The Dutch Big Smoke 2019. Mid-September is the week of the Dutch Big Smoke, and it has been since 2011. This year just continued the tradition. Ministry of Cigars was there to enjoy the company of like-minded people, lovers of the leaf.
Big Smoke history
The Dutch Big Smoke tradition was started in 2011 by the Dutch cigar blog sigarenliefhebber. It took place in a luxurious private club in The Hague, Societe Nobel. The idea was simple, 10 retailers had a booth, at every booth one cigar was showcased. The cigars were all new to the Dutch market and so the 150 cigar aficionados that showed up had the chance to smoke the cigars Before anybody else.
The first Dutch Big Smoke was a success, but the organizers saw room for improvement. By moving the event to another venue there was room for growth. And by moving the date forward to mid-September, it would be possible to have cigar manufacturers at the event. Cigar manufacturers have to be in Europe for intertabac anyway. And that was a success. The event eventually grew to be the biggest consumer cigar event in Europe, with 500 tickets sold. And then the NVWA (Dutch version of the FDA) shut it down. The new owners of the blog never had the ingenuity to come up with an alternative, nor the skills to keep the site alive. The website is no longer online.
After a year’s absence, Cigaragua decided to breath new life in the event. Together with a few other shops in and around Amsterdam. Each shop had one or more cigar manufacturers and cigar smokers would travel from shop to shop. That turned out to be a big hassle, so the next year, the cigar manufacturers would travel from shop to shop. That didn’t work out great as well. So for this year, Cigaragua owner Sasja van Horssen came up with another plan.
Dutch Big Smoke 2019
For the 2019 edition, cigaragua decided to split the event up into three parts. A pre-party with 40 tickets available on Saturday in the Cigaragua shop in Amsterdam. The main event with 200 tickets in the beautiful waterfront garden of restaurant Le Barrage in Alblasserdam and a 40 people afterparty at Jacks’ cigar bar in Rotterdam. And it looks like that is the winning combination, all three events sold out and the vibe was great.
On Saturday the 14th of September we walked into a smoke-filled Cigaragua where several cigar manufacturers and plenty of cigar lovers were engaged in lively conversations. Upon entry, tickets were exchanged for a bag with ten cigars. And as always with the Dutch Big Smoke, those cigars are all new to the Dutch market. The event lasted the whole day, from 10 am till the shop closed the doors at 9 PM. It was a cozy and great pre-party
The Sunday events
The main event on Sunday was just as great. Le Barrage offers a beautiful waterfront garden with plenty of room for 200 guests plus cigar manufacturers. And all of them worked the room, going from table to table, promoting their brand and having a good time. The atmosphere was very relaxed and the beautiful Indian summer weather helped. Sunshine, a little breeze and temperatures of close to 25 degrees. Just to compare, the next day it rained all day and the temperature dropped with 10 degrees. The feedback from both the manufacturers and the consumers was great. The manufacturers had more freedom as they weren’t tied to a booth. The consumers all got to spend more time with the manufacturers, instead of a short chat at the booth. And the vibe was like the old Dutch Big Smoke before the nanny state stepped in.
The afterparty at Jacks’ Cigar Bar took place that night. Since we were welcomed with a harsh “if you don’t have a ticket, you won’t get in” by Jacks’ owner Jaco de Kramer we decided to smoke a quick cigar with some friends we hadn’t seen for a long time. And then made our way home. We understand that the place is small, but that’s no reason to be rude. Especially to someone you’ve known for years. The message could and should have been brought with more tact and a friendlier tone. But with the new law, that bans smoke lounges in bars, hotels, and restaurants, it’s a big question if there will be an afterparty at Jacks’ bar anyway next year.
Room for improvement
Is there room for improvement? We think there is. A lot of cigar manufacturers are at the Dutch Big Smoke year after year, there isn’t a lot of new blood coming in. And although we love hanging out with Juan Martinez from Joya de Nicaragua, Bradley Rubin from Alec Bradley and all other manufacturers, there was only one new name on the line-up this year: J.C. Newman. We would love to see more variety in the next editions, and with a big gun as a headliner. Cigaragua has enough connections to get big players such as Jorge Padron, Don Pepin Garcia, Rocky Patel or Nick Perdomo as the star of the Dutch Big Smoke. And Cigaragua owner Sasja van Horssen is also connected to Carlito Fuente. Having Fuente at the Dutch Big Smoke would be the absolute best. But to end on a positive note: after a few years of trying to come up with a formula that works, it looks like this is the winner. We can’t wait to return.