Las Vegas Big Smoke Seminars: The Winner’s Circle


Photos / Jacob Kepler

Editor-in-Chief Gregory Mottola chats with Litto Gomez from La Flor Dominicana, Rafael Nodal from Aging Room Cigars and Cory Bappert from Oliva Cigar Co. on stage at the Big Smoke Seminars in Las Vegas.

What happens when your cigar is named Cigar of the Year? To find out, Editorial Director Gregory Mottola interviewed three people who know each other personally: Litto Gomez from La Flor Dominicana, Rafael Nodal from Aging Room and Cory Bappert from Oliva Cigar Co.

Before talking about winning, Gomez, cigar maker La Flor Dominicana, explained how happy he is to be back in a Big Smoke. “It’s so energizing to see cigar smokers again, talk to them and hear their opinions,” he said with a smile from the stage, blowing on one of his spiced cigars. “Thanks for being here,” he told the crowd. “You are the most important part of it all. “

Big Smoke Las Vegas Seminars

Mottola started the seminar by asking each panelist about their experience when they found out they were named No.1 because cigar makers are not alerted to the news until it goes public. Gomez was at his factory in the Dominican Republic when his wife Ines called him to let him know their Andalusian bull La Flor Dominicana had been named. Cigar loverCigar of the year for 2016. He went to the rolling room to share the news with everyone. “They started hitting the chavettas to celebrate,” Gomez said. He then sat down with his quality control team, telling them not to change. “The demand will increase,” he told them. “Nothing changes in this company. If we don’t have the right tobacco, we don’t make [the cigars.] That was my message that day.

Then he walked into his office, closed the door and began to cry, overwhelmed by the joy of accomplishment. “It was just a moment that I will never forget in my life,” he said.

Rafael Nodal also didn’t expect to be named No.1. “I thought I was out of the game,” he said. That morning he turned off his phone and went to the doctor, who happens to be a Plasencia, the famous family of Central American tobacco and cigar makers. Nodal was in a compromising position around 10 a.m. when Cigar lover launched their best cigars on their website. He couldn’t touch his phone, but the doctor’s cell phone was starting to light up. “He started getting calls,” Nodal said of his doctor, who asked Nodal to put his pants back on and hear the happy news that his Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua Maestro had taken the top spot. back to 2019. Nodal’s story of his compromising position made the audience laugh heartily.

Big Smoke Las Vegas Seminars

Oliva’s Cory Bappert was also indisposed when news broke that the Oliva Serie V Melanio Figurado had been named Cigar of the Year for 2014. He was in the middle of a dental cleaning when his phone exploded with messages, forcing the dentist to pause and tell him to check what was going on. When he saw the news he left, even though the work on his mouth was incomplete. “I have to go,” he said. His phone was swamped with congratulatory texts and requests for cigars.

Bappert said: “It’s almost like winning the green jacket at the Masters.”

Be named Cigar of the Year by Cigar lover is the highest honor in the industry and is causing unprecedented demand for a smoke. For Gomez, it was particularly difficult because only one team made the Bull at the time. He had to order more cigar molds, form more rolls, even get more boxes. “I called the box maker and told them I needed 20,000 boxes. What did he say ?’ Six months later, he ordered 20,000 more. “And during that time,” Gomez said, “the phone rings without picking up.”

Big Smoke Las Vegas Seminars

Photo / Rafael Nodal

Bappert, now CEO of Oliva and then vice president of company sales, said, “You have to be careful with the allocation. Some retailers get angry. You have to give it to everyone. He noted that the fact that his cigars come in boxes of 10, rather than the more common industry standard of 25, meant that Oliva could spread things better.

Still, the cigar was hard to come by for years. “It took us a good three years to meet customer demand,” he said.

The only thing that united the three men on stage, besides winning the No. 1, was their dedication to maintaining the quality of their award-winning cigars.

“You owe it to consumers to give them what they expect,” Nodal said. At the end of the seminar, he stood up with Gomez, Bappert and Mottola and took a selfie of the four of them with the enthusiastic crowd – nearly 600 people in the room – behind them.


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