2010 Trade Show Around the Corner.

In just a few days, I'll be boarding a Delta flight bound for New Orleans to attend the 2010 International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers annual convention at the Ernest N Morial Convention Center.  The first time I attended the show in New Orleans was just a month before Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005.  Since then I've been back almost every year to support and attend Emeril Lagasse's Carnivale du Vin.  Last year's trade show was in New Orleans and we're returning again this year since the accomodating folks of NOLA are willing to let us smoke on the show floor.

I'm always reminded as the show nears some of the great launches of IPCPR's past (formerly called RTDA). The first show I attended was in Nashville in 2003. For me, the hottest release of that year was the La Aurora Cien AƱos.
  A Dominican Puro, it was handed out in the corona format and I still remember what a unique departure that flavor was from the standard La Aurora line.  A limited production, we have only a few remaining cigars left from that incredible release; now with the age they're simply incredible! 

In 2004 we returned to Las Vegas, as we do normally every other year. While there were many exciting new cigars, one of the stars of the show was the Padron 1926 40th Anniversary.  Padron is one of the few companies that does not launch new products year after year.  Maybe a new size, or perhaps a new sampler- but this was a new limited edition in the 1926 series to commemorate the 40 years of Padron in the United States.  Since then they've released several other incredible new and limited cigars, but the 40th Anniversary really threw the industry for a loop.  And giving credit where credit is due, the cigar ultimately won "Cigar of the Year" by CigarAficionado magazine.

In 2005 we trecked down to New Orleans, LA.  Little did we know that in just a few weeks, Hurricane Katrina would destroy the very streets we were walking on.  In fact, the convention center that hosted us served as a relief center.  The 2005 show introduced a new concept for Ashton.  The ESG (Estate Sun Grown) celebrated their 20th year in business. 

The churchill-sized cigar would be available in limited quantities and ultimately be the first in a limited series of cigars to be launched over the next five years... each year a new size would join the ranks of the ESG collection celebrating each year through 25 years.  Made by the Fuente family in Dominican Republic, the ESG uses a Dominican-grown wrapper from Chateau de la Fuente.  The blend was created by Carlos Fuente, Jr.

In 2006 we returned to Las Vegas.  2006 also marked the 100th Anniversary of the year Zino Davidoff was born.  Though every year Davidoff releases a new special product at the show, this year was particularly special.  The Davidoff Diademas Finas has become one of the most sought after cigars of the last ten years.  Long since sold out- customers and collectors are constantly looking for the Diademas Finas and its little brother, the 100th Anniversary Robusto.  If you can find any... buy them!

In 2007, the annual trade show descended onto the city of Houston, TX.  I really enjoyed Houston.  It's a fun town with great restaurants, and great accessibility to everything.  The Avo brand released the Avo 787.  Though AVO cigars have been available for many years, and there were already several different lines as well as a collection of annual limited editions, the 787 line was different. 

First, the line was designed to only be available in Brick & Mortar stores... not available online or through catalogs.  Additionally, the line was inspired by the success of the 2002 Avo limited Edition "Avo 22".  Though not identical (it couldn't be, since the Avo 22 was a unique blend made entirely of tobacco from 1998 and no tobacco was left), it was quite reminiscent of the balance and sophistication of the Avo 22.  Three sizes were launched at the time, a Robusto, Toro and the original "22" format perfecto.  New sizes have been added since.

The 2008 industry trade show got an update in the organization's name, from RTDA (Retail Tobacco Dealers of America) to IPCPR (International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers).  We're still getting used to it.  Nevertheless, the 2008 Las Vegas show was a success as always.  Since 2006, Litto Gomez had been introducing his "Factory Press" series- a cigar that was severely box-pressed, and came shipped in the press itself.  The Factory Press III debuted at the show and was my favorite of the three releases.  At 6.25" x 58 it is a serious cigar.  It's wrapped in a Connecticut-Broadleaf Maduro wrapper, and featured a Nicaraguan binder with Dominican fillers from Litto's La Canela Farm.

Finally, last year's show stealer at the 2009 New Orleans convention was the Queada 35th Anniversary.  Thsi was the first cigar to bear the Quesada brand name.  It also marked the introduction of the Quesada family's sixth generation of cigar makers to the industry.  Though they've been active and involved since a young age, Quesada patriarch, Manuel Quesada handed the reigns over to the "young ones" to have a go for themselves.  They knocked it out of the park! 

At 6" x 49, this box pressed toro was begging to be smoked.  Only 10,000 boxes of 20 cigars were available.  And they sold out within the first 36 hours of the show.  We were fortunate enough to premiere this cigar at our Madison Avenue location last year.  Click here to read my blog on the event. The unique Ecuadorian-grown Arapiraca wrapper really made this cigar stand out!  If you can find any... buy them.  FYI- the Quesada Tributo is now available.  Check out my Haute Living piece on the new release.

SO- now it's time to prepare for the 2010 release.  I'm quite sure it will be filled with countless new cigars and accessories as well as opportunities to catch up with my fellow retailers and favorite manufacturers.  Stay tuned for updates!