Date: March 2020
Author: Inspector Z

7 boutique brands that didn’t make it. Boutique is the thing nowadays. In beer, in consumer goods, but also in cigars. There are many interpretations of the term boutique. In the past, we wondered what boutique really means. We explained what a private label is. And we even suggested another term, tobacco centric. 

Over the years, many brands who would fall under, or call themselves, boutique took social media by storm. For a while, they were the hottest new commodity on the market before burning out. Brands disappeared completely, or ar no longer on the top of the game. Recently we asked for examples. With the help of you, we compiled a list of brands that fall into this category.

Padilla Cigars

Let’s start with a controversial one. Many of you will say that Padilla is still around, and still producing cigars. That’s true, but when you look back, Padilla isn’t close to where it used to be. Ernesto Padilla was the first bad boy of the cigar industry, the first rockstar. In the early 2000s, Ernesto Padilla had a status comparable to Jonathan Drew, Pete Johnson, Dion Giolitto, and Matt Booth. But since he was the only one, he was huge. Padilla was also boutique before that term made it into the cigar industry. In the late 00s, Padilla even started his own factory in Miami. In the center of Calle Ocho, close to El Titan de Bronze, El Rey de Los Habanos, and La Gloria Cubana. That failed, Padilla teamed up with Oliva Cigars. That brought the brand to Europe, with the beautiful Susana Aragon as the face of the brand. But after parting from Oliva, Padilla faded into the category of small brands that survive but don’t thrive.

The Voyage

When Danny Vazquez launched his boutique brand The Voyage in 2016, he took social media almost overnight. From never heard of Vazquez, he went to become a social media cigar celebrity almost instantly. The cigars, made at La Aurora on the Dominican Republic, were highly sought after by the cigar nerds who wanted to try this new cigar and new brand. But a year later, the voyage was over for Vazquez and his Baracoa Cigar Company. The uncertainty of regulation in the cigar industry made Vazquez decide that building a company on quicksand wasn’t what he wanted to do. Even though his brand is no longer available, Vazquez is now part of the RoMa Craft team and still very active on Social Media.

Ministry of Cigars - 7 boutique brands that didn’t make it

Guayacan

Noel Rojas was a rising star in the cigar industry. An extremely talented blender with a golden palate. He ran his own small factory, Aroma de Jalapa in Esteli. Then he upgraded to Tabacalera New Order of the Ages. Rojas was also responsible for the production of many other boutique private labels, such as Jas Sum Kral, Ohana, Xiphos, Kilo, Prendelo. And he made a lot of releases for Ezra Zion. But somewhere along the line, things took a turn for the worse. His factory manager at Tabacalera NOA, Roniel Aragon, left. That was against the wish of Jas Sum Kral, who teamed up with Aragon to create Tabacalera Aragon. Within months, Tabacalera NOA was history. Rojas now produces cigars at a third party factory in Condega. And he rolls cigars in a shop in Texas. Since we liked a lot of the cigars that Rojas blended and rolled, we truly hope that he gets back on track. But for now, we have to include Guayacan in the list of boutique brands that didn’t make it.

Ministry of Cigars - 7 boutique brands that didn’t make it

Hechicera

Another face that was all over social media was the face of Grace Sotolongo. At first as one of the faces of My Father Cigars, where she was almost part of the family. But after a painful breakup with My Father Cigars, Sotolongo founded Sotolongo Cigars. She partnered up with Tabacalera Unidas. That’s the umbrella company for all of Christian Eiroa’s ventures and partnerships. Sotolongo launched the Hechicera and the Hechicera Maduro. But just a year after she launched the brand, she walked away from it. And from the whole cigar industry.

Ministry of Cigars - Grace Sotolongo

El Primer Mundo

In 2006, Sean Williams founded El Primer Mundo. And in the years after, he built the company up to a well-respected boutique brand. The Dominican cigars were distributed in the United States and several international markets. But in 2017, General Cigars offered Williams a job that he could not refuse. The tobacco giant offered him a full-time position as the brand ambassador for Cohiba. That resulted in Williams stepping down from El Primer Mundo and leaving the day to day business to Will Bolling. Without the face and the persona of Williams, El Primer Mundo quickly sank into memories long gone.

Cornelius & Anthony

This brand had everything to succeed. Great blends, unique and great artwork, connections with the right manufacturers. Add an experienced team, with plenty of experience in the cigar industry, a lot of money, and a beautiful story to tell. But that story, and the money, became the downfall as well. Cornelius & Anthony was founded by S&M Brands. That was the company of the Bailey family, who have been farming tobacco in Virginia for generations. While they made cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco, Steven Bailey decided that the family should make premium cigars as well. He used the name of the first Bailey to farm tobacco, Cornelius, and his second name, Anthony, for the brand name. But all of the different blends were connected to family history as well. So the story was there. And with cigars made at Tabacalera La Zona and El Titan de Bronze, the quality of the cigars left nothing to desire. But when the Bailey family sold their farm and cigarette production facility for double-digit millions, the passion and drive for the premium cigars faded as well. The full-time staff was dismissed and even though Steven Bailey denied selling or discontinuing Cornelius & Anthony, the brand is dead in the water. There are no new blends, no marketing, no sales. Unfortunately so, we loved the cigars.

Ministry of Cigars - Cornelius & Anthony logo

Reinado

Another brand that was hot, super hot. There wasn’t a serious cigar smoker in the world that hadn’t heard about Reinado cigars in the early 2010s. The brand was hot, and we mean lava hot. Everybody was raving about the cigars. But then all of a sudden it was over. Nobody was talking about Reinado anymore, no new product arrived on the shelves and the brand went dead. Silent. In July, owner Antonio Lam posted on the BOTL forums that Reinado would return, but nothing new has been announced since. With that, Reinado made our list of 7 boutique brands that didn’t make it.

Ministry of Cigars - 7 boutique brands that didn’t make it

These were just 7 boutique brands that didn’t make it. There are more and soon we will post another list of boutique brands that didn’t make it. After that, we will move on to brands that made it, or are likely to succeed.

5 thoughts on “7 boutique brands that didn’t make it

  1. Interesting article, especially after your article on your hated term “boutique” and how often you used it in the article. I think the term “boutique” has many applications and in general refers to smaller production operations as opposed to “artisan”. Cigars to me are handmade long filler cigars, all the other stuff is a separate. Artisan isn’t applicable as all this type of cigars are technically artisan, all made by hand.

    Is there an alternative term to use? If so, what?

    If you don’t like the term, stop using it. I did it with the term “non-Cuban” and replaced it with “New World” and it influenced others to change (at least when I was around)

    1. Yeah.. a significant portion of this article is inaccurate or just flat out BS. Dates wrong. Factories wrong. Current status of companies wrong… Yeah… He got a few things right. But most of this article is flat BS.

      1. Educate us, tell us what’s wrong?

    2. Add – Yayabo Cigars to that list – small company that was vertically integrated out of Esteli Nicaragua – they sold leaf to the big guys for years before launching their own brand 5 years ago. They are back to selling leaf now.

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