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Stogie News: Cigar Artisans 2006 Special Report

2 Oct 2006

[After winning two free tickets to be the StogieGuys.com special correspondent to Saturday’s Cigar Artisans 2006 event, George Edmonson sent us the following report.]

TAMPA – Two and a half hours of cigar heaven.

People handing out cigars, waiters stopping with trays of beef Wellington and chicken empanada, bartenders ready to serve chilled wine and beer.

And smoking was not just permitted, it was encouraged. CAO’s Golds, for instance, were already clipped and then toasted as you picked one up. You got a card that entitled you to another stick when you returned with the butt.

Yes, the Thompson Cigar Co.’s Cigar Artisans 2006 event Saturday evening at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino was one cigar-friendly party.

Whether they were newbies like Mario Drake, who took up cigars just a couple of months ago, or veterans like Al Remp, who’s been in the business longer than many of those present have been alive, everyone seemed to be having a good time.

“It’s like trick or treat,” someone remarked as our group worked its way to the Cusano table to exchange coupons for a Corojo and one of its best-sellers, the C-18.

As the lucky representative for The Stogie Guys – as shown by my new Stogie Guys cap – I’d call it pure treat. After all, how many other times am I going to get a chance to chat with cigar royalty like Rocky Patel and Felipe Gregorio, watch a Puros Indios roller at work, or just enjoy being in a room with hundreds of other happy cigar enthusiasts – and get free cigars?

(OK, so as a guest I wasn’t allowed to enter the drawing for a Harley-Davidson or the fancy poker table. You couldn’t smoke with all that wind in your face and I’m a lousy card player, anyway.)

One surprise was meeting Greg Hoffman, who works in public relations for Thompson and was key in developing the company’s Cigar Blog 101. It turns out that Hoffman and I both worked at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in the 1990s before he returned to his hometown and got involved in the world of cigars.

I learned from several makers that those of us who worry about the dreaded cigar beetles could be worrying too much. While they all acknowledged it as a potential disaster – “the kiss of death,” said one – they also said all manufacturers take steps to prevent it.

Charlie Torano said fumigation is commonplace throughout the industry. “We also freeze cigars at minus 25 degrees,” he added, part of a process that lasts five days.

Several manufacturers also agreed that there can be value in smokers aging their cigars, but some of their comments sounded as if they believe that you can make too much of that, too.

“Definitely,” Gregorio said enthusiastically, when asked if his cigars are ready to smoke right out of the box. The benefits of aging, he explained, vary greatly among different cigars and often are not dramatic. He recommended aging boxes rather than mixing cigars.

Rex Snyder, the Ashton sales rep manning that booth, said the Fuente tobacco they use is well-aged already. But, he added, cigars can benefit from humidor time after purchase, which Snyder said he does.

Surrounded by smokers, it’s easy to feel like another boom is underway. Charlie Torano said he sees signs of it in increased competition among cigar makers for the best tobacco. Keeping the supply up with demand can be a problem.

But he doesn’t think it’ll end up like the previous boom, with lots of lousy cigars rushed to market. Most of the unworthy makers are out of the business, he said, “and I think we’ve learned our lesson.”

CAO’s Aylin Ozgener, who was kept in a nearly constant stream of conversation with smokers at the booth, said tobacco supply is a key factor when the company is deciding whether to proceed with a new blend. If the necessary tobaccos are available in limited quantities, they have to decide whether it’s worth putting out a limited edition.

That’s what happened with the new Vision. “We hesitated on that for a while,” Ozgener said. And when CAO decided to go ahead, she said, they let customers know that production will be limited.

Now, here’s a tip: Want to smoke like Rocky? Grab a 6 inches by 52 ring gauge stogie. That’s his preferred vitola for smoking, as well as for blending.

“It’s just the right size,” he said.

Who could argue with that?

George Edmonson

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Drew Estate

10 Responses to “Stogie News: Cigar Artisans 2006 Special Report”

  1. Sam Monday, October 2, 2006 at 5:43 am #

    Great review George- especially with the humidor aging questions. Some are ready to smoke but most would do well with a few months in the humi.

  2. Jerry @ Stogie Revie Monday, October 2, 2006 at 6:46 am #

    Geat job George! Sounds like you had an awesome time and enjoyed yourself a lot.

    I'm glad you got your questions answered. I'm a bit hesitant when asking cigar manufacturers if their smokes can be enjoyed out of the box. Of course most will say they are because the quicker you smoke them, the quicker you have to buy more. But its refreshing to hear that some acknowledge that greatness that comes with aging.

  3. Anonymous Monday, October 2, 2006 at 7:11 am #

    Great article! I think it's so cool that you actually sent a reader to this event. Very interesting to read about George's interaction with cigar bigwigs and their take on various issues.

  4. Anonymous Monday, October 2, 2006 at 7:51 am #

    Well it's settled then. I'm going next year.

  5. Pete Monday, October 2, 2006 at 8:41 am #

    Would it be possible to see a higher res version of the cigar pictures? I'd love to dig through and see what he got.

  6. Cigar Blog Moderator Tuesday, October 3, 2006 at 6:07 am #

    Stogie Guys — George's write up is awesome. Great idea to send a correspondent. Thank you for your help.

    Here's a list of the free sticks handed out.
    Belmondo
    Ciabao
    Augusto Reyes
    La Paloma
    Victor Sinclair
    Manolete
    Puros Indios
    Montecristo
    Trinidad
    Rocky Patel – Edge
    Hoyo De Monterrey
    Macanudo
    La Gloria Cubana
    Padron
    CAO Gold
    Cuesta Rey Centenario
    La Aroma De Cuba
    A Fuente Gran Reserva
    Carlos Torano
    Cusano
    Acid
    Camacho
    Felipe Gregorio
    Perdomo Reserve Cabinet Series
    Gurkha
    Black Pearl
    Leon Jimenes
    Oliva

  7. Patrick S Tuesday, October 3, 2006 at 7:36 am #

    Cigar Blog 101-
    Thanks for the info. That is quite an impressive list!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

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    […] – On October 2 George Edmonson filed his report on Cigar Artisans 2006. […]

  2. The Stogie Guys » Blog Archive » Stogie Guys Friday Sampler XXXVIII - Friday, April 6, 2007

    […] 4) If you’re a fan of Rocky Patel’s Vintage Sun Grown line, you’ll be pleased to know that a new size is now available. The monster six inch by 60 ring gauge vitola – with a distinctive pigtail cap – joins the “Sixty” sizes available in Rocky Patel’s other vintage lines: 1990, 1992, and 1999. Of course, back in September, Rocky told Stogie Guys Tampa Bureau Chief George Edmonson that was his favorite size. […]

  3. Stogie Guys Friday Sampler LXI - Friday, September 14, 2007

    […] 1) If you’re a Stogie Guys in Florida (specifically the Tampa area) you may be interested to know that Thompson Cigar’s Cigar Artisans event is going on tomorrow and that tickets are still available. With entry you get over 50 cigars and as George wrote last year, you get to meet the men (and women) who produce the fantastic cigars you enjoy every day. […]