Boutique Cigars

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Boutique cigars are often regarded as those cigars with an annual production of less than 1,000,000.[1] This is still a very large number. To put it into context, 456 million premium cigars were shipped to the US in 2021[2] and by last August, it appeared this number would be surpassed in 2022 by a margin of approximately 4%.[3] So, 1,000,000 out of 456,000,000 seems somewhat small but is still a considerable production. It is production on such a scale that the Klaro Cigars website made this list of boutique cigars, including many cigar makers that are probably not often considered boutique. Rocky Patel, for instance, produced 25-30 million cigars in 2022,[4] though the large selection of cigars they offer allows for each to see a production level of below 1,000,000. In 2020, AJF was producing 100,000 cigars a day,[5] certainly straining any definition of ‘boutique’.

Jeremy McDonald of Wildfire Cigar Company defined ‘boutique’ in this way: ‘So yes, I’m a boutique manufacturer because I’m not going for the masses—I’m going for the niche market. My audience is the consumer who wants something new and different and hopefully can identify with my brand. That doesn’t happen with the big four. They don’t dictate what the trends are. They just capitalize and monopolize on the trends that are already working.’[6]

David Garofalo[7] at the Cigar Authority website provides a lengthy discussion on his thoughts on boutique cigars. He agrees with the under 1,000,000 arguments (adding that this should include all sizes and shapes of the cigar type). He goes on to point out that the term ‘boutique’ comes from the French word of the same spelling and means ‘shop’. Thus, a boutique cigar is a kind of store cigar, indicating small production and local availability. Obviously, the term boutique no longer adheres to this definition, but Garofalo’s pointing out the origin is useful. Finally, Garofalo admits that a true definition is beyond reach, an attitude held by most, it seems.

That said, argues that the following 5 features are common to boutique cigars (though it is not necessary to have all of the 5 categories).[8]

  1. Cigars produced only in small numbers.
  2. Limited edition or 'signature' blends.
  3. Single cigars that cost more than most.
  4. Cigars that are heavily marketed or trendy.
  5. Producers with just a few product lines.

So, in the end, what most people in the cigar world say is true: there is no true definition of ‘boutique’. Perhaps it is easier to define by identifying what is not ‘boutique’ and in this regard, the giants like Padron, Davidoff, Cohiba, and Arturo Fuente, are in a class of their own.