Rain was threatening on and off all day, and the humidity was almost 100 percent, but once again, the cigar smokers of the Carolinas couldn’t be stopped. Cigar lovers turned out in droves for the Smokin’ in the Carolinas festival at the JR Cigar factory in Burlington, North Carolina, and many reported coming from as far as Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. One gentleman from Pennsylvania said he had been attending the festival since the Smokin’ in the Carolinas inaugural event seven years ago when there were only 300 people in the JR Cigar back parking lot.
This was my second year attending, and one thing I very much appreciated was that the organizers put up two giant tents this year rather than just one. This allowed all the manufacturers to be under one big tent instead of sprawled around the parking lot and provided some much-needed shade. Aside from the sprawling barbecue spread, unlimited beer from Red Oak Brewery, and a bag of 60 premium cigars, one of the main draws of the day was the deals that these manufacturers offer exclusively to Smokin’ in the Carolinas attendees. Seriously, these deals are nuts.
One of my favorite parts of the festival last year was a Romeo y Julieta and Jack Daniels pairing seminar, and thankfully it was back yet again. This year, I sampled the 1875 Nicaragua, a spicy cigar that paired perfectly with the ultra-smooth Gentleman Jack. This was a popular event, with every seat (plus many standing) filled for the six or seven times they offered the seminar throughout the day.
If you wanted to meet some special guests, this year’s event had no shortage of them, with Jose Luis Plasencia, Robert Caldwell, Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, Rob Norris, and others attending.
My only issue was that there really wasn’t enough seating for all the attendees, and I found myself sitting down on a curb a few times just to take a break. Granted, there were always open seats, but whenever I would ask to sit at one, the answer was always, “Sorry, someone is sitting here.”
Aside from that, this festival is truly something special, and the people you’ll meet and smoke cigars with feel like long-lost friends. Honestly, if you haven’t yet spent a day, or a weekend, at a cigar festival, then you need to give it a try—check out our list of festivals here. It’s very much akin to a gathering of 500 of your closest friends all smoking tons of premium cigars. Now, doesn’t that sound like paradise?
Coming soon: Our interview with Robert Holt, founder of Southern Draw Cigars.
Check out our recap of Smokin’ in the Carolinas 2018.