What’s the Most Important Cigar Country in Europe?

What’s the Most Important Cigar Country in Europe?
Date: October 2023
Author: Inspector X

What’s the most important cigar country in Europe? I think that’s an interesting question and the answer will differ on the way you look at it. Some might say it’s Spain due to their long standing relationship with Cuba and thus Habanos. Others might say it’s the United Kingdom with their EMS. The Netherlands could be an answer due to their long tobacco history, but that’s mostly for dry-cured shortfiller cigars while cigarinspector focusses more on the premium, handmade longfiller. Another obvious answer would be Germany, as it’s the biggest market for premium cigars in Europe. Switzerland is a contender with all their international retailers and brands with Swiss roots (Patoro, Cavalier Geneve, ADVentura, Cigare77,Pachuche and many more). But my answer is Belgium. The small country of Belgium is a cigar superpower not to be messed with.

Now you might wonder why I nominate Belgium, and the answer is threefold. First of all, the number of premium cigars consumed per capita is higher than most of the other European countries. The Belgians always know how to live the good life. When it comes to food, when it comes to drinks (especially the beers), to candy such as chocolate but also to indulging in quality tobacco. Now is that enough to justify the ranking of Belgium? No, but it plays a part.

Why I mention Belgium is because of two powerhouses that are both very ambitious and are ready to dominate the European markets. The Belgian power couple Dominique Gyselinck and Frédéric Dechamps created a name for themselves in the cigar industry with multiple cigar shops in Belgium, including a highly rated La Casa del Habano store. Dominque even won a ‘hombre del Habano’ award at the 2016 Habanos Festival. In 2021, their ”La Casa del Tabaco” group, which grew to 8 shops, merged with the largest British retailer CGars Ltd, owner of the Turmeaus cigar stores and two La Casa del Habano stores in the UK. That created the largest tobacco retail company, Dominique London, in Europe, a company that only grew since as a new La Casa del Habano opened in Switzerland and one on the Spanish Canary Island of Tenerife. Dominque London is planning to open more stores, both in Europe and overseas. Their goal is not to be the biggest luxury retail group in Europe, but worldwide.

Is the high consumption of premium cigars plus the ambition of Dominique London (based in Belgium unlike the name suggests) enough to justify giving Belgium the #1 rating in my list? No but there is another powerhouse with ambition based in Belgium and these three factors together give Belgium the superpower status. That party is Vandermarliere Cigar Family, formerly known as J. Cortes. The company has been making cigars since 1926 and is still a family-owned business. Over the last century, VCF has acquired several brands and where competitors went belly up, VCF became one of the biggest players in the market of the machine-made, dry-cured, shortfiller cigars with factories in Belgium and Sri Lanka. But third generation Fred Vandermarliere knew that expanding into other parts of the cigar industry was a must. So in 2016 VCF acquired Oliva Cigars, with much success. The Oliva factory, Tabolisa, was renovated, a new factory was built and a factory in Honduras was opened. The company also opened a school for the children of their workers in Nicaragua, but that aside.

Last year, VCF expanded in another, unexpected way. The family bought two companies in Germany, Woermann Cigars and Wolfertz GMBH. Woermann is a manufacturer of machine-made cigars and distributes a few brands in Germany. Now this was a move that was not unexpected, as it’s a competitor and VCF has bought over many competitors in its history. The purchase of Wolfertz was a bigger surprise. Wolfertz manufacturers cigar cutters on a small scale but is mainly known as one of the biggest distributors in Germany with brands such as Oliva, A.J. Fernandez, Casa Magna, Caldwell Cigars, Alec Bradley, Plasencia, DH Boutique Cigars and the accessories of Quality Imports (including Xikar and Palio). Of course, VCF has experience in distributing their own brands, either directly to retailers in their home market Belgium and in The Netherlands or via partners abroad, but never had they distributed cigars made by other companies in any market. It shows that VCF wants to expand in any way possible and it is not likely that their ambition ends here. My expectations are that VCF is ready to acquire distributors in other countries plus more cigar brands as they did with Cuba Alliados last year. And who knows, maybe a factory in the Dominican Republic to have a presence in that market too? I do have a name in mind, but I won’t post it as I don’t want to speculate and cause rumours.

With the ambition of Dominique London and Vandermarliere Cigar Family, both Belgian companies, I think that Belgium is the country to rule the European premium cigar market for the years to come.

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