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2020 CA Report: 10 Top Boutique Cigars You Should Be Smoking

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10 Top Boutique Cigars You Should Be Smoking

If you ask me, boutique factories are where the real cigar magic happens. Big brand names often get the love and accolades. They tend to have a litany of awards under their belts – and years, even decades of experience – to warrant it. Still, I think there’s a certain comfort zone they reach once they’ve enjoyed consistent success. Kind of like how we tend to gain a few pounds after the honeymoon ends. The waters are safer and there’s less impetus to impress. Boutique manufacturers, on the other hand, are like a nervous guy on the first date. He’s dressed to kill with not so much as a hair out of place. He’s hoping to stack the odds against his night ending with a mere peck outside his date’s front door.

Boutique cigarmakers face an uphill climb to make it in the premium cigar market, and I think they work harder because of it.

So, what makes a boutique cigar…a boutique cigar?

Boutique cigars are defined as being created in smaller or limited batches, often from blenders who don’t own a factory. But not all of them are gems. Some, as with any industry, are out for the low hanging fruit. The quick money. The rarer breed, those few have genuine passion for tobacco. It shows when the good word on them spreads beyond their advertising capabilities. Word of mouth is still alive and well. Few industries rely on it as much as premium tobacco. It’s only a matter of time until the boutique companies turning heads today evolve into tomorrow’s national brands. We’ve seen this happen relatively recently with companies like La Gloria Cubana and Drew Estate, and now the torch has been passed to the next generation. Both, and virtually all others, had the same formula – flavor above all else – in common as they broke ground.

top boutique cigars jonathan drew drew estate cigars
Humble beginnings: Drew Estate’s Jonathan Drew in the company’s early years cleaning his factory’s floor. The inset image shows how small his office staff once was. Today, Drew Estate is one of the biggest cigar brands in the world. Picture courtesy of Drew Estate.

In 2018, we released a guide to Boutique Cigars for Beginners. Since then, a long list of new cigars has been released…not to mention that most of the smokers who read that list have since graduated into fuller-flavored blends. Instead of updating that article (the 2018 list still stands up to scrutiny), this list of the Top 10 Boutique Cigars You Should Be Smoking serves more as a companion than a replacement.

Southern Draw Rose of Sharon

top boutique cigars 2020 Southern Draw Rose of Sharon cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

Southern Draw’s Robert Holt loves making stronger cigars, but even he would tell you that he struck gold with the medium-bodied Rose of Sharon. The cigar is comprised of an Ecuador Connecticut leaf atop a hearty blend of Dominican and Nicaraguan long fillers. Inspired by Holt’s wife, Rose of Sharon smokes creamy and sweet, with notes of cedar, nuts, spices, and more excitement than your average Connecticut. It’s not only a gentler entryway into Southern Draw’s lineup, it’s a proper introduction to the entire world of boutique cigars.

Who’s this cigar for? Medium-bodied and approachable, Rose of Sharon is a great companion for any smoker in any situation.

 

C.L.E. Chele

top boutique cigars 2020 CLE Chele cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

Whether you measure Christian Eiroa by his role in the meteoric rise of Camacho, or the understated qualities of the company that now bears his namesake, the results are the same: he delivers far more in flavor than his prices suggest. One of his best boutique blends is C.L.E. Chele, a medium-plus smoke that’s crafted from a core of Nicaraguan tobaccos and a buttery Ecuador Connecticut wrapper. Its flavors are a nuanced mixture of bread, leather, earth, and baking spices. It’s not one to leave unchecked off your cigar bucket list.

Who’s this cigar for? Chele is best smoked by smokers who have some experience, but certainly isn’t over the top strength-wise.

 

Illusione Fume D’Amour

top boutique cigars 2020 Illusione Fume d Amour cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

In 2014, Fume D’Amour climbed to the #3 spot on the Top 25 Cigars of the Year. It made its way to Famous last year and has been flying out the door since. If you look under the hood, you can easily see why. Fume D’Amour blends Corojo and Criollo Aganorsa estate-grown tobaccos underneath a Nicaraguan binder, and Nicaraguan Corojo ’99 wrapper. The recipe yields notes of cocoa, nougat, cream and nuts consistently from toast to nub. It might be mellow, but its flavors are anything but boring.

