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Stogie News: Cigar Artisans 2007 Special Report

17 Sep 2007

TAMPA — From Ashtons to Iguanas, from scantily clad CAO Flavourettes to Guayabera-wearing blenders, Cigar Artisans 2007 seemed to have something for just about everyone.

With more than 60 vendors — most of them cigar sellers — on hand to dispense their wares, not even a couple of torrential downpours could dampen the spirits of smiling enthusiasts.

Cigar Artisans 2007 - Al Remp Al Remp announces the  winners.

The event Saturday afternoon was held at Thompson Cigar Co.’s outlet store near Tampa International Airport. Most of the activity took place outside beneath massive tents, unlike the 2006 party that was held in a large room at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

Still, much was the same. Patrons exchanged coupons for cigars, Thompson’s Al Remp manned the microphone and helped select winners for giveaways that included a trip to the Dominican Republic, and cigar makers like Rocky Patel and Ernesto Perez-Carrillo chatted amicably with customers.

Moving among the booths, some differences were also apparent. Phillip Wynne of Filipe Gregorio cigars and Charlie Toraño, for example, weren’t able to make it, their company reps explained. And some who weren’t there last year, such as Jose “Pepin” Garcia, were passing out cigars this time.

As is often the case when Rocky is around, he was a star attraction. He spent the afternoon being interviewed, signing boxes for customers, chatting on the cell phone, and answering questions.

“Rocky,” I asked. “Do you ever do anything but work?”

“No,” he laughed. “Not really.”

Carlos M. Llaca, operations manager for Toraño Cigars, appeared to be enjoying himself as he was meeting customers and dispensing cigars. He talked enthusiastically about the company’s new maduro line due out soon, to be followed by another line later this year.

“Business is good,” said Llaca. “We’re happy.”

He said he is also pleased at the proliferation of large-scale cigar events like Cigar Artisans throughout the country. “This type of event is becoming more and more prevalent,” Llaca said. “It used to be you only had the Big Smoke.”

Cigar Artisans 2007 - Rocky Patel Rocky Patel is a hit.

This year, a local barbeque restaurant catered the Artisans gathering, and dozens of tables were set up under one of the tents. In addition to eating, patrons stopped to rest from the unrelenting temperature and humidity. It was a great place to chat and compare notes.

While I didn’t talk to anywhere near enough patrons out of the huge crowd to reach a decisive conclusion, most of those I spoke with were enjoying themselves and the goodies they were picking up. In my opinion, the selection of cigars handed out seemed to be better than 2006. Many were the same, but among the different sticks included this year were a 601, one from Pepin, a Rocky Patel Sun Grown, and Drew Estate’s Chateau Real, as well as quite a few flavored sticks like Havana Honeys, CAO Flavours, and Heavenly Cigars, for those who like them.

My only real complaint was the heat. If the event is to be held outdoors, my suggestion would be to push it a little more toward the fall

On the fun scale, Punch’s photo booth brought a smile to nearly everyone who stopped by to appear in a personal “advertisement.” And the friendly pooches ambling along with volunteers from the Southeastern Guide Dogs — a charity supported by the event — was a nice touch, too.

And, of course, there was always time for cigar talk.

I stopped by Don Pepin’s booth near the entrance and, through a translator, spoke with the master. It was, he said, the similarity of Nicaragua’s soil and weather to those in Cuba, coupled with his blending knowledge and experience, that helped him create the cigars that have incited such a storm.

What sort of cigar, I inquired, would he get if he could combine tobacco from both countries?

Before the translator could finish repeating the question, Don Pepin smiled. “It would be the best,” he said.

I told him I hoped to be able to smoke one someday.

He continued to smile and nodded: “Si.”

George E

Tags: cigars

View all the photos from Cigar Artisans 2007…

Southwestern Guide Dogs was on hand at Cigar Artisans 2007 and received support from the event:

Southwestern Guide Dogs - Cigar Artisans 2007

Carlos M. Llaca, operations manager for Toraño Cigars, hands out cigars:

Carlos M. Llaca - Cigar Artisans 2007

Personalized Punch “ads” were popular. Heck, they’d let anybody pose:

Punch Ads - Cigar Articans 2007

Drew Estate

8 Responses to “Stogie News: Cigar Artisans 2007 Special Report”

  1. Sandra Monday, September 17, 2007 at 9:44 am #

    Excellent report, George. I’m glad you were able to make it so we can live vicariously through you.

    By the way, that Punch ad is priceless.

  2. Matt Tuesday, September 18, 2007 at 4:59 pm #

    No pics of the Flavourettes???? 🙁

  3. Patrick S Tuesday, September 18, 2007 at 7:04 pm #

    Matt- Sorry we don’t have photos of the flavorettes, but Cigar Dave does:
    http://cigardave.com/photoops.html

  4. George E Tuesday, September 18, 2007 at 8:52 pm #

    You can also check this CAO site for numerous photos: http://www.flavoursbycao.com/

  5. Chris H Wednesday, September 19, 2007 at 6:01 am #

    It was a great event! I'm glad I attended this year!

  6. Chris H Thursday, September 20, 2007 at 12:10 am #

    Already heard that next years event will be held in February to go along with the Super Bowl. Can’t wait!

  7. Brian Tuesday, February 12, 2008 at 3:19 pm #

    Does anyone know if the 2008 event has already happened?

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