Big Smoke Meets WhiskyFest Dazzles In Florida

Guests had their pick of fine whiskies and cigars at the third annual Big Smoke Meets WhiskyFest.

Big Smoke Meets WhiskyFest Dazzles In Florida

March 6, 2023 –––––– Julia Higgins, , , ,

Crowds flocked to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida this past weekend for the third annual Big Smoke Meets WhiskyFest extravaganza. The day started with a slew of afternoon seminars and culminated in a grand tasting of whisky, rum, tequila, and fine cigars, all accompanied by a live band.

Things kicked off just after lunch on Saturday, when Cigar Aficionado’s editors were joined by some of the world’s top cigarmakers for several hours of seminars, tastings, and discussions. To the delight of guests (and those on stage), editor and publisher Marvin R. Shanken was in the house. "Hi everybody," he greeted the crowd, before launching into a lighthearted roast of his panelists, who included cigar luminaries Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, Rocky Patel, Litto Gomez, Jorge Padrón, and Carlos Fuente Jr. Later on, attendees were treated to an exclusive tasting of a new collaborative cigar by Padrón and Fuente, as well as a cigar-and-whisky pairing in which Cigar Aficionado’s No. 2 Cigar of 2022 (the Rocky Patel Sixty Sixty, which was also the magazine’s top legal cigar of the year) was tasted in tandem with Whisky Advocate’s No. 1 Whisky of 2022, Jack Daniel’s Bonded Tennessee whiskey.Marvin-Cigarguys.jpeg
Publisher Marvin R. Shanken (pictured with Carlos Fuente, Jr., Jorge Padrón, and Litto Gomez) greets the panelists at the onset of the afternoon's seminars.

Once the seminars came to a close, it wasn’t long before the main event—a grand tasting of whisky, cigars, and other spirits—got underway. Ballroom doors opened at 5:30 for an evening that started with a VIP hour, where an exclusive selection of whiskies and cigars were made available. Among the VIP pours were such ultra-aged single malt scotch whiskies as the Gordon & MacPhail Mortlach 1989 and Benromach Heritage 40 year old (2022 release), as well as rarefied American favorites like Old Fitzgerald 19 year old (Fall 2022 Release) and 17 year old (Spring 2022 Release).

As the VIP hour concluded, more guests joined the fun to savor their pick of more than 100 whiskies from a wide variety of brands. Joe Phillips, who was there for his first-ever Big Smoke or WhiskyFest event, was particularly keen on pairing bourbon with cigars. “I started with a Fuente cigar, and just about any whisky pairs well with that, but I found the Bardstown bourbons were excellent with it, and you certainly can’t go wrong with Widow Jane either—the Decadence was delicious,” he said. Bill Tribble, owner of Ernesto’s cigar bar in Petoskey, Michigan, likewise enjoyed a Fuente cigar throughout the night, though he paired his with rye. “All of the Sagamore Spirit ryes blew me away, and they unexpectedly went so well with my Fuente,” he said.

Attendees had an international contingent of whiskies on hand, and scotch whiskies, including Johnnie Walker, were plentiful.

While plenty of American whiskeys were on hand, including Westward, Heaven’s Door, Larceny, George Dickel, Sugarlands Distilling Co., and Kentucky Owl, there was also a strong international presence thanks to Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal, Glen Moray, and Lindores Abbey, among others.

WhiskyFest will return on May 12, when it will be showtime in Chicago. Tickets are available here.

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