What is a Boutique Cigar?
An Overview of What Boutique Means, and Doesn’t Mean
What is a boutique cigar? It’s a simple question on its face but search the internet for an answer and you’ll find all sorts of opinions and definitions. Today, we provide you with the ultimate answer to just what “boutique” means, what the differences between boutique cigars and other cigars are, and some recommendations for those looking to dip their toes into the world of boutiques.
What Makes a Cigar Boutique?
The word “boutique” gets thrown around the cigar game often, but you may hear some other terminology as well. People use the words “small batch” cigars, “premium” cigars, “top-shelf” cigars, “high-end” cigars, “limited-edition” cigars, and so many more. Are these interchangeable with boutique? Well, yes and no!
Our definition of a boutique cigar is very simple: boutique cigars are an attitude. A boutique cigar is made to exacting standards with little to no exceptions or qualifications during production.
So are non-boutique cigars taking short cuts or cutting out quality control? No! Let’s look at a hypothetical example.
Say you’re a cigar maker, and you have a line of full-bodied blends. Now, you want to make a new mellower cigar to attract some cigar lovers that haven’t tried your brand in the past. While buying Connecticut wrappers, you find a crop that you absolutely love. The only problem is, the farmer can only supply enough tobacco to make 20,000 cigars, and you were projecting to sell more than that. With supply and demand in mind, you may decide to keep searching and find another wrapper that is more readily available. Hell, you may even end up liking that other wrapper more! I would argue that the cigar made with that original batch would have been boutique, and that the second version made with the more commonly available wrapper would not.
So if that’s what a boutique cigar is, let’s look at what a boutique cigar isn’t.
What is the Difference Between Boutique and Non-Boutique Cigars?
There are other definitions people have put out there, but I’d argue against many of them. Some say boutique cigars are only made by those who don’t own their factories, or only by people who do own their own factories – but there’s companies on both sides proving that wrong. Others say only “small” companies make boutique blends – but that leaves out tons of great cigars from large companies like Fuente’s OpusX.
Here’s the biggest controversy of all: are boutique cigars inherently better than non-boutiques? Like many answers, I don’t think it’s a simple yes or no. There are amazing boutique cigars out there, and there are amazing cigars that would not be considered “boutique.” Let’s look at Cigar Aficionado’s #1 Cigar of the Year for an example – if we look at the years 2010 to 2020, there is a huge range of brands. In 2019, Altadis USA and AJ Fernandez won with the Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua. By these standards, it means the best cigar that year (in the minds of CA) was made by the two of the largest cigar manufacturers in the game. In 2021, Cigar of the Year was awarded to Padron – again, one of the largest cigar manufacturers in Nicaragua.
In fact, most of the best-selling cigars in the world are not boutique cigars. This is like many industries, such as wine and beer. Try to find a bar without Miller Lite and you’ll come up short. But for those who love beer and view it as a hobby, they’ll want a pub with plenty of local offerings and microbrews.
Are Boutique Cigars Better?
All that being said, we clearly love boutique cigars here… so what’s the appeal?
For those that love cigars and tobacco, boutique cigars offer opportunities to explore different blends, sizes, and combinations you might never get. A boutique cigar is more likely to use rare tobaccos or experimental techniques that you wouldn’t find in something more mainstream. If you love to try new things and find unique blends, boutique cigars could be a great option for you. Of course, the exploration can backfire, and you’ll find cigars you don’t like, but that’s part of the fun!
Non-boutique cigars also tend to be blended towards a broad, universal appeal. To go back to our beer metaphor, if you’re making something like Miller Lite, you want as many people as possible to enjoy drinking it. This sounds good in theory, but it’s a double-edged sword, best summed up by Steve Saka. He said, “If you try to make a cigar everyone likes, you’ll never make a cigar that somebody loves.”
In other words, by trying to appeal to everyone, you’re going to make a cigar that most people would rate a 7 out of 10, but no one would rate a 10 out of 10.
Boutique cigars have more potential to be divisive, they tend to be authentic to the personality and intricacies of those making them, and they’re more likely to be different than what you’ve tried before. And for someone who loves exploring this hobby, there’s nothing more exciting than that.
What Boutique Cigars Should I Try?
We have tons of great boutique cigars available to try, and the easiest answer to this question is to pick a brand that interests you, and jump right in. If you’re looking for a little more guidance, though, we’ll point you towards some of the staff favorites.
First up, we’ll start with Aganorsa in Nicaragua. If you’ve been enjoying cigars for a little while, there’s a good chance you’re actually already familiar with Aganorsa — in addition to make their own cigars, they sell tobacco to many of the top manufacturers on the market. What makes Aganorsa unique is their mastery of the Corojo ’99 and Criollo ’98 varietals. These leaves are grown pretty much exclusively by Aganorsa, and create a signature flavor that you’ll quickly identify. If you’ve never tried their cigars before, check out the Guardian of the Farm or the Guardian of the Farm Nightwatch if you prefer a Maduro.
If you’re looking for a Dominican option, we’d point you towards ADVentura cigars. A younger brand on the market, ADVentura quickly established themselves as a legitimate force thanks to their consistent performance and highly-skilled factory. The ADVentura cigars carry a great story with them of two explorers sailing around the world and discovering new offerings as they go. With the Queen’s Pearls, they’re offering up one of the finest Connecticuts you can get your hands on. If you like a fuller-bodied blend, check out its counterpart: the King’s Gold.
Finally, if you truly love the craft side of the boutique world, we’ll suggest RoMa Craft Tobac. A partnership between founders Skip Martin and Mike Rosales, RoMa Craft owns their factory (Nica Sueno) in Esteli, Nicaragua. There, the duo oversee small batch production of their blends – each one meticulously handmade. RoMa’s style certainly leans towards the fuller end of the scale, with the Neanderthal being one of the most satisfying powerhouses I’ve had the chance to enjoy. If that sounds a little intimidating, check out the RoMa Craft Baka – a Cameroon wrapped blend that weighs in closer to medium.
So there you have it – our introduction to boutique cigars. We’ve covered what makes a cigar boutique, what the differences are between boutique and non-boutique cigars, and some of our top boutique cigar recommendations. If you have any additional questions, feel free to let us know. Otherwise, if you’d like to explore some boutique cigars yourself, check out our Cigar Samplers or our full list of brands.