Don t Overlook Boutique Cigars
Over a year ago, one of my colleagues listed three boutique cigar manufacturers in an effort to "discover new sticks and to play at least a small, direct role in supporting the art of cigar making." Today I'd like to continue that trend because, in my opinion, these smaller-scale operations turn out some terrific smokes for a fraction of name-brand prices.
Now you might be asking what qualifies a cigar producer to be "boutique." According to a 1999 feature article in Smoke Magazine, boutique cigars are "brands with a production of less than 1.5 million sticks per year." (That number would likely have to be upped today to adjust for increased overall cigar production.) Others say boutiques simply mean the firm's stogies are cultivated in small batches with high attention to individual detail.
For our purposes—and because it's a lot easier than researching production numbers—I'll adopt a broad definition: Boutique cigar manufacturers are those with a relatively limited output, name recognition, and niche market. In other words, to borrow a metaphor from Smoke Magazine, they are the micro-breweries of the cigar industry. This definition is certainly subjective, so feel free to disagree with my belief that, despite Jose Oliva's assertion, his operation is not boutique.
Either way, I don't want to get all caught up in semantics. Instead, I'd like to share my three favorite boutiques and encourage you to explore their wonderful creations:
Bucanero Cigars. Founded during the mid-90's cigar boom, this company uses fine tobaccos from 10 different nations to create 18 signature blends. I particularly appreciate the Don Douglas, Treasure, and Canon lines. "[Bucanero] was, and continues today to be, built around honesty and friendship," says President Robert Spoden. "We set out slowly to introduce unique blends."
Cuban Crafters. This selection should come as no surprise. We write about this Maimi-based, Nicaraguan-growing operation so often, in fact, I worry that readers think we're on their payroll. (We aren't but, in the interest of full disclosure, we do participate in their affiliate program.) Cuban Crafters makes many of my everyday favorite brands, including Cupido, J.L. Salazar, Don Kiki (Brown and White), La Carolina, and Cameroon. The company's latest, most premium creation, the Medina 1959 line (full release TBD), is also an up-and-coming winner. "While difficult to find in many cigar retailers," says National Sales Director Alberto Noguera, "boutique premium brands are something different from the ordinary mass-produced cigars commonly available in most shops. Their flavor and aroma is unmatched."
Isla de Cuba. I've loved everything I've tried from Darryl Lieser's Tampa-based boutique. The two original blends that launched in February—Classic and Aged Maduro—have a simple beauty to them, and Isla's new Wango Tango and Blend 376 lines are also impressive.
Source: Stogie Guys Online