6 boutique brands that stood the test of time. Recently we published an article about boutique brands that were hot for a while. Some of those brands completely disappeared, others are still out there but far away from where they once were. But there are success stories as well. Brands that started as small boutique brands and are now playing in the big league. But all without dropping in quality, all with the same love for tobacco as when they started.
This list does not include brands that were already established before the boutique term became so overused. Even though brands such as Arturo Fuente, Padron, La Flor Dominicana, and Joya de Nicaragua still uphold themselves to the highest quality, we did not include them. These companies are very much tobacco centric though and pay more attention to quality than some of the so-called boutique brands.
My Father Cigars/Don Pepin Garcia
Jose ‘Don Pepin’ Garcia already had a huge history in the Cuban tobacco industry. But in 2001, this tobacco legend moved to the United States. A year later he started his new cigar factory in Miami. A partnership with Eduardo Fernandez (Aganorsa) made El Rey de Los Habanos possible. The Don Pepin lines soon became very popular and when the Don Pepin Garcia Cuban Classic, also known as the Don Pepin Black, was released in 2006, the brand became one of the most talked-about cigars. The Garcia family opened a brand new factory in Esteli, Nicaragua a few years later and is now a powerhouse. With the size of their operations in Nicaragua and the USA, you can’t really speak about boutique anymore. But quality is still what they produce. We reviewed the La Opulencia Robusto and the La Gran Oferta Lancero.
Erik Espinosa started in the cigar industry as a retail assistant at a tobacconist shop. He then became a sales representative before partnering up with Eddie Ortega. Their EO Brands produced cigars as Murcielago, Cubao, 601 and more. And they were popular. So popular that Rocky Patel even bought a stake in the company. But for unknown reasons, the partnership between Ortega and Espinosa fell apart. Where Ortega got the Cubao name, Espinosa kept the 601 and Murcielago names. Ortega stayed in the game as a private label, before leaving the cigar game. Espinosa chose another route. He started a factory, Tabacalera La Zona, in the heart of Esteli. If you happen to find yourself in Esteli, do yourself a favor, smoke a cigar on their patio on the second floor. It’s one of the best places to smoke in the city. At Tabacalera La Zona, Espinosa not only produces his own cigars, but he manufactures cigars for other boutique brands as well. Espinosa is here to stay.
Andre Farkas started Viaje as a small batch brand, with all small batch limited releases. And that concept resonated well. The cigars were hyped, people were hunting the releases down like it was brown gold. Viaje Zombie, Skull & Bones and many more became very popular. Slowly Viaje changed from just small batch to a company with regular lines, annual releases, and small batches. And they are here to stay, with a strong enough fanbase to remain relevant and sustainable.
Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust
The youngest company in this list is Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. But even though it’s a young, small company, the man behind it is isn’t. It’s an industry veteran with incredible knowledge and passion. Steve Saka was one of the first cigar bloggers. Then he became a marketing consultant for JR Cigars. His next job was CEO for Drew Estate. And then he founded Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. In a few year’s time, he built a strong portfolio of cigars. And his reputation as a master blender, who pays meticulous attention to blends, packaging, construction and more. Two of the top 3 cigars for the Top 25 of 2019 on Ministry of Cigars came from Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust. We reviewed the Dondurma, Muestra de Saka Chubby Unicorn, Sin Compromiso Intrepido and the Cigaragua exclusive Sin Compromiso El Amsterdammer.
From the ashes of CAO, Crowned Heads rose like a phoenix. The independent CAO, owned by the Ozgener family, was based in Nashville, Tennessee. But when General Cigars acquired the brand, they planned to move it to their headquarters in Virginia. Some of the executives refused. They wanted to stay loyal to Nashville and to the employees that always worked for CAO. And to do that, they founded Crowned Heads. With cigars inspired by music, Crowned Heads quickly built a fanbase. And by picking the right partners to manufacture their cigars, they delivered quality. It’s safe to say that Crowned Heads found its position in the cigar industry and that they won’t vanish into thin air.
The growth of Tatuaje is similar to the growth of My Father Cigars. And that’s no surprise because from the first cigar in 2003 up until now all Tatuaje cigars are made by the Garcia family. Once, years ago, Pete Johnson had a limited edition made by another company, but all others are made at the factories of the Garcia’s. Over the years, Tatuaje transformed into a household name in retail humidors all over the world. Yet without losing that boutique feel, taste and quality. And the longer Johnson is involved with tobacco, the better his cigars will be. Tatuaje is not going away anymore. We reviewed the Tatuaje Fausto IT MM19, Tatuaje RC Series #1, and the Tatuaje Nuevitas Jibaro No.1.