Sense of Humidor

Smoking fine cigars was long the province of the overprivileged. Now, although you won't find many food stamp recipients puffing on Cubanas, it's no longer reserved for the high and mighty or those who aspire to such. In the late '90s, cigars have become as vital a fashion accessory as cuff links and diamond earrings.

A good, hefty cigar (no Swisher Sweets or Phillies Blunts) is both a tobacco connoisseur's luxury and a variety of statements to the world: I am suave, an individual of distinction; I am a power broker who holds the world in the palm of my hand; I'm a born winner, on my way to the top; I just quit smoking cigarettes, but cigars, that's another story. Or: I have a phallic-oral fixation, although, as Freud said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

On Thursday, June 18, at Phoenix Live! at the Arizona Center, the Cigar Group presents its third annual CigarFest, formerly and more appropriately known as the Cigar Schmooze. This consumer-oriented cigar show will feature some of the finest tobaccos from gourmand manufacturers such as Sosa and Puros Indios, as well as many newer tobacconists (the cigar boom in the mid-'90s spawned a flood of new companies vying for a share of the market). As if sucking up the finest carcinogens were not enough, the show also features exceptional libations, including rum, bourbon, cognac and single malt scotch.

For the admission price, one will receive at least four premium cigars and three one-ounce tastings of the spirits (lushes, don't fret--there will also be cash bars set up), as well as food samplings to complement the smoke and liquor. The men's and women's fashion show (the promoters report that the male/female ratio is nearly equal), we understand, features models who will not be ashing on the runway.

Besides its hedonistic delights, CigarFest will present exhibitors from humidor and cigar accessory manufacturers, financial companies, travel agencies, jewelers and other such patrician vendors. In theory, not only can one find a fine cognac, a great smoke and a classy humidor to stow it in, one can also invest in a mutual fund, rent a villa on the Grecian coast and purchase a diamond tennis bracelet. Or, like the rest of us, you can puff slowly and envision what you'll be buying when you win the PowerBall.

--Brendan Kelley

CigarFest is held at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 18, at Phoenix Live! at the Arizona Center, Third Street and Van Buren. Tickets are $30 in advance, $40 at the door. 787-1642.