There were several memorable moments throughout 2023 PCA Convention & Trade Show.
There were so many that I was contemplating writing a 12 page article, but then I realized that people have short attention spans. So, to spare you from dozing off, I decided to condense my experiences into a more digestible list of five, in no particular order.
5. Meeting Carlito Fuente Jr.
Picture this: I land at the airport and immediately start drooling over the thought of lighting up my first cigar. Forget food, forget water, forget booze—I needed a torch lighter! My quest led me to a cozy little store by the escalator with a sign that said “Cigars.” Bingo! Inside, I spotted a dude in a black suit and a white fedora, signing a book – “Arturo Fuente: Since 1912.” To my surprise, standing before me was none other than Carlito Fuente Jr., a renowned figure in the cigar industry. His reputation as one of the most respected individuals in this field preceded him. Engaging in conversation, we delved into our shared passion for cigars and realized that we were acquainted with some of the same individuals. The trade show had just begun, and I hadn’t even left the airport. Oh, and of course, I snagged a lighter before taking off. Priorities, people.
4. Blending Seminar with guests Christian Eiroa, Manolo Quesada, Nestor Plasencia Jr. hosted by Michael Herklots
Who says seminars have to be snooze-fests? Not this one. I attended a blending seminar with some of the industry’s brightest minds. They discussed the differences in the taste of tobacco from different regions, how the micro-climate affects the farms, the art of blending puros versus blending with multiple countries of origin, Christian Eiroa&’s airplane, among other topics. And let’s not forget the sage words of Manolo Quesada, who enlightened us with this gem: “We are in a position to bring pleasure and this is our goal. We have to make sure that we bring pleasure. Today, we live a life so fast, so complicated, so overbearing, that smoking a cigar has to be a refuge. You need this friend to sit down, relax and enjoy, and have a moment to compose ourselves and think. And to me, being able to do that that is my constant bucket list forever, as long as I live.”
3. Bar Luca
While the trade show floor remained the primary focus of the week, Bar Luca emerged as the vibrant epicenter, both preceding and following its opening. No matter what ungodly hour you found yourself there, you could always count on meeting someone in the industry excited to chat about cigars. I had the pleasure of conversing with Tony Dzhordzhalyan (Puro Humo Cigars) and Tim Wong (Pier 28, Espinosa Cigars) about every little nook and cranny of the industry. The camaraderie at Bar Luca was so thick you could probably cut it with a cigar cutter. It felt like a magical cloud of smoky passion hung in the air, bringing us together like a dysfunctional but lovable family of cigar enthusiasts.
2. Cigar Public interview with Joe Kenney
Drumroll, please! It was a momentous occasion when I finally met another fellow writer/cigar reviewer from Cigar Public. Joe Kenney, the man himself, turned out to be a very humble and delightful personality with a wealth of knowledge about cigars. We sat down for a chat (video coming soon), discussing everything from the art of cigar reviews to developing your palate. Alongside Joe, I had the pleasure of meeting Brian and Ophelia Desind from Privada Cigar Club, as well as Clark Thorton and the whole Privada Cigar Club crew. I must take a moment to raise my cigar to Brian because, without him, I wouldn’t have had the chance to review cigars for Cigar Public. He’s like the fairy godfather of tobacco, granting me access to a world of flavor and adventure.
1. El Septimo Dinner
Hold on to your seats, folks, because this was the crème de la crème of dinners. Zaya Younan, the generous soul that he is, extended an invitation to the El Septimo dinner party at none other than Lupo by Wolfgang Puck in the Mandalay Bay Hotel. Talk about a red carpet affair. As I entered, they handed me an Emperor Collection Alexander III cigar from the Sacred Arts collection. Paired with a glass of Oban 14, that mild Connecticut shade stick made for a great pairing. Then came the Sacred Arts Collection Botticelli—a 7.5×58 salomon that disappeared quicker than a pizza at a college party. Maybe it was the whisky, maybe it was the food, but who am I kidding? It was definitely the whisky. The speeches by Chip Goldeen (Executive Vice President of Sales) and Zaya Younan (Chairman & CEO) were inspired, full of grand visions for the company. Kudos to Narong Va (Sales Manager) for ensuring our table felt like a throne fit for cigar royalty. And to cap it all off, they handed out the Exception White Luxus Collection—a 5×60 gordo—as a final indulgence.
And that, my friends, wraps up my top five most memorable moments at the 2023 PCA Convention & Trade Show. It was a whirlwind of smoke, camaraderie, and a touch of indulgence. Until the next adventure…