Big Smoke Las Vegas 2011 – My first Big Smoke Experience



by at 4:15 pm (4 Comments) Smokin' News

A few days ago, I was lucky enough to attend the 16th ‘Big Smoke, Las Vegas’ event, hosted at the Venetian Hotel by Cigar Aficionado Magazine.  This was the first Big Smoke event I’ve been to, and I can honestly say that I can’t imagine a cigar event being any better than this.  Premium spirits, top shelf cigars, and a pile of passionate cigar enthusiasts made this a weekend to remember.  For those of you who couldn’t make it or those who were there and just want to relive it again, I’ve hammered out a brief write up of the festivities along with some Big Smoke photos.

Big Smoke Las Vegas was a three day event, and allowed attendees the choice of purchasing tickets to attend day seminars on Saturday and Sunday, a Big Smoke evening event on Friday or Saturday, or the full meal deal which included both day seminars, and your choice of either the Friday or Saturday evening event.  Myself and my cohorts Russ and Adam (aka, “The Fellowship of the Smoke”), agreed the only way to go was to purchase tickets for both days and the Saturday evening event.

Saturday morning we arrived at the Venetian in time for the 9am kickoff of events.  Doing anything in Vegas at 9am is usually a poor, painful decision.  However, my spirits were lifted when we arrived at the Venetian’s huge conference rooms and were immediately handed Cigar Aficionado’s top three ‘legal’ (non Cuban) cigars of 2010, along with tote bags full of good stuff (including the current issue of CA magazine, a slick stainless travel mug, and a copy of the Big Smoke itinerary).  Things only got better when we took our seats.  I was like a small child at Christmas when I realized that each and every seat was set up with cutters, matches, ashtrays, and even little dishes of sugar candy in case you started getting your ass kicked by a cigar.  It was opulence from the get-go, and it sure felt good to fire up CA’s No.2 ranked Viaje Oro Reserva VOR No. 5 shortly after 9am.  I don’t want to give up too much, as there’s a review coming soon, but I will say that the VOR No. 5 was highly deserving of being the first smoke I ignited.

After Andre Farkas of Viaje Cigars had finished presenting on the VOR No. 5, Gordon Mott and David Savona took the stage to provide an “Insiders” view of Cuba today.  Ajay Patel of La Casa del Habano, UK, rounded out the discussion and made most of the audience sick with envy as he discussed his own personal collection of vintage cigars and outlined their proper storage and aging.  Carlos Fuente Jr. then took the stage and gave a powerful talk on his family, the history of Arturo Fuente cigars, and some of the challenges they have overcome.  A Fuente Fuente Opus X was provided to accompany this part of the program.  Carlos Fuente Jr. finished to a standing ovation before Christian Eiroa of Camacho Cigars, Nestor Andres Plasencia of Plasencia Tobacco and Manuel Quesada of S.A.G. Imports took the stage to discuss hybrid tobacco and the role it plays in cigars today.

Following the hybrid tobacco presentation, Jose Orlando Padron and Jorge Padron gave a brief discussion of the No.3 ranked ‘legal’ cigar of 2010, the Padron Family Reserve No. 45 (natural).  After Jose and Jorge had finished their part of the program, Litto Gomez (La Flor Dominicana), Michael Giannini (General Cigar Co.) and Rocky Patel (Rocky Patel Premium Cigar Co.) took the stage to discuss unusual cigar sizes, including the LFD chisel, Nub, and Rocky Patel Salomone.

At 12:20pm the morning program wrapped up and a well deserved lunch was announced.  Myself and the rest of the Big Smoke crowd switched rooms for “Lunch with Rocky Patel Premium Cigar Co.”.  A package of premium Rocky Patel cigars was presented to each attendee as they entered the dining room, and service kicked off.  This was one of the best meals I’ve had recently.  The service and servers were top notch, the food was exceptional, and the overall atmosphere and camaraderie made this lunch a meal to remember.  As luck would have it, we happened to wind up at a table with a handful of fellow Canadians who were enjoying the hell out of ‘Big Smoke’ and basking in the absence of Canada’s restrictive tobacco laws.  During the meal, Rocky Patel provided a brief presentation on his company and the start to finish process involved in making a Rocky Patel cigar.  A second short presentation was also given by members of the CRA (Cigar Rights of America).

