Cigar events range from the weekly get-togethers to watch Monday Night Football, to brand-focused tasting parties, all the way up to the seemingly growing trend of mega events—hosted across the nation, often assembled by the most influential cigar shops and groups. The latter is the case for Smoklahoma (yep, just like the musical!)—the latest addition to the mega-HERF lineup—located in none other than Oklahoma City, as you may have guessed.
Smoklahoma (or as I’ve been misspelling it, #smokelahoma) is a multi-vender gathering, brought together by ZT Cigars—which is one of the most prominent B&Ms in the area, boasting “Oklahoma’s largest humidor”. ZT’s actually has 2 locations, with a focus on a large, craft/boutique selection (over 250 brands, to be precise).
The party begins the night before the actual event (out-of-towners can appreciate this), as cigar personalities and cigar enthusiasts alike gather at ZT’s Oklahoma City location. There are the usual lounge amenities, as well as some generous BYO action.. Then there’s the upgraded experience—with a special Macallan tasting, hosted in the shop’s VIP building, located directly behind the B&M. We cannot stress enough what a classy job they did with this—premium hors d’oeuvres, prime rib buffet, cigar table, and a 6-course (if we can remember…) Macallan tasting you don’t want to miss.
The actual Smoklahoma followed the next day (Saturday), with a fresh take on event location—hosted in the newly-renovated concert hall, “The Criterion”. Because of this, it takes on a more intimate setting. Black walls and ceiling, dim lights—it had the feel of a backroom member’s lounge, only massive. Vendors are circled around the large, square space, with an open food table in the middle and spirit tasting stations scattered between the two. Speaking of which, Jack Daniel’s and Stranahan’s (our local distillery) caught most our beverage attention—including the new Stranahan’s Diamond Peak and Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof and Single Barrel Rye (nice touch). Of course, there are the usual extras, such as host bar (which was fairly large, we might add), VIP lounge, and of course, the cigar gift bag!
Because the event is assembled by a shop, the cigars and cigar vendors must all be sold at their retail locations. And because ZT’s has a very massive selection, the event vendors were equally impressive. All the usual suspects were in attendance, with an emphasis on the more “craft” side of the industry—Espinosa, MoyaRuiz, Crux, Tatuaje, Crowned Heads, Fratello, Kristoff—you get the picture… You’ve also got Drew Estate, Camacho, Davidoff, Altidas, Oliva, and more, from your larger-scale operations. As per usual, event attendees receive their bag of goodies from each of the vendors, whom are also allowed to sell—meaning tons of event-only specials, extra freebies, etc. Some of the cigar highlights included the launch of MoyaRuiz’s event-only Civil Disobedience (as well as some of their other LEs), Liga Privada Unico Serie, Joya Cuatro Cinco, Crowned Heads’ Las Mareas (as well as their notorious HEAD-wear), Tatuaje’s event-only Halloween (this was the 6th event to feature the cigars since launch), Camacho’s new Powerband, and a host of TAA exclusives.
All told, we were very impressed for the inaugural Smoklahoma event. The location was killer—air conditioned, very high ceilings, easy to navigate, nice exclusives, and we even kind of dug the idea of its late (7pm) start—not really sure if a later is better, but definitely a nice change of pace. Hell, we’d return next year for the Macallan tasting alone—everything else was gravy! We’d like to see some more options ticket-wise, though. At $150 – $250 each, I feel like I wouldn’t have much money left over for the show specials. Give me a $45 option with no cigars and let me do some wheelin’ & dealin’! It was refreshing to see each booth at a set size—with guys like Crux, compared to Drew Estate, both having the same booth, brands had to rely more on their actual product (as well as the brand rep’s sheer skills), rather than loud music and other attention grabbers. And then there’s the OK location, which is also refreshing—very centralized, with a surprisingly burgeoning and trendy scene—lots of great live music, craft beer, even their own San-Antonio-esque riverwalk (you’d hardly know it was man-made).
We can easily see this event really taking off in a year or two. As we mentioned, they have the groundwork in place—we’d love to se what they have in store for next year. Remember, if Kevin Costner taught us anything, it’s this: “If you build it, they will come.”