There were a lot of changes in the cigar industry in 2013 which makes us curious about the cigar trends for 2014. All of these changes are to appeal to mass consumerism to give the people what they want. Fortunately for the good ol’ U.S. of A., we’re the largest purveyor of cigars which means they change dramatically to appeal specifically to the U.S. cigar market, and the rest of the world can just deal with it. In any case, there are a few interesting trends that stood out in 2013 that I believe will only be even more obvious in 2014.
When everyone in my company, aside from yours truly, went to IPCPR last year, they came back with a report on what they saw, who is coming out with what, and enough glitter to fill a swimming pool from the countless strip clubs they “accidently” walked into, and it was interesting to see what is happening in our industry. Based off of this report, we can accurately predict what the major cigar trends of 2014 will be, which can be broken down into three categories: increased small batch cigar production, bigger cigar sizes, and the rising trend of American tobacco use.
Cigar Trend #1: Small Batch Cigars
If you’ve ever smoked an Aging Room cigar, then you’ve smoked a small batch cigar. What this means is that a particular small batch cigar line uses tobaccos from one or multiple harvest years that are then blended
together to make the cigar. They will never use tobacco from another crop or harvest year, so you get a massive amount of consistency from one cigar to the next. Once they run out of the tobaccos used for that particular cigar, that’s the end of the line and you will never see it again.
So after my educational diatribe, I suppose I should get to my point which is that you will see an increasing number of small batch cigars rather than longer running lines come out in 2014. We’re talking about cigars that will be produced 1-2 years and then go the way of Old Yeller to make room for the next small batch cigar.
It was actually surprising to see what companies were following the cigar trend of small batch cigars this past year. Manufacturers who only produce long running cigars are making the switch to small batch. Case in point: Camacho Blackout. Sure, Camacho had a few small batch cigars come out in the past, but they usually require you to sign over your first born to get a taste of one. But this year they came out with the Camacho Blackout. The Blackout uses tobaccos from 4 different harvest years, and then they were aged an additional two years to give what is an amazing show of complexity and flavor.
The same can be said of the Oliva Serie V Melanio. Oliva, another company not known for their small batch cigars, released this epic cigar at IPCPR in 2013 and it has taken the world by storm. Unfortunately they only had enough tobacco to make 100,000 cigars, making this one ultra-rare. There are whispers, however, of making a second run, but it would use different tobaccos from different years, making the flavor change for the new run (if they decide to produce more). In any case, the first cigar trend of 2014 will see a massive uptick in small batch offerings, flooding the market with a lot of premium and super-premium cigars due to the care and time taken to make these lines, without a big price bump.
Cigar Trend #2: Bigger is Better
I guess I never really got the point of bigger cigars, but the people demand them so the voice of one was trumped by the voice of many. Damn you all. In any case, the most glaring trend that you will see in 2014 is the engorged size of cigars. Last year we saw the likes of CAO, La Gloria, Perdomo, and even Cohiba take part in producing larger sized cigars. It seems that the corona will soon be a thing of the past, along with the traditional Robusto. To prove my point, I would guess half of the new cigars released at IPCPR 2013 start their Robusto size at 5 ½ x 52 or above. That’s a half inch shy from a Toro.
CAO may actually have had good reason to beef up their cigars with the CAO Flathead. The line is all about big block engines so it only made sense they redlined at a massive 7 x 70. However, when Asylum came out with their Asylum 13 Eighty (6 x 80), that’s when I almost gave up trying to understand the world around me. I again was left to contemplate my life when I was introduced to the Inch by E.P. Carrillo’s 7 x 70. To their credit, both were very good cigars but each lasted about 4 hours.
Following this cigar trend is the Perdomo Champagne Sun Grown which starts its smallest size at a 54 ring size, Montecristo Monte with its flagship size of 6 x 60, La Gloria Trunk Show with the smallest size of nearly 7 x 58, and even the Cohiba Edicion Diamante got an upgraded size with a 6 x 60 vitola. Even the new Room 101 Master Collection Two cigar line is guilty of swelling their cigars. This line actually starts out with fairly small, thin cigars, none reaching over a 48 ring gauge until we reach the Monstro at 5 x 60. That’s a pretty big jump but they made sure to appeal to the new trend of larger ring gauge cigars.
