Many other cigar media sites talking about cigar company brands strength and who’s hot and who’s not. After watching Cigar-Coop’s “power rankings” show last night and the Cigar Dojo cigar draft concept, I’ll be honest I thought to myself “Who’s on my list?”. We compiled multiple lists of who we think are companies in control, who’s hot, and who’s to watch and why. This will be a three-part series. Many of these names are on the lists due to various factors including, quality of releases, product innovation, what we see people frequently smoking across social media and lounges, overall growth, shelf space taken etc. The companies listed below are in contention to have a great 2022/2023 overall both in sales, growth and on individual cigar ranking lists.
La Flor Dominicana
Everybody at this point has heard about the La Flor Dominicana NFT that was auctioned off in seven pieces to six different owners over the summer. If that was not enough, La Flor is getting ready to release its next cigar: a limited production called Solis blended by Litto Gomez’s younger son, Litto Gomez Jr. In addition, La Flor also does annual Tobacconist Association of America (TAA) releases, and, in my opinion, this year’s release of the chisel tipped TAA 50th Oro Tercera Edicion was one of the best TAA releases this year. Their next release, the 2022 TAA, will feature the same blend in their Salomon size and should be available by the beginning of next year. While La Flor hasn’t had a new core line cigar since the 1994 in 2014, they have done great work staying relevant and making new cigars while also creating new innovations in the cigar industry. While many say, “Ya but their cigars are always back ordered!” some of the names on this list have some backorders that could rival that of all of LFD’s total in single lines. But at the same time, at least their cigars are always moving out the door. Add in Jonathan Carney’s Gourmet Smoke Session events and you have a company covering their bases.
Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust
Steve Saka is and always will be well”Steve Saka. While the DTT brand is still young and growing he is still hot and can keep the customers coming back. Steve is one of the few brand owners who fully capitalizes on social media personally. While it’s been a slightly quieter year for Sakasquatch than last year, he has still kept himself relevant by adding the Mi Querida Black line a.k.a “SakaKhan” to shelves this year with a promise for a full roll out in multiple sizes next year. Mi Querida Black joins is blue and red counterparts and was a limited production this year in one size (7 1/4 x 54). The Muestra de Saka returned with “Bewtiched”, and the Holiday Y2022 Still Well Star blend will be hitting shelves soon. The point is day after day I continue to see Steve out there doing his thing and the consumers lining up to give the loveable grump their money. Another 5-10 years and who knows, maybe Steve will make his way to the “In Control” list.
United Cigars is more than just a distribution company owned by David Garafalo of Two Guys Smoke Shop and The Cigar Authority. It is more than the company that distributes Selected Tobacco’s brands. It is even more than the company who does the Firecracker cigars. United is the company that is making moves and has done an incredible job of continuing to diversify themselves by offering new brands, products and ideas. A few years ago, they had the reputation of being the company that sold “Dave’s Atabey brand” which is completely untrue. Recently, they have expanded. They bought a new warehouse, they brought in more brands such as YAYA, Arnold Andre and have revamped some of their existing brands such as Garafalo and Abuelo. They have also been making more iterations of the Firecracker series that keep smokers excited for the next one. United is growing, making moves and working their way to the top of the food chain. For now – keep an eye out for their cigars, it is hard to miss them.
Pete Johnson is the guy who years back came into a suit and tie business with a t-shirt and arm sleeve tattoos and said, “Hey guys I’m Pete.” What at the time seemed out of place and different has become one of the most recognized larger boutique brands around today. Pete has taken Tatuaje and used many classic elements of the old cigar world and incorporated them into the brand that it is today while also trying new things and becoming innovative. He has also capitalized on the limited-edition and limited-production market and has done so in a way that never gets old or tiring. Add in the Saints and Sinners club, the Monster Series and his advocacy efforts for the industry, Pete keeps his brand at the forefront of smoker’s minds and fills the gaps of the year without not being present. Recently, the Tatuaje advent calendars have begun shipping after missing out last year due to production issues. But before they even shipped – they had inspired many others to try the same thing. Tatuaje as of late to me is a cigar brand trendsetter.
Espinosa Cigars is another one of those names that always seems to pop up everywhere I look. They may not be the biggest of the companies, but they stay relevant through the consistency of their products and the way they put themselves out there. Recently, Espinosa began making the Knuckle Sandwich cigars for celebrity chef Guy Fieri. While historically celebrity cigars have not always been very successful or memorable, I think that the Knuckle Sandwich is one that could really break that stereotype and set a new standard for celebrity brands. Guy seems like the kind of person who can keep up with the promotion of that product as well as everything else he does. In addition, Espinosa has kept up their consumer engagement with their La Zona Palooza events and they continue to fill more and more shelves in humidors across the country.
A brand we didn’t talk about on the show but after some thought on where they would rank, we decided to place them in the “hot” category. The reason is that Padron is a brand that almost everyone knows. They have been around a long time, they make great cigars, they are consistent – pretty much everything positive you could say about a company. The reason they do not rank on the “Control” list is due to the fact that well compared to the other companies – Padron keeps to themselves. They don’t make cigars for anyone else, they don’t do really any media promotion or interviews and they don’t really make a lot of noise outside of the usual word of mouth in cigar shops and on social media. But they stay relevant, consistent and keep getting praise because they have built a great brand and consumers continue to come into cigar shops and ask for all different blends of Padron cigars and to be honest, they are a brand who I can see living on this list for a long time while other brands come and go.
You might be asking yourself, “What about ‘X”company/brand??” This list was made based on how we interpret who is out there making moves today and how they seem to be thriving in the market as a company. In addition, as stated above it is also who is relevant, who is moving product, who are the consumers always mentioning by name etc. This list could change tomorrow if let’s say someone closed up shop or had a factory burn down. The point is it can change and there will be another list in the future where we will revisit this one to see who stays and who goes.