Who’s this cigar for? If you’re new to cigars, this is probably one of the best ways to get introduced to boutique cigars. Great flavors without any bite.

 

Siboney Reserve by Aganorsa Leaf

top boutique cigars 2020 Aganorsa Leaf Siboney Reserve cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

Aganorsa Leaf is on the cusp of becoming a national brand (relatively speaking). A revival of this defunct Cuban brand resulted in the birth of Siboney Reserve by Aganorsa Leaf. In its first year, this Famous Smoke Shop exclusive cigar has become an inter-office (and more importantly, customer) favorite. That’s thanks to a Nicaraguan selection of Aganorsa’s signature tobaccos and their way of producing notes of cedar, earth, pepper, and natural sweetness in a medium-plus-bodied package. There’s a maduro with even deeper flavors, too. House smokes often get a bad rap. Let this one prove the naysayers wrong.

Who’s this cigar for? If you’re looking for something that screams, “best bang for your buck,” this is where you’ll find it. Flavor, affordability, consistency…it has it all.

 

Espinosa Crema

top boutique cigars 2020 Espinosa Crema cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

Espinosa has already become a national brand in some circles, but Erik Espinosa’s commitment to his fans and continued small-batch work ethic earns him a spot on this list. Like I said of Southern Draw earlier, Espinosa often caters to the bold-loving crowd of hardcore smokers. With Crema, Erik has doubled down on showing he can make a Nicaraguan ballad that’s just as good. Eat your heart out, Led Zeppelin. Notes of earthy spice, sweetness, and a poignant creaminess from that Connecticut Shade wrapper make the cigar live up to its name in spades.

Who’s this cigar for? Crema is for the smoker who wants a Connecticut, but more of it. More creaminess, more sweetness. It’s like Connecticut 2.0.

 

Sobremesa Brulee

top boutique cigars 2020 DT&T Sobremesa Brulee cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

A throwback cigar if there ever was one. Today’s blenders are usually looking to quench a full-bodied thirst. Steve Saka had other plans for Brulee. Instead, he chose to go old-school and focus his efforts on breathing new life into a classic mellow format. Saka chose Nicaraguan fillers from Estelí, Condega, and Pueblo Nuevo, a Mexican Matacapan binder, and a silky Ecuador Connecticut wrapper. The cigar is extra sweet with some essence of spices, cedar, vanilla, and nuts. It was an overnight sensation and worthy of any smoker’s humidor.

Who’s this cigar for? Brulee is almost in a genre all its own. It’s got some classic flavors, sweetness that’s out of this world, and would probably be best for anyone who had previously written off the Connecticut wrapper.

 

EP Carrillo La Alianza Rosado

top boutique cigars 2020 EP Carrillo La Alianza Rosado cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

Remember when I talked about La Gloria Cubana? The man behind it, Ernesto-Perez Carrillo, now runs his own show at EPC. La Alianza Rosado isn’t likely to be a first-round humidor draft pick…frankly, I’m not sure why. The price is great, the flavors are excellent, and the construction is picture perfect. Alianza’s Ecuador Rosado wrapper is deeply rich with wafts of coffee and peppery notes of earth from a purely Nicaraguan core. If you ever needed proof that there are great cigars outside of the limelight, smoke one of these!

Who’s this cigar for? Everyone. No, seriously. It’s dead center on strength, oozes flavor from its pores, and is incredibly consistent.

 

Tatuaje Reserva Nicaragua

top boutique cigars 2020 Tatuaje Reserva Nicaragua cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

What happens when Tatuaje’s Pete Johnson and My Father join forces? Tatuaje Reserva Nicaragua happens, and it’s the (if you’ll pardon my pun) cream of the crop. It was a hard choice between the 7th Capa Especial and the Cojonu 2012 Maduro, but the 7th Capa won as its Ecuador Sumatra wrapper makes for a sweeter, more well-rounded smoke. Notes of cocoa, peppers, and a sweet/savory mix of spices are an experience to behold. This is Tatuaje at its best for a more than reasonable price. Win-win.

