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Best Boutique Cigars: Our Top 5 Picks

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

Boutique cigars come and go but some brands have more staying power than others. “Boutique cigars” are produced in smaller batches for a niche audience. A lot of new cigar companies start out as boutiques but graduate as their sales and exposure grow. Some cigar-makers retain their boutique status, even after their audiences increase, simply because consumers perceive them as small, specialized producers. Here are five boutique cigar brands that are worth smoking. Some have been around for twenty years; others are relative newcomers. All of them produce consistent and complex cigars rated highly by the critics in Cigar Aficionado.

1. Plasencia

Nestor Plasencia and his sons are not smalltime cigar-makers – they’re among the biggest growers of tobacco in Nicaragua and Honduras, but the brand that bears their name is relatively new. For years the Plasencias have been making cigars for some of today’s biggest brands, including Rocky Patel and Alec Bradley. They debuted their eponymous Plasencia Cigars brand in 2016. They are made in smaller quantities than other brands the Plasencias produce, and they’re are relatively pricey because Plasencia cigars are blended with the family’s oldest and rarest tobaccos. Nestor’s son, Nestor Plasencia Jr., is the face of the company. The Plasencia portfolio appeals to fans of Nicaraguan cigars, and the family grows its own tobacco across the country’s best-known regions, including Estelí, Condega, and Jalapa, as well as the volcanic island of Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua.


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2. La Flor Dominicana

La Flor Dominicana brand founder Litto Gomez was born in Spain and raised in Uruguay. He came to the States from Canada as a young man and worked a variety of jobs before leaving a jewelry business behind to become a cigar-maker in the 1990s. He eventually settled in the Dominican Republic where his factory produces a respected portfolio of small-batch cigars. For the past two and a half decades, La Flor Dominicana cigars have become popular among fans of full-bodied Dominican smokes. The brand’s best-known blends include the 94-rated La Flor Dominicana Double Ligero and the 96-rated Andalusian Bull, the ‘#1 Cigar of the Year’ in Cigar Aficionado for 2016. Gomez also pioneered the popular Chisel shape – a carefully handmade Figurado with a flattened head that you can smoke in several La Flor Dominicana blends.


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3. Tatuaje

The Tatuaje portfolio has grown considerably since its inception in 2003. Brand founder Pete Johnson didn’t invent boutique cigars, but his brand was certainly at the forefront of their popularity. “Tatuaje” is Spanish for “tattoo,” and Pete Johnson fits the image of a boutique cigar-maker with his heavily tattooed arms and rock-n-roll persona. In the early 2000s, Johnson partnered with legendary cigar-maker José ‘Pepin’ Garcia – who, at the time, was unknown in the U.S. – to blend the first Tatuaje cigars. Today Tatuaje is home to over fifteen small-batch blends, including the original Tatuaje, Havana VI Verocu, and Nuevitas. Savor the strong and spicy taste of Tatuaje, the brand that put the Garcia family on the map before they launched their world-renowned My Father brand. 


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4. E.P. Carrillo

Ernesto Perez-Carrillo found fame as a cigar-maker during the Cigar Boom of the 1990s when sales of his La Gloria Cubana brand soared. When La Gloria hit its peak, Ernesto sold the brand to General Cigar Company, the parent company of Macanudo and Cohiba, where he served as a brand ambassador for a few years before embarking on his latest venture – E.P. Carrillo Cigars – in 2009. The E.P. Carrillo portfolio started small but includes numerous top-rated and top-ranked cigars praised by the critics in Cigar Aficionado. Ernesto opened a new factory in the Dominican Republic where he blends and produces the 95-rated E.P. Carrillo La Historia, 96-rated E.P. Carrillo Encore, and 98-rated E.P. Carrillo Pledge, all of which have ranked in the ‘Top 5 Cigars of the Year.’


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5. Foundation

Foundation brand owner Nick Melillo spent a decade working at Drew Estate, learning all about tobacco procurement and blending before branching out on his own. Foundation Cigars are produced in Nicaragua at the AJ Fernandez factory and the TABSA (Tabacos Valle de Jalapa S.A.) factory. Melillo is a history buff, and he incorporates historical themes into his product lines. The Tabernacle is rooted in the story of King Solomon from the Old Testament. Melillo’s Olmec cigars celebrate the ancient Mesoamerican peoples who once occupied Mexico’s San Andrés Valley, where the cigars’ wrappers are grown.


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