IPCPR 2016 Coverage – Final Thought on the Show

IPCPR 2016 Coverage – Final Thought on the Show

Well, the 2016 IPCPR is finally over with, and I’ve had a few days to recover. While running errands with my wife, hanging out with friends and catching up on work for my day job, I’ve had some time to gather my thoughts on the IPCPR Trade Show last week. As I sit here on my patio smoking an Espinosa Laranga H-Town Lancero, I have decide to lay out my thoughts on this year’s show, in the same way I did last year. There are my own personal thoughts and opinions, and should not be taken as anything more than that.

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Moving the show to Vegas this year was a great move. Although it cost most of us a lot more to attend, it was much more convenient than New Orleans was last year. Staying in either the Venetian or Palazzo hotels made for easy access to the Sand Expo area where the show was held. There were plenty of places to eat, smoke and drink nearby. Most of us rarely left the Venetian/Palazzo complex during our week in Vegas. For the next several years the Trade Show will be held in Vegas, which is something that manufacturers and retailers are both likely to be happy about.

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Despite the massive number of new releases this year, I feel like the show is getting smaller. Previous shows, regardless of if they were held in Vegas or Orlando or New Orleans, seemed to have many more booths than this year’s show. Sure, it there was still too much to cover it all, but it just felt smaller. Wether it was due to the looming FDA regulation, a crummier economy or an indication of the overall state of the cigar industry is anyone’s guess. There were much fewer small booths (which are pretty much a sign and a table) than in year’s past. For years, despite not having any cigars for sale, Great Wall has had a booth at the IPCPR, but this year was absent. GMD Cigars, which I was quite fond of last year, went out of business and was not represented. While Davidoff, General and Altadis all had larger booths, it felt like most other companies saw theirs shrink slightly. I have a feeling this thread may continue in the coming years. It was also notable that several companies, including Souther Draw and Sosa, did not attend this year’s IPCPR in order to concentrate on their brands instead.

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Because there were so many cigar releases this year, there a good deal of cigars to keep an eye out for at your local retailer this year. While I haven’t had a chance to try them all (yet), many people I trust had favorable opinions of certain cigars. The cigars to look for this year seem to be: Davidoff Yamasá, Warped Maestro del Tiempo, 1964 Anniversary Padrón Hermoso, Corneliu & Anthony Vengaza, Nomad Martial Law, La Gran Llava, Foundation Tabernacle, La Aurora Preferidos Double Barrel Aged, Matilde Quadrata, MoyaRuiz Dim Mak, Nestor Miranda Collection Corojo, Hoyo by AJ Fernandez, La Palina Nicaraguan, Diamond Crown Black Diamond, HR Blue, Toraño Exodus, Espinosa Alpha Dawg, EP Carrillo Encore, Protocol Probable Cause, AJ Fernandez Bella Artes Rocky Patel Fifty-Five and 1502 Blue Sapphire. These are all likely to be cigars that receive decent ratings on our and other media sites, and have reasonable retail sales this year.

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There was no stand out “Cigar of the Show” this year, like the Matilde Oscura was last year. Instead there were several very good cigars with a little buzz to them, but there was nothing where retailer and media friends were coming up and saying, “Have you tried this, yet?” For me the best cigars of the show were the Cornelius & Anthony Vengaza, Davidoff Yamasá, Foundation Tabernacle, Matilde Quadrata and La Gran Llave. If I had to pick just one though, I’d say that the Cornelius & Anthony Vengaza was what stood out the most. The medium-full Vengaza had some excellent word of mouth occurring, and I think that you are likely to find it on a good deal of retailers shelves in the very near future.