Who’s this cigar for? Full-bodied fans who prefer sweeter cigars will find a lot to love. There are spices and peppers, too, but the sugary aspects always take center stage.

 

HVC Serie A

top boutique cigars 2020 HVC Serie A cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

Easily one of my all-time favorites. HVC Serie A is incredibly consistent from construction to flavor and everything in between. To get this blend to perfection, Reinier Lorenzo combines his blending expertise with the bold tobaccos grown on Aganorsa’s Nicaraguan farms. This includes a Corojo ’99 wrapper which gives a taste of caramel and extra sweet spices. With a stout core of peppery Nicaraguan tobaccos, HVC Serie A delivers every time you light one up. These cigars have a flavor-to-price ratio that make them one of the best full-bodied cigar buys you can make right now.

Who’s this cigar for? Smokers who want to appreciate – not just smoke – cigars will latch on quickly. Its flavors are distinct, and Serie A scores a ton of extra points for consistency.

 

Kristoff Maduro

top boutique cigars 2020 Kristoff Maduro cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

Kristoff Maduro offers simplistic, yet elegant presentation. Pigtailed caps, shaggy feet, and braids of loose tobacco surround the cigars in the box like birds in a nest of aromatic tobacco. But once you’re smoking it, those accoutrements no longer matter. What remains is whether you enjoy it. If you’re a fan of Maduro, I’m betting you will. Fillers from the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua are wrapped in an oily Brazilian Arapiraca Maduro leaf. Kristoff Maduro is nutty, sweet, and gives off a woody aroma and subtle nuances of licorice. It’s where looks and flavor collide.

Who’s this cigar for? Those who want to color a little outside the box in terms of brand and flavor. Some exotic spices and a nuance of licorice make this a memorable full-bodied stick.

9 Comments
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Lee F.
2 years ago

Nice report Jared, but unfortunately it’s a bit difficult to try a certain stick you suggest when they’re back ordered! Lol, it’s frustrating after reading your descriptions and then not being able to act on it. Thanks anyway!

Jared Gulick
2 years ago
Reply to  Lee F.

Hey, Lee! Sorry about that. They were available at release, but sometimes, things sell out quicker than we anticipate. If you’re looking for a nice analog from Southern Draw, you might want to give 300 Hands Connecticut a look. Here’s the link and thanks for your support!

https://www.famous-smoke.com/brand/300-hands-connecticut-cigars

Jose Birriel
1 year ago

I can’t wait Til my cigar lines gets there. Puros Birriel is my boutique Handrolled cigars from Puerto Rican tabacco.

Jared Gulick
1 year ago
Reply to  Jose Birriel

Thanks, Jose.

unique cigars lighters
1 year ago

Wow! Looking good collection of cigars in your post thanks for sharing it with your user. But you have missed a unique cigars lighters that are the zino jat flame lighter and it is available on nvlifestyles.in only in India.

Jared Gulick
1 year ago

Thanks for the response. No doubt there are good lighters from around the world. We are featuring lighters available at Famous Smoke Shop, so we aren’t covering everything. Thanks again!

James Jeter
1 year ago

Why would Micallef Cigar be on the list; this is a great cigar brand.

Jared Gulick
1 year ago
Reply to  James Jeter

James, Thanks for reading! We don’t carry this brand, so it’s not included in our list. I’ll send your feedback along!

Editor
Gary Korb
1 year ago
Reply to  James Jeter

I think you mean, why would they NOT be on the list.

Jared Gulick

Jared Gulick

Features Editor, Jared Gulick, is a Certified Tobacconist, nerd of all things science, musician and serial abuser of the Oxford comma. He made his way to the Famous Smoke Shop retail store in 2018 and joined the Advisors when it was discovered that he could locate the shift key. Prior to his work in the cigar industry, he was a recording studio engineer, songwriter, and a journalism major at Northampton Community College.

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