When we were told our friends that Stogie Press was going to list the top 25 Boutique cigars of 2014 we had a lot discussion about what defines a boutique cigar. Is it a limited edition stick, one that is produced only once and never to be made again like a fine vintage wine that wants to be stored and aged? Or maybe it is a premium cigar that is produced by a small manufacturer that produces only a certain amount of sticks per year? Can a company like Davidoff that carries a number of different brands have a boutique cigar even though Davidoff is one of the largest cigar companies in the world? I recently had a conversation with George Rico from Gran Habano Tobacco in Miami about the quantity component. Gran Habano produces millions of cigars a year, yet he still considers the brand boutique. He noted “I made one cigar for $25,000 once – is that a boutique cigar?” This list of question goes on and the answer is not straight forward. It seems to be different depending on who you talk to. We know you have your own definition or understanding on it too and you may or may not agree with our definition.
Before getting deeper into what we feel makes a boutique line, lets first understand that according to HalfWheel.com, there were at least 1274 new or expanded lines of cigars in 2014 alone. That is a lot of new introductions. Your local brick and mortar is certainly not carrying all of these and many of them you may not even be aware of. So we wanted to make sure that we gave a definition to what a boutique cigar is to us and hopefully you may be introduced to cigars that are not in every shop in the country but deserve to be enjoyed just the same.
If you like craft beer, single malt scotches, vintage wines or small batch bourbons then you understand the essence of “boutique”. It doesn’t have to be limited quantity, but it should have at least 2 primary components -high quality ingredients and masters of blend and construction. Translated to cigars this would mean the use higher-grade tobaccos and more experienced torcedors and master blenders. Many boutique cigar lines do not own their own farms or factories so they contract the some of the best on the industry to produce their cigars.
We believe boutique cigars are those that offer flavor and quality construction in a consistent production. The brand owners are more deeply involved in the production, overseeing and validating that it meets their expectation. Even if it is a larger manufacturer like CAO or My Father Cigars the blend and flavor profile is unique and special to the owner. Overall we feel that Boutique Cigars are not defined by price or availability but rather quality and uniqueness in flavor like the Warped Flor Del Valle our # 2 cigar of the year . Of course, companies that are small and have a limited production of quality cigars are by definition Boutique but that does not exclude larger companies that produce a quality and uniquely flavored cigar. Many of these boutique cigars may not be available on all the shelves of brick and mortar shops due to lack of knowledge of the cigar or limited shelf space.
As an obersavtion, 3 of our top 25 cigars are manufactured in My Father Cigars S.A. and the majority of the top 25 are manufactured in Nicaragua including the #1 La Antiguedad and the # 3 Jericho Hill. Maybe it is my palate but it seems that Nicaragua produces some of the finest cigars in the world.
If you are interested in chiming in on this we welcome your comments and input.