at IPCPR this year. It would have been tough to make it happen without them.