I know, technically ProCigar ended Friday night, or early Saturday morning.
Slightly later, and I mean slightly, Patrick Lagreid and I left the Gran Almirante for two events on Saturday. Neither were official ProCigar events, but both were part of the week’s festivities.
It started at La Aurora for the opening of the new Cigar World, an educational workshop built inside the La Aurora factory designed to not only display the history of the Dominican’s oldest cigar company, but also to bring guests up close to the cigar making process.
Guillermo León, La Aurora’s fifth generation owner, held a news conference in front of a packed audience before leading tours of the new space.
It’s impressive, well thought out and has the potential to be something special.
Speaking of special, two notable guests were on hand were Daniel Núñez, the former president and coo of General Cigar Co., and Benji Menendez. According to both León and Menendez himself, the cigar legend will have some role in the project, although it has not been finalized. A year ago, Menendez retired from General Cigar Co. after a 62-year career spanning from Cuba, working alongside his father, to General and Altadis.
La Aurora also took the opportunity to preview the Puro Vintage 2006, the latest in the growing series, which is now being described as biennial, occurring once every two years.
From there it was off to Quesada Cigars for the factory’s annual post-ProCigar pig roast and poker tournament. Due to our early evening flight we only indulged in the former—the third consecutive day we had a pig roast, something I definitely could get used to on a daily basis.
And after a brief history of ceramic cups from Manuel “Manolo” Quesada Jr., it was off to the airport.
As you’ve probably figured out, Patrick Lagreid headed to Cuba, where he will be covering the 17th Habanos Festival. I went back to Dallas, where it’s snowing.
That concludes our formal ProCigar daily reports and it seems fitting that there is some actual end to the coverage as a whole.
ProCigar was fantastic.
Throughout the event, the hosts—i.e. the Dominican manufacturers—kept reiterating that it is the greatest cigar festival on the planet. Patrick will surely be able to provide much more educated thoughts on that when he returns next week. First, second…it doesn’t really matter. ProCigar is extremely well run, well thought out and well enjoyed.
And yet, it has a terrible marketing problem in the U.S.
The reality is you can visit a factory at just about any point of the year, regardless of if you are a consumer, or a retailer, or media. It takes an email, or a phone call, or maybe a tweet—but arranging factory visits isn’t that challenging. What you cannot do the other 51 weeks of the year is sit on a bus next to one brand owner, walk a field with the person behind your favorite robusto, have drinks with the guy you constantly see in the ad and eat dinner sitting next to a legend in the cigar world.
And then repeat it for two or three more days.
To put it bluntly, the roster of cigar talent and personalities that shows up to ProCigar—not just the Dominican manufacturers—is rivaled only by the annual IPCPR Trade Show and Convention, an event not open to the public. ProCigar is a sort of fantasy camp for cigars. Blood Marys with Rocky Patel? Check. Jonathan Drew watching you try to put a cigar in cellophane? Yep. Ride a bus with Benji Menendez? Benji rides the bus, with you. Lunch with Litto Gomez? In the rain. Eladio Diaz rolls you a cigar? It happened. José Blanco mocks your dancing skills? Easily arranged.
ProCigar’s greatest asset is its people.
The people that should get you down to the Dominican Republic are the laundry list of cigar celebrities I started above, but as with any cigar producer, it’s the roller who hands you a cigar off the bench, the barn walker who makes sure you don’t hit your head on a pole or the women sorting the tobacco always smiling. Those are the stars you remember and ProCigar has plenty of those too.
Photographs of La Aurora’s Cigar World, Patrick Lagreid.