Let’s get rid of boutique cigars. Well, not of the cigars but of the name boutique. The definition of boutique is pretty clear, it has two meanings. The first meaning is ‘a small shop’. The second definition is ‘a business or establishment that is small and sophisticated or fashionable.’ But unofficially, the meaning is that a boutique cigar is ‘a cigar made with meticulous care’.
Now if you go online and ask ‘what is a boutique cigar?’ in any of the cigar groups on Facebook. You will get several different definitions. Some will say that if the cigar is made in a factory you don’t own. Or that it’s made in small quantities or a small factory. Others claim it’s a boutique cigar if the cigar contains tobacco from several countries. And that’s just a few of the definitions you will get. So the term boutique is quite confusing.
Boutique Cigar Association of America
According to the Boutique Cigar Association, you are a boutique cigar if your production doesn’t exceed one million cigars per year. And the brand has to be family-owned. But that doesn’t include any measurement of quality. It ignores the ‘meticulous care’ part of the definition. Don’t get us wrong, we support the idea of the Boutique Cigar Association. Together those smaller companies can achieve more than on their own. We just struggle with that hard number. What happens if a brand exceeds the 1 million cap. Aren’t they suddenly not boutique anymore even though nothing changed from a year before? A great boutique brand as RoMa Craft isn’t considered boutique by this definition, as they produce 1.1 million cigars annually.
The ‘boutique’ term has also lost a lot of it’s value over the last few years. Everybody is using the term as a marketing tool, or to jack up the prices. Not every smaller brand is a boutique brand, but a lot of them pretend to be as a marketing tool. And even the big boys start new brands to get a piece of the boutique market. With that, the cigar industry is following the beer industry where big breweries either bought craft brands or created new ‘craft’ beers.
A different term, tobacco centric
Last September, at the intertabac trade show in Dortmund, Germany, we sat down with Brian Motola from Illusione cigars. While smoking a great One Off we discussed the current state of the cigar industry. Things that were discussed was the use of the word boutique and the way some large companies release run of the mill cigars and make them a success because of marketing. Some companies have a true love for tobacco and cigars, they want to make the best possible cigars and make a living off it. Others just see tobacco and cigars as a way to make money and don’t care as long as they maximize profit.
Brian came up with the suggestion to label the first type of companies as ‘tobacco centric’ instead of boutique. That way, it’s immediately clear what’s meant. It eliminates the ‘small’ issue from the boutique definition. It includes bigger brands with meticulous attention to cigars. Companies like Fuente, Padron, Oliva, Joya de Nicaragua, A.J, Fernandez, Rocky Patel, Ashton Perdomo, My Father Cigars and more. They are too big to be considered boutique under the current definition while their cigars deserve that label more than a lot of smaller brands. And it excludes smaller brands that release cigars that are not made with the care that Padron, Fuente and some of the family-owned bigger companies have for their cigars.
And we agree with Brian. This term seems like a much better term. Either your company or brand is tobacco centric or it isn’t. No vague, confusing definition of boutique. And we can work on classifications within the tobacco centric companies for the ones that go the extra mile to create their cigars. And on a side note, we as cigar media and you as consumers should speak out against the run of the mill cigars that the big tobacco companies are producing. They can do better if they want to, so let’s make them do better by demanding a better product. Don’t be satisfied with a cigar equivalent of a tasteless Big Mac while you can get a great artisan burger for the same price. But that’s something for another article.