Cigar Aficionado's Big Smoke

Sorry it took a week to finally write about this, but I’ve been a little busy trying to tame Workplace. Anyway, last Wednesday night I went to a mini cigar convention put on by Cigar Aficionado magazine called the Big Smoke. It was three hours at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare and it was awesome.

It cost $175 to attend, but it was more than worth it. Basically I ended up with 34 cigars, many of them premium brands and high-end smokes. That would have been enough, but in addition they had food from many local Chicago restaurants. Places like Sal and Carvao and Sullivans. Sullivans was actually giving away STEAK, if you wanted to wait in the line that is. 🙂

In addition to smokes and food, there was an incredible array of top shelf alcohol. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a big Jack Daniel’s drinker, well JD had a booth that was giving away Gentleman’s Jack as well as Single Barrel Jack. For the unitiated, a small bottle of Single Barrel goes for about $50 and if you buy a glass of it at a bar, it’s anywhere from $10 – $12 a drink. JD wasn’t the only vendor… Corazon tequila, Plymouth Gin (of which I had a really killer Martini), Finlandia Vodka and quite a few more. With alcohol that good, I could have easily had enough drinks to offset my ticket cost!

CAO Cigars also had football Hall of Famer, Chicago Bear Dick Butkus, at their booth. You could get in line, get a picture taken with him and he was also signing autographs. It was very cool. The pictures haven’t been posted yet, but when CAO gets around to it, I’ll post a copy on Flickr.

There were some other “good life” vendors there. Triumph motorcycles, Chrysler (with the 300C all decked out), Diamond Crown humidors and Tommy Bahama with samples of their cologne. Probably one of the most fun things however was getting to roll my own cigar.

La Flor Dominicana had a master roller at their booth, and they were letting seven people at a time sit with him. He would give everyone a wrapper leaf and walk them through stretching the leaf, cutting it properly and then rolling it and gluing it all together. It was awesome. Folks with the best wrapped cigars in each session were eligible for a bunch of prizes including a trip to Miami that went to the winner. Needless to say I didn’t win, or even get into the finals, but I had a great time rolling it and smoking it immediately thereafter 🙂

I actually went to the event by myself. I had wanted to go last year, but it was during my layoff, so I didn’t want to spend the cash. This year I talked to a few of my cigar smoking buddies, but no-one could make it. I was thinking that I wouldn’t even go, but I’m so glad I did. I had a great time, even by myself. Throughout the venue there were tables with ashtrays and people would congregate at them. I met a lot of great cigar smoking brethren. Everyone was enjoying themselves and friendly as hell. I imagine a lot of alcohol and cigars will do that to ya! Needless to say, I’m going to make this an annual event. If you like cigars, you need to go as well, you will NOT be disappointed.