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 of 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 work to the some of the best in 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 shop owner 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.
2 thoughts on “Boutique Cigars: My Definition”
Boutique is a word that is thrown around alot in this industry and I’d like to ask a question as well as make a point. Can you call a cigar company that doesn’t grow it’s own tobacco or roll it’s own cigars, and just basically designed a label and box and has someone else do all the hard work “Boutique” ??? No way, that’s what you call a cake decorater. It kills me to see someone take a bundle cigar and slap a cool band on it and pass it off as a limited edition boutique cigar. For those of us who bleed for this industry to see that happen is both comical and tragic because not telling the truth is still a form of a lie. Customers deserve to know exactly what they are paying for no matter what. If you look at the Scotch Whisky industry right now the consumer is demanding every single single malt and it’s age that makes up a blended Scotch and if artificial color was added or if chill filtration was used, and the law will pass in the consumers favor. Basically all I’m saying is any jackass with ten grand can start a cigar line by slapping a label on someone else’s work and that’s fine. But when we go to the B&M to buy a cigar we should know who was the ones who blended and toiled over hundreds of leafs, and watched his rollers work months to get things perfect, and who REALLY created that special blend to make their BOUTIQUE cigar the way it is. Am I being unrealistic or should the consumer know everything about the cigar he’s about to enjoy ?
I would first like to thank you so very much for responding in such a detailed manner to one of my articles. The fact that you took the time to express your thoughts and opinions shows the passion you have for the cigar industry. I am compelled though to address some of your points. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with most of what you say, but I also feel we need to look at the industry as a whole. I agree a Boutique cigar should not be a bundled cigar with a new band, yet many of the “Boutique” blends on the market are more than that. I have personal friends that have cigar brands and I have lived and seen first hand the trials and tribulations they go through to select the tobacco and create the blends they are moving to to the market. No, not all have their own farms, in fact, very few do. They buy their tobacco from farmers.Heck even some of the biggest names in the industry buy tobacco. Most Boutique brands don’t own factories, but spend months on end in the factory working with the rollers and factory owners, to get their blend just right. They don’t own box companies, actually many of the big guys don’t own box manufacturing capability, they contract that to a box manufacturer but they sit with the craftsmen to create the design and art for their box to hold the blend they created. They work with distribution companies, and sweat out the import and distribution issues, to receive the finished product and ensure it is being stored properly, and of course they travel endless days and nights to introduce their latest creation to the consumer through the many B&Ms across the country not to mention the many reps and brokers they have to deal with that sometimes dont do them proper justice.
Yes there are some that don’t do this, and just slap a band on a predefined bundled blend and call it new, but they are not the norm in my view.
I know many of these hard working men and women and I am sure you do too. So back to my definition, Boutique is just that. Small and being involved in the process from choosing leaf, to blending, to visiting the factories, ensuring quality and finally distributing, marketing, and representing their blend to the consumer.
I would agree that like your Scotch example, the consumer should know what is in the cigar if it anything other than tobacco.
Once again, thank you for responding, I admire your passion.
James (Boston Jimmie) Vita
Publisher – Stogie Press
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