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On the subject of Cornelius & Anthony, I feel they are the new boutique brand to watch this year. Steven Bailey’s company has had two excellent releases so far, with the Cornelius and the Daddy Mac. The Vengaza, which is coming from Erik Espinosa’s La Zona Factory, was one of the best new releases of the show. Though I have yet to smoke it, I would assume that if it’s anything like their other cigars, the new Meridian is likely to also be a good cigar. The branding, consistency, quality and complexity of their cigars all appear to exactly what you’d want from a high-end boutique brand. With a team like Todd Vance and Courtney Smith behind it, the Cornelius & Anthony brand should be a success. Unlike my pick of GMD last year, the Bailey family has been in the tobacco industry for generations, so there is little chance they won’t be around next year.

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While last year was the year of the Connecticut Shade wrapper, this year seemed to be all about Broadleaf. True, there were notable shade releases such as the Espinosa Creme, but Broadleaf was front and center everywhere you looked at this year’s IPCPR. Steve Saka’s Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust with the Mi Querida and Nick Melillo’s Foundation Cigar Company with the Tabernacle led the way this year with their use of Connecticut Broadleaf. Every other booth had some sort of new Broadleaf cigar. And, while no one size took center stage, there was definitely a move towards smaller lengths and ring gauges overall. Thankfully, as I said last year, the trend towards large ring gauges finally seems to have passed the tipping point. The two D’Crossier Enormous blends were the only new large ring gauge releases of note this year. There also seemed to be more lanceros, be it from Protocol or from Viva Republica, this underrated vitola seems to be getting some respect.

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Despite the doom and gloom prediction about FDA regulations posed on Facebook and other media sites, I personally feel that there will be plenty of new releases over the next several years. Especially companies like Alec Bradley, Rocky Patel, Davidoff, Altadis and General will have no shortage of releases at next year’s IPCPR and the year following. I don’t think we’ll see a whole lot of change between now and 2020. And by that time, who knows what the eventual outcome of what is going on with the FDA will be?

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This year, unlike in some previous years, there was a good deal of warmth towards the online cigar media on the trade show floor. Most manufacturers have realized that the bigger sites aren’t going to disappear anytime soon, and are there to cover the show rather than to get free stuff. I have to point out that when you figure in the cost of travel, accommodations, IPCPR membership and meals (not to mention missing our day jobs) every cigar sample we come home with cost us approximately $20. In years past, there were the occasional “trick or treater” out looking for free cigars, but that wasn’t the case this year. The Cigar Media Association has gone a long was towards developing a relationship between the manufacturers and the media. The IPCPR has been very helpful with its creation of the Internet Media badge, which is what allows us to attend the trade show each year. Some of my favorite sites covering the IPCPR this year were Cigar-Coop.com, CigarDojo.com, and DevelopingPalates.com.

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Retailer attendance was said to be up this year over last year. Vegas was a great location for the show and made it much easier to get around and to socialize. It seemed like many of the retailers there were placing a good deal of orders. Another nice thing to see was that it was not only the major manufacturers getting orders, but several smaller booths seemed to have a good deal of traffic also. One bad thing, which to be honest has always happened, but which seemed to be occurring much more this year that in previous years, was some retailers bringing consumers with them as employees. I don’t think it’s something that will ever go away completely, but it was a bit noticeable this year, and it couldn’t be blamed on the media.

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The one thing that I love the most about the IPCPR is it is a good chance to see old friends who I don’t see all the time anymore. It was nice to see Cigar Coop, Master Sensei from Dojo, Aaron Loomis of Developing Palates, Abe and Adam from Smoke Inn/Kiss My Ash Radio, Alan Ruban of Santa Clara, Pete Hernandez, the Pohlers, Patrick Vivalo, Gabriel Piñeres, Mel Shah for MBombay, Island Jim and Oscar, Azarias and Emille Mustafa of Cordoba & Morales, Héctor Alfonso of Espinosa Cigars, Glynn Loope of the CRA, Brian Chinnock of Chinnock Cellars Cigars and all the other people that I see only once or twice per year. (Sorry if I didn’t mention you, but this list could’ve gone on for a while.) As always it was a great time.

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Though we will release more reviews and news from the IPCPR Trader Show in the coming weeks, those looking for even more coverage should check out Cigar-Coop.com. Coop’s coverage is among the best in the cigar media.