2022 Final Quarter Part 3: Who to Watch?

December 21, 2022 By Matthew Tabacco

 

 

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 is part three of 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.

J.C. Newman

I feel like J.C. Newman doesn’t get as much love as they should in some of the other media. But they are right up there with Fuente in terms of a classic company that goes way back and continues to be successful into their fourth generation. They are also the distributors for Arturo Fuente and even work with them on their joint charity venture, Cigar Family Charitable Foundation. The Newmans have kept their name alive by moving budget cigars and premium cigars. They recently renovated their El Reloj factory in Tampa, Florida and have a reach on the premium business most predominantly through their Diamond Crown line, also rolled by Arturo Fuente. Recently, they released kicked off their fifth celebration of their Bricktoberfest celebration in honor of their Brick House line. They also revamped their Black Diamond and El Baton brands and introduced the Angel Cuesta brand due to be release sometime this Fall which is looking got fall in the Ultra-Premium range. Throw in the Perla del Mar and you have yourself a hell of a wide range of premium cigars. I expect 2023 to be a bigger year for J.C. Newman.

Foundation Cigar Co.

Would you be surprised to see two former Drew Estate guys on this list together? Well, if not and you have been reading along, you’ll know exactly who we are talking about. Nicholas Melillo now owns his own brand called Foundation Cigar Co. While the last year or two have been somewhat quiet for Nick, he has come out of the gate in the second half of 2022 a.k.a. post-PCA season with some new cigars that are already flying off shelves. The new Olmecs have shipped to retailers to sit alongside existing brands such as The Wise Man, Tabernacle, Menelik, Charter Oak, the Upsetters and Highclere Castle. In addition, a new Highclere Castle release called Senetjer – inspired by the 100th anniversary of the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s Tomb will be released to retailers as well sometime soon. Heading into the end of this year and the beginning of next year, Nick has himself primed to win some awards for some great cigars. He also recently did a Firecracker release with United Cigars using his Wise Man Maduro blend.

Micallef Cigars

Micallef is a brand from Weatherford, Texas started by Billionaire oil tycoon Al Micallef. To be honest, their beginnings weren’t the strongest but to their credit, Micallef Cigars has been making some strides the last few years to make adjustments. Some of these changes include dropping some core line products in favor of promoting others, working with brick-and-mortar retailers more and simplifying their product packaging to be cleaner and more universal. They have been making more efforts on social media and engage with their consumers, most notably with their ambassador program and the Ambassador group on Facebook which really gathers the Micallef consumers together and keeps them very engaged with the brand as well as the community as a whole. Give Micallef a few more years and with the team they have at the top, including President Dan Thompson who brings plenty of experience from multiple industries to the table, and they will be a fighting contender for a red-hot brand.

All Saints Cigars

Micky Pegg and Frank Layo, the two main people behind this brand, are on a path to greatness. So far, they have released several great cigars that continue to rank highly not only with us but with our peers as well. After working for companies like CAO and Davidoff, Micky decided it was time to pull out his own wallet and give it a go himself. Last year, the St. Francis Robusto came in at #2 on our list and was given #1 by some others including The Cigar Authority. After the performance I have seen from these guys in their first few years and seeing what they continue to do to grow their brand with Micky’s personality and experience, I have high hopes these guys will end up being one of the larger boutique brands in the future.

El Septimo

El Septimo is a brand that came onto the US market in 2021 and since then it has picked up traction as one of the most talked about brands. Previously known for their high-priced cigars that they originally debuted with; they have since expanded to include more cost-effective cigars to the market that also have quite an impressive quality for the cost. Classified as “ultra-premium” El Septimo also has plans to expand into accessories and many other luxury quality products that it plans to make in house to create an all-encompassing luxury brand that could set a new trend. We have seen this happening with a few other brands as well such as Arturo Fuente – they too could someday become more than a cigar company and be a luxury goods company. So far, the vibe I get on this brand is 50/50, but time will tell if they really can change the game forever.

Crowned Heads

Crowned Heads is a brand that I have personally really gotten into this year. They have been chipping away at building their business nice and steadily and this year at PCA, they were a marquee sponsor. They recently split with Luciano Meirelles and his Luciano brand (formerly known as Ace Prime) who they had a distribution deal with in what has been a not so pretty break up. But since then, Crowned Heads has made some changes, kept their heads held high and have tried to carry themselves in a “we are just moving on” kind of way. Crowned Heads has also brough in Tim Ozgener, the