By James Hills

Did you join us in June for the 6th Annual West Coast Cigar & Spirits Tasting event hosted by Cigar & Spirits Magazine and presented by Drew Estate Cigars and Ketel One Vodka. If you did then you were among the more than 600 enthusiasts that joined us for an evening complete with premium cigars, entertainment, and a chance to taste new spirits breaking into the market along with age old classics that we know well. As guests entered the pavilion where the event was held they were treated to a red carpet treatment, setting the mood for an evening where everyone could feel like a celebrity.img_3089-copy

The thing I love about “festivals” is that it’s a great opportunity to discover new things without feeling like you might have made a mistake. The downside of many other festivals though is that turns into a drunken party where everyone is sloppy. Not so at this event. Instead, the atmosphere was more like a group of friends hanging out and celebrating their mutual passion.

Sure, there was plenty to drink but this was about something more – the readers of Cigar & Spirits having an opportunity to feel special while meeting with reps from their favorite cigar and alcohol brands.

20160527_0225-copyA favorite spirit vendor of the evening was Ketel One, who served mixologist inspired cocktails featuring their traditional and flavored vodkas. Also in attendance was Zacapa Rum, who offered a tasting and pairing seminar during the show which was exceptionally well received, and filled up within minutes of opening.

One of the more interesting vendors this year included “America’s Smoothest Rum” Gubba Gold Rum from Colorado inspired by a rum that the owner discovered in St. Martin. Today, they use a technique that dates back to the 1800’s to produce an exceptionally smooth sugar cane rum that’s infused with fruits, spices and herbs.

For many people tequila is still a spirit that is met with a shake of the head, but the reality 20160527_175234-copyis that today’s top tequilas are as high quality as any scotch. As it deserves to be, tequila was well represented that night but one of my new favorites is Tears of Llorona. It is a 100% blue agave spirit that is aged for nearly five years in three different oak barrels that previously held scotch, sherry, and brandy. The final product is more like a cognac than a typical tequila because it has inherited some of the essence of each of those other spirits. While I enjoy margaritas as much as the next guy, this Extra Anejo is designed to be sipped slowly and enjoyed – perhaps while enjoying a fine cigar …

Lucky for us, upon checking in, all guests were provided with a swag bag! These generous bags were filled with samples, swag, and perhaps best of all a punch card for cigar samples ranging from Drew Estate, Zander-Greg, Rocky Patel, Ventura Cigar Company, Alec Bradley and many more!

20160527_172238-copyGuest then had the opportunity to walk around and meet with the more than a dozen cigar vendors who were sharing some of their finest product. One of the highlights of the evening were the exquisite ashtrays on display and provided by Gramm Works, who make several lines of CNC Machined Ashtrays and travel humidors, each fashioned from blocks of solid aluminum.

As guests explored new favorites and shared stories with friends they were also treated to live merengue dancers, aerialists, and live flamenco guitar playing.20160527_0178-copy

While this year’s event is over, we’ll be announcing details for 2017 shortly and we hope to see even more of you here in beautiful sunny southern California for an evening of smoking and drinking with friends and your favorite brands.

This year was the biggest and most successful event in the six years of holding the West Coast Cigar & Spirits Tasting. We extend our thanks to all our sponsors; Ketel One Vodka, Drew Estate Cigars, Zacapa Rum, Montecristo Cigars, Ventura Cigar Company, NOLET’S Gin, Gubba rum, Zander-Greg Tobacco Products, and Decada Tequila and of course to you, our readers as well!