It’s Halloween for adults. I’m juggling a glass of Dobel in one hand, a Padron in the other, while hefting a bag that is quickly filling with cigars. It’s my first Cigar Aficionado: Big Smoke at the Mirage in Vegas.
I’m here with Jason and his parents and we’ve decided early on to divide and conquer. While the folks queue up at the longer lines to grab Rocky Patels, Jason and I snap up Nat Sherman, Partagas, CAO and more, armed with our book of vouchers. It takes us less than an hour to secure all 39 cigars. We are a crack team of cigar ninjas.
The room is already shrouded in a thick fog that hangs in the high ceilinged air above us. Food tables are scattered around the convention hall offering up sides of beef, pork sliders, short ribs, fajitas and more. The fedora count is inordinately high.
Cigar Aficionado is our host. They call themselves the “Good Life Magazine for Men“. Apparently the good life is on a bit of a budget this year. While past shows played host to Ferrari, Porche and Aston Martin, this year Chevrolet enjoys pride of place on the showroom floor and opts to showcase its Impala.
You can’t argue with the smokes though, and with our cigars fully secured, I light up a Casa Fernandez and wander over to the Aberlour booth where they’ve specifically paired it with the A’bunadh. We’ve officially kick started the drinking portion of our evening. We wander through the rich smoke over to Crown Royal. From prior years experience Jason knows they’ve got some XR on hand even if it’s not on the table. The Diageo booth babe begrudges us a finger of the stuff, furtively pouring it under the table. She’s more interested in pushing the Crown Royal Maple which is great if you like drinking syrup straight up.
Fortunately the Crown rep is on hand to elaborate. He pours us another big hit of the XR, keeping it hidden from view, and explains we’re trying the Blue Box. The Red Box was an historic blend that incorporated the last of the Waterloo based Seagrams whiskey stock. Bottled history that’s all but gone now. The Blue Box represents the final stores of whiskey from the LaSalle distillery of Montreal. This was the Brofmans first distillery after buying Seagrams for a song in 1928 and adopting their name. The stuff is pure heaven in a bottle – and I’d venture even nicer than the Red Box.
Diageo is in full effect here. Another booth features Oban, Talisker and Lagavulin and they are only too happy to provide a glass of each. They helpfully offer up a box of crystallized ginger to clear the palate between shots. I pretend at considering each thoughtfully between puffs but I am more Augustus Gloop running rampant in the Chocolate Factory.
There’s a couple wines featured here. We try a glass of CigarZin but at this point it’s mere hydration as I’ve successfully burned out my taste buds. We move back to the hard stuff and relish a glass of the Ardbeg 10 Year old. The Zacapa 23 rum is lovely but we can’t cajole the reps to offer up any of the XO that sits tantalizingly on the shelves behind them.
I even begrudge a bit of Vodka from Crop Organic. We chat with the rep about bourbon, cocktail culture and the growing popularity of rye in the US. At least that’s how I remember it. By this time I could have been guttering vowels and drooling on myself. I’m working on an Arturo Fuente and the nicotine buzzing through my system is battling it out with the liquor sloshing through my liver.
Everyone is similarly blissed out when they flash the lights for last call. Individuals are slumped over on tables or propped up against far walls. Jason and I wander out to an impromptu cigar tailgate in the convention hallway where they are proffering beers from a styrofoam cooler – the good life indeed. We’re all clutching bags holding close to $600 worth of cigars here at home yet people are inordinately happy to have scored a free Corona.
I’m back home now and staring at a daunting collection of wonderful sticks. I’m hoping the weather holds and favors us with one nice weekend. I’d love to have some folks over to try something nice. What is the good life if it’s not shared after all?