IPCPR 2015 Coverage – Final Thoughts on This Year’s Show

IPCPR 2015 Coverage – Final Thoughts on This Year’s Show

On the six hour drive back from New Orleans I had plenty of time to mull over what I believed were the overall trends, winners, losers and such that I noticed at IPCPR 2015. So, beginning with the caveat that these are my own personal opinions, I sit have decided to post the conclusions that I have come to while pontificating on the extremely long drive back to Houston.

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First, I firmly believe that holding the IPCPR in New Orleans was a gigantic mistake, and I hope to never see it held there again. My personal feelings for the city aside, it just makes absolutely no sense to hold it there. Since the IPCPR is held in the summer the heat is near unbearable (even Houston’s 100º weather and 88% humidity feels cool comparatively). The Convention Center in New Orleans isn’t quite set up for the show, because it’s a giant rectangle instead of a square, and it requires way more walking and rushing around than other locals the show has been held at. Then there’s the smoking ban. True, it wasn’t as draconian as we thought going in, but it was still hard to find places to smoke with AC or even outdoor fans. All non cigar bars, restaurants, casinos, etc. are no longer allowed to let anyone smoke inside. The fact this effects casino is just nuts! Seriously, New Orleans!? Granted you can smoke in tobacco shops and cigar bars, but there are too few to accommodate the number of people from the convention that wanted to enjoy a cigar in the evening. Many of the cigar shops and bars were rented for private parties, so it made it hard for the retailers or press that weren’t invited to find someplace to smoke. I’m told that this was the least attended show, as far as retailers go, and that includes the fact that they counted press at retailers for official counts. The next three years the show will be in Las Vegas, and then we’ll see where it goes next. Personally, I liked Orlando in 2012 the best. I highly doubt the show will be back in New Orleans.

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If I was asked what I believe the “Cigar of the Show” was, it would hands down be the Matilde Oscuro. Long before I had the chance to try it, I started hearing whispers about how great the cigar was. One friend said, “If you have tried Sejas’ Matilde Oscuro, you have to swing by the Quesada booth. I smoked it to the nub, and when I was done I just wanted to smoke another one.” Then a retailer tells me, “That Sejas Matilde Oscuro is a hit. You can tell how good it is even with a shot palette from too much smoking.” When I got around to trying it, I have to agree. The Matilde Oscuro was a cigar that wasn’t really on many people’s radar before the show, but by Day 4 of the IPCPR it seemed to be the unanimous choice for Cigar of the Show.

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Erik Espinosa was a big winner at this year’s show. The Espinosa booth seemed to be packed for the entire length of the show. The new Espinosa Especial, Laranja Caixa, Murcielago and tweeted Espinosa Habano blends are all great cigars that should be only add to the reputation of the La Zona factory. (Read more about these on my IPCPR 2015 Coverage – Day 1.) If anyone deserves the success he’s having, it’s a stand up guy like Erik.

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Beginning at the 2012 IPCPR, Altadis began a systematic rebranding and reblending of their core lines. The strategy has proven an unparalleled success. The Monte Cristo Epic, Monte Cristo Espada and now the Monte Cristo 80th Anniversary are all very impressive lines. The much talked about team up between Pete Johnson and Henry Clay was certainly a success considering that they sold out at the show. The Romeo and H. Upmann brands are going strong. Even the release of the Por Larranaga 2015 TAA seemed well received. Although they sometimes take some flack from hard core cigar enthusiasts, Altadis is making some very flavorful high quality cigars. Expect for them to continue to build on this in the next several years. Now if General could only learn a lesson from their playbook.

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Steve Saka’s Sobremesa was by far the cigar with the highest expectations, and the former Drew Estate CEO seemed to take a ton of orders despite very few people getting samples because the cigar was too young. Robert Caldwell’s booth was another one that was slammed during most of the show. The Blind Man’s Bluff was getting a lot of attention leading into the show. Caldwell has done a good job making a name for his fledgeling brand, and we only expect him to see his reputation grow in the coming years. For a small booth, MBombay seemed to doing fairly good traffic, and I expect to see those cigars hitting more stores in the future. Crowned Heads seemed to be inundated with retailers this year, as expected from the Cigar Media Association’s Brand of the Year. Those guys have really been on a roll lately.

