The IPCPR for 2014 is finally over. And with the exception of the forklifts and the last second wrap-up sales meetings, the show is complete. But what happened during what I call the Big Show? Who were the big ballers that came in with bigger booths? Who were the small companies that had a staff of two that made a real impression? Let’s go over a little bit of the 2014 IPCPR and I can give you some of my viewpoints on this year’s Big Show.
When most of the people out in the world of cigar consumers think about the IPCPR, they have a tendency to think of all of the new products that are being introduced to retailers like a day-after-Thanksgiving sale. The comments heard in most shops in the next few weeks will be something along the lines of “what is Pete releasing this year?” or “what did Drew show off at the show?” What I saw was along those same lines but was sitting right next to the gimmicks and sales of non-premium tobacco. What I saw the most was the little guy that had no real staff but a helluva product contrasted with virtually limitless resources also having a helluva product. What I came away with was a belief that talent was everywhere and, whether you had money or not for displays, that talent was easy to see and easier to access during the IPCPR. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t some really interesting things to see or hear at this year’s Big Show.
For the best booth, I have to go with Drew Estate. Anytime you can walk up to a second story in a convention center and lord over people while smoking DE stuff is just balls. The music was so-so but the people and atmosphere were very charged up.
The booth that made me laugh the most was the al Fakher shisha booth. Anything with the name al Fakher that you put in your mouth and smoke is just giggle-rific.
The coolest looking booth has got to go to Foundry Tobacco Co. They had their steampunk stuff out there but it was dilapidated and run down. There were busted signs hanging from the eaves, the steam boiler was hissing out at times trying to release the overpressure and the equipment was dirty and beat up. But you pass through the back door and you’re in the 1960’s. As you wind through the corridor you see a wall filled with posters showing timelines, from 1914 to 1964 to 2014 to 2064. The booth was the progression of the Foundry lines with the breaking down of the old Foundry and breaking in of the new. When you get to the modern day there is a part in the script that they play a real Theremin for effect (I was told that there really wasn’t a script but I’ve seen more effort put into Disney ride scripts that couldn’t beat the Foundry show). Then you get to the Martian habitat dome growing tobacco with the Martian Astronaut that picks the tobacco for curing. I was told, outside of the show floor, that the Astronaut looked like one of the Martian zombie-nauts from The Last Days on Mars. Thing is that when you look at the panel in the Foundry worm hole tunnel, you really see that zombie. Personally I think Michael Giannini is a mad-scientist genius and uber-creative.
The best use of technology at the show has got to go to Hammer and Sickle. Besides offering authentic Russian vodka made from eastern wheat, they had their collection of beautiful (and heavy) boxes on display. The technology was that they were handing out two-cigar samples in a glass coffin that was laser etched for free with your name or store name. You actually got to see the glass lid placed into the laser and zapped. It was stunning.
The worst IPCPR idea has got to be letting technology companies that are closer in concept to 3 a.m. infomercials than anything premium tobacco or pipe related into the show to hawk their wares. Going down some aisles you would be practically assaulted by a sales pitch for a solar panel cell phone charger or a battery pack cell phone charger and then stumble across foot massagers in different aisle. The last I checked the IPCPR was an acronym for International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers. The “C” is not for Cell phone Chargers and the “P” is not for Pedicure. Really dumb idea IPCPR committee.
My next gripe is still being debated by some of the others at the show: Vape, Hookah and shisha. With some premium cigar companies making shisha now (and doing well from what I saw), it is entirely debatable whether hookah and shisha should be on the floor right next to Padron, Fuente or Ashton. But in my opinion, the allowance of Vape and the accessories for that ‘smoking’ practice into the Premium Cigar & Pipe show is ridiculous. Is there a market for it? Absolutely. Is there a market in the Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers of America? I’m sure that in some cases there might be. But is it bad of me to be a purist and say that I just thought sitting down with a La Sirena cigar or a pipe full of Stokkebye tobacco was what the IPCPR show was supposed to be about? I really don’t think so. Would the Big Show crumble if those rave-obsessed hookah booths and vape colonies weren’t allowed to pay up and come into the show? Beat’s me because I don’t see the economics of the Show. But when I see that they have a Political Action Committee to fight the FDA for all of us premium cigar and pipe smokers and ask for money to fund that PAC and THEN put the products on the show floor that they tell Congress they are in no way associated with is beyond ridiculous. Way beyond…
Some of the booths that I thought were really interesting were:
Dante Cigars – Michael Huff, or just Huff, puts out a good cigar (which will be reviewed here real soon) and the down-home hospitality that he shares was very nice (and so was the rum).
Cohiba – I’m all for booth babes but there was a girl there that I swear could be Taylor Swift’s twin. It was difficult to leave…or to focus on the gorgeous, new Cohiba Luxury Seleccion No.1
Daniel Marshall – ignoring the serious and cool urban ghetto vibe, they had Tony Atlas of WWE wrestling Hall of Fame in their booth. Tony is a really nice person and had some great stories to share.
Tatuaje, My Father Cigars and L’Atelier – seeing the Tatuaje fanboi parade line up at the booth was hilarious. Seeing the new lines of L’Atelier was better. I like L’Atelier and their 5 pack minis look really good. And I hear the Tatouage wine was pretty tasty too.
Lotus – This huge booth to all things fire was very classically laid out. The new lighters are legion and all very pretty to look at.
There were a lot things to look at, to smoke, to touch and feel and smell at the 2014 IPCPR show. The overall impression that I got from it though was that while there are new innovations and blends in the industry, there were fewer retailers on the floor. If you believe the current economic reports then the show should have had some of the bigger numbers of the past. But one booth told me that there were clearly not as many retailers this year and it was, as he thought, due to the idea that the IPCPR committee was really cracking down on retailers bringing along their friends and clansmen rather than the buyers and the sellers of the store. This really does make sense, especially since those friends would only want to meet the principals of a company for some “OMG! I shook JD’s hand” time and to yank every sample they could from the hands and display boxes lining the booths. I did hear that the numbers were being hit and that sales were pretty strong and steady despite the appearance of fewer numbers. And for this, I am happy as that means for another year, I get to have the new Monster or the latest Element in The Humidor.
Come back here to The Humidor often as we review a lot of the new stuff given out at the 2014 IPCPR over the new few weeks. See you in The Humidor.
Aaron McKinley @ArnaudMCK