2014 will see a massive increase in larger ring gauge cigars come out in new lines. More traditional lines that have stuck with common vitolas may also release a bigger size to appeal to the demand for bigger cigars. This isn’t to say that all new cigars will be gigantic. In fact, we will most likely see the common vitolas be released in new lines, but a 60 ring gauge will be a new common vitola to any new line.
Cigar Trend #3: Resurgence of U.S. Tobacco
For just under 2 centuries, the United States was a powerhouse when it came to tobacco. From Connecticut to Florida, and as inland as Kansas, the United States grew tobacco to the point where I’m pretty sure everyone was about to starve because food wasn’t being grown. This all stopped, however, around the 1950s when Uncle Sam started taxing tobacco more and labor costs rose. Add to the fact that it takes more time, energy, and money to grow tobacco than it does corn, wheat, soy, etc… and BOOM! You lose the industry. Because it was no longer viable to grow tobacco in the U.S., cigar manufacturers closed en mass, giving Latin America the opportunity to shine. Of course we now have some of the best blends to ever be created thanks to Nicaragua, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic, and it kind of bites the big one that the U.S. lost its former tobacco glory. After all, it helped fund the Revolution to break free from the crown.
Sure, we have been growing tobacco in places like Connecticut, Virginia, and Tennessee to be used for premium cigars like Macanudo, Romeo y Julieta, and the new Drew Estate Kentucky Fire Cured. The rest however are grown for cigarette tobacco which comes from the same states with the addition of Pennsylvania, the Carolinas, and a handful of others.
But all is not lost! A cigar trend for 2014 that you should look for is the increased use of U.S. tobacco. The United States has been making a slow comeback in the cigar world the past few years with a number of manufacturers who have realized U.S. tobaccos are pretty damn good. Charlie Torano saw the opportunity to get some great new flavors into his Vault D-042 which uses a Pennsylvania longfiller. Another brand that has latched on to premium Pennsylvania tobacco is the Padilla Vintage Reserve, an extremely highly rated cigar which is encased in a PA broadleaf wrapper. Speaking of broadleaf, Connecticut broadleaf wrappers are being used as opposed to the traditional Connecticut shade grown wrappers more recently. In fact, the CAO Flathead uses CT broadleaf wrappers.
It’s all pretty interesting to see an increased use of U.S. tobaccos and we’re really excited to see this rising trend. We wouldn’t be surprised if Hartford Habano, Kansas Criollo, and Oshkosh Oscuro become actual tobacco types in the next few years, but for 2014, expect increased use of Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky tobaccos in new cigar releases this year. As I said, many manufacturers are seeing the benefit of using such tobaccos. The labor costs are right, curing processes have evolved, and we have the proper climate and soil to make some of the best tobacco in the world. These facts have not gone unnoticed.
So as you can tell, there are a few major cigar trends for 2014 you should look out for. These changes are probably the most interesting and noticeable of any changes we’ve seen in years. Of course changes in wrappers and blends have been noticeable in the past, but to have major cigar brands switch over from long running lines to small batch, limited edition runs, that’s pretty noticeable. It seems like a game of one-upmanship between the manufacturers which is pretty cool to be honest. It’s like saying “Hey, man. I bet I can make a better cigar than you.” Only this will happen every year with everyone in the industry.
Big ring gauge cigars are going to be another increasing trend which just makes sense. My time in customer service has taught me one thing: since the collapse of the economy, customers wanted more for their money. This lead to massive cigars being bought not particularly for the quality, but more so because people were getting more tobacco for what they usually spend which adds a value proposition. This changed the customer’s palate over time to want something bigger, which lead to this demand for bigger cigars across the board. Now instead of getting crappy cigars that are stuffed with floor sweepings, you can get Montecristo, Cohiba, La Gloria, etc… all with a big ring size for not much more than a Toro vitola.
Seeing a resurgence in American tobacco is also a bit of a surprise to me, but it makes sense. Everyone has tried every tobacco from every region of each cigar producing nation. It gets boring after a while and there’s only so many blends that can be created. Why not go with something new and risky? It happened with the Cuban exodus with manufacturers leaving Cuba and growing in other nations. That lead to the amazing new tobacco and cigars we smoke today. By switching to American tobaccos, we may just find the next big blend.
In any case, keep an eye out for these cigar trends in 2014. They will certainly come about whether we like it or not. No matter what, it will certainly be interesting to see what the next new big thing will be!