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One thing that was hard to miss at the 2015 IPCPR was that this was the Year of the Connecticut Cigar. There were Connecticut wrappers everywhere, especially the shade grown variety. The new Padrón Dámaso led the pack of new Connecticut Shade wrappers. This is a whole new direction for Pádron, and the cigar is sure to be a winner with retailers. Drew Estate’s Undercrown Shade is supposed to be a milder addition to the line, but it is by no means a mild cigar. The My Father’s Centurion H-2K-CT uses a hybrid US Connecticut wrapper, which is Sun Grown from Cuban seed. In addition there’s the Kuuts Connecticut, Victor Vitale’s Tortuga 215 Reserva Connecticut, Nomad’s Therapy Connecticut (Ecuadorian Connecticut), Perdomo’s Special Craft Pilsner (shade), Altadis’ Romeo Añejo (2010 Connecticut Broadleaf), Klins new Caleanoch 25 (Ecuadorian Connecticut) featuring peat fire filler, a robusto sized Quesada Reserva Privada (Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade) and the AJ Fernandez New World Connecticut (released before the IPCPR). I think that that’s pretty good evidence of a trend. However, if there’s a close second to Connecticut wrappers, then it was most likely the Mexican San Andres variety.

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There continues to be a growing number of manufacturers making lancero vitolas. However, outside of Stogies World Class cigars in Houston, I don’t really see lanceros flying off store shelves. (Stogie actually has an exclusive line of H-Town Lanceros.) This year there were even three box pressed lanceros on the trade show floor. While there is a rabid fanbase for the lancero, it still represent a very small segment of the market. On the other hand, there seem to be more and more 60+ ring gauge cigars appearing on shelves. It seems that 70 is becoming more acceptable with the smoking public, and is one area of the industry where smaller companies are making a name for themselves. So Duran Cigars and Legacy Brands have both released cigars with the 70 ring size, and Oscar Valladares Tobacco & Co. has released the Big Johnny, which has a 66 ring gauge.

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There’s several smaller cigar brands that I feel deserve a quick shout out for their impeccable quality and contributions to the industry. First, Warped Cigars is from my former home base of Jupiter, Florida. These guys have been on a roll putting out some amazingly high quality (if also high priced) cigars. Bombay Tobak (MBombay Cigars) is producing cigars that are of such good quality and construction, that their Kesara earned a spot in out Top 5 last year. Cordoba & Morales have yet to make a cigar I didn’t like. Southern Draw has been making cigars that are hard to keep in stock at my local retailer, because I buy them just about as fast as they come in. Chinnock Cellar’s concept of cigars for pairing with wine and coffee has led to some very good cigars. Congratulations to Brian Chinnock on winning Best in Show for a Small Exhibitor this year. Lastly, Cabal Cigars has kept the releases to a minimum, but the cigars coming out of the KBF for Cabal have all been quite good and are worth checking out.

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This year the cigar media was represented in full force at the trade show. I’ve begun to lump most online cigar media into three categories: 1) The Cigar Media Association’s member brands dedicated to fostering cooperation between the media and manufacturers, as well as collaboration between media outlets. 2) Those sites, podcasts, etc. either too young to qualify for membership, or those too arrogant to join the CMA. Those quality sites that are too young will hopefully apply for membership eventually, and those too arrogant are probably not people who would adhere to the mission of the CMA if they were members. 3) Trick or treaters, fly by night sites, and other ne’er do wells who give the cigar media a bad name. For the most part, this year’s trade show saw media brands that fit into the first two categories. Though there was the occasional person just out for free stuff, this seemed to be much less of a problem this year than in years past. There are one or two sites that are told something in a casual friendly “off the record” setting, and then publish the story anyhow, which causes a lot of friction between the media and manufacturers. I do not approve of that method of blogging, and believe it is better suited to kids sitting in their mother’s basements than established cigar media brands. Luckily, the CMA is dedicated to to conducting their business in an honorable fashion that is helping to rebuild the media’s reputation among manufacturers, which will give us the ability to better serve our readers in the future. As a quick aside, a lot credit should go to Cigar Dojo, Cigar Coop, Blind Man’s Puff and Cigar Vixen for how they represented the CMA with an extraordinary level of class in New Orleans. At ToastedFoot we’re proud to be members of the CMA, and I’m honored to serve of the board with an excellent group of B.O.T.L.

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Overall, it was a decent show. There’s some interesting new releases coming out, and I’m looking forward to reviewing many of them here on ToastedFoot in the coming weeks and months.