After lunch wound down, there was enough time to head back to the hotel, change, and then return to the Venetian for a Rocky Patel cigar event being held for Big Smoke guests at the Davidoff cigar shop. We weren’t planning on this mini-event, but as it turns out, Champagne, good company and another primo cigar made for a fine Saturday afternoon.

After the Davidoff / Rocky Patel event finished, it was time for the Big Smoke evening.  This was an event that almost defies words.  Imagine for just a minute that you took your favourite issue of Cigar Aficionado and somehow turned that magazine into a living, breathing world that you could step into.  That world would be exactly like the Big Smoke evening events.  From 6:30pm to 9:30pm, the cigar loving masses were treated to more premium cigars, food and spirits than anyone could possibly comprehend.  Upon arrival, each attendee was provided with a book of tickets, and each ticket corresponded to a booth handing out samples of cigars or cigar related products.  This overwhelming combination of cigars, food and drinks made for some tough decisions, but The Fellowship and I took the ‘divide and conquer’ approach, splitting our tickets and meeting once we’d redeemed them all for a pile of outstanding cigars.  We then had ample time to wander and sample all kinds of incredible food, drinks, and cigar related products and accessories.  There were many recognizable faces from the cigar universe in attendance, and I was completely floored at just how friendly and relaxed the overall atmosphere was.

Sunday morning kicked off at a slightly more respectable 9:30am.  Cigars and Michelada cocktails were being handed out at the door, making it impossible to even make it to your seat without smokes and a beverage in hand.  A fantastic  breakfast created by Chef Charlie Palmer was served as soon as I took my seat,  and Chef Palmer was on hand to cook, answer questions, and give the crowd a ‘how to’ demo on making your own sausage.

After Chef Palmer’s breakfast program had finished, Mike Giannini of General Cigar Co. led the audience through a ‘roll your own cigar’ seminar.  This, above all other parts of the weekend, taught me just how incredibly difficult the art of cigar making really is.

It sure looks easy when someone with 40 years experience is doing it, but most of the folks around me mangled their wrappers pretty quick.   Boxes of La Gloria Cubana cigars were handed out for the best, worst, and most creative cigars.  Sadly, I didn’t win a damn thing but I for one was proud of my ugly cigar!

Fine wrapper, ready to be mangled....

Rolling cigars looks easy, right?

The final part of Sunday’s program, and the final chapter of the Big Smoke event saw Jack Bettridge of Cigar Aficionado magazine and Alan Rubin of Alec Bradley Cigars pairing fine cognacs with Alec Bradley Cigars.  This was a fantastic tasting experience, and I can think of no finer way to spend a Sunday.  When the event wrapped up at 1pm, it was a sad moment indeed.  This was also my first opportunity to sample the new ‘Black Label’ cigar from Alec Bradley, and it impressed the hell out of me.

Overall, Big Smoke Las Vegas was an event that has been burned, or rather, smoked, into my memory. This was my first ‘Big Smoke’ event, but most certainly not my last.  From the accessories to the libations and of course the cigars themselves, every detail of this event was thoroughly organized and flawlessly executed.   It was also a great opportunity to mingle with like minded individuals, network, and relax.  Cigar Aficionado has created an event that brings thousands of people together based on a common interest, yet makes each one of the guests feel comfortably at home.   Look for me next year – I’ll be the dude with the Cigaropolis shirt, cigar and cognac in hand, and a huge dumbass grin on my face.



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4 Responses to “Big Smoke Las Vegas 2011 – My first Big Smoke Experience”

  1. Peter C

    November 13, 2011
    6:36 am

    Hi Matt

    Excellent review and outline of The Big Smoke in Vegas,I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope you forward this to Gordon Mott
    at CA, I’m sure it will published in Cigar Afficinato.
    In your review you outline the BS evenings as Sat or a Sunday choice,however they are a Fri or Sat option.

    PS ,Love your site, enjoying the reviews.

  2. Chris

    November 13, 2011
    9:40 am

    Great stuff write up and pictures!

  3. Matt

    November 13, 2011
    10:49 am

    Nice catch, and thanks for the heads up. I’ve tweaked the evening dates so they’re accurate. For the record… I would’ve stayed for a Sunday evening if they had one. Thanks again for the feedback, and I’m glad you’re enjoying Cigaropolis!

  4. Russ

    December 22, 2011
    1:46 pm

    You’ve captured the event nicely, Matt. I personally took a lot of pleasure in the chances we had to connect on a personal level with many of the cigar personalities in attendance, especially Carlos Fuente Jr. and his family.

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