For simplicity, I’ve added a gallery at the bottom of this page with all the photos I took and tons from everyone at the event. Flip through them all – there are some good ones!
Cigar events are staples in the cigar community. Reps from cigar companies usually come to a shop, set up a table, and sling deals on premium handmade smokes for a few hours. Sometimes, a store will throw a party with a little extra oomph. In other cases, there are cigar events on another level entirely. Ristefari is one of these such cases.
Riste Ristevski, owner of the Jas Sum Kral cigar brand, throws a cigar event every year that lasts a few days and aims to raise the bar on what it means to get together and light up a premium smoke with brothers and sisters of the leaf. It’s aptly named Ristefari, and 2018 was the third year for the party. It was my first time attending the event.
This year’s festivities were held March 9th through 11th. Day one was hosted by 1101 Cigar Lounge in Schererville, IN. I arrived in the afternoon to an absolutely packed parking lot. The shop was full of smoke and chatter.
Just inside the door, smoked Wagyu brisket was the centerpiece of a massive spread of food. Being that Riste is Macedonian, his family and in-laws played a huge part in feeding the largely overweight crowd (sorry, guys, it’s true!) with many Macedonian favorites. There were trays upon trays of delicious goodies. No one went hungry.
1101 Cigar Lounge offered discounts for box purchases. Purchases of any brand (not just JSK) earned you raffle tickets to be entered to win a plethora of very generous prizes from Riste’s own humidor including many vintage Cuban cigars and cool swag. The shop also donated some prizes.
This year, just like 2017, Riste made a limited cigar for the event. He took the Zlatno Sonce blend and tweaked it to produce a 7 x 58 Solomon size limited to only 100 boxes of 10 and retailing for $130 at the event with any extras selling for $170 on the JSK website.
There was a tent posted up outside of the shop for overflow seating. It also hosted a keg of phenomenal vanilla bean coffee mocha porter brewed by Riste’s cousin. It was one of the best beers I’ve had in a long time, and you can bet I filled my cup a few times.
Most in attendance brought bottles of craft beers and limited liquors to share. One of the best things about the cigar community is the camaraderie and generosity seen whenever a group of cigar lovers gets together. Anyone who needed a cigar or a drink at Ristefari was taken care of with a smile and a handshake.
Many of the people in attendance were folks I’d interacted with on social media for quite a while. Some were faces I’d seen on Facebook and never spoken to, but everyone was welcoming and friendly. There’s just something about cigars that turn strangers into friends in a matter of minutes. Hell, there was even a fellow media member from Blind Man’s Puff, Matt Tye, who drove all the way from Minnesota.
As the night went on, the crowd got rowdy, bottles were chugged, and many laughs were had. 1101 Cigar Lounge was more than welcoming, and the staff joined in on the fun and partying. Tons and tons of cigars were smoked, the keg was drained, and many of us stumbled back to the hotel next door ready for round two.
The next day, the event moved to The Golden Leaf in Hobart, IN. Again, there was tons of food with the highlight being a whole hog roasted to perfection. Even more people showed up for this day as we were past the work week. Golden Leaf also offered special with raffle tickets toward more awesome giveaways.
At one point, Riste passed me a giant plastic bottle with no label. I took a chug and tasted some very potent but tasty moonshine. The kicker – that was just the first one! I also tried an excellent grape moonshine made by his father-in-law.
I tried the JSK Toothpick 2.0 in both Habano and Maduro at the event, and I was very impressed especially at the price point. Luckily, I snagged a box of each. I will report back with full reviews in the future, but if you’re looking for a great budget cigar with tons of flavor, get these while you can.
Day two got a lot more wild and crazy. Everyone had their fair share of drinks. There were a few pass-outs, at least one dumpster upchuck, and plenty of shenanigans, but the highlight of the day was simply the great conversation had between brothers and sisters.
I left the event and headed for home late Saturday night and took a ton of memories with me. The party continued after I left, and I saw tons of funny photos and videos posted to social media. There were even a handful of people who carried the party on to Sunday.
Over 100 people came through 1101 Cigar Lounge. The Golden leaf saw even more with attendance exceeding 300. A ton of cigars were sold – 174 boxes of JSK alone! Riste served up 190 pounds of meat that was absolutely devoured. On top of all this, the event was free – just a great time put on by generous host.
Ristefari 2018 was the biggest single-brand cigar event I’ve ever attended outside of trade shows and festivals. It was hands down the best cigar event I’ve been to. Might I add, this was a free event! I met so many people I now call friends, and I can’t wait to see them all next year. Riste Ristevski knows how to throw a party, and his generosity to his supporters and friends is unmatched. Bring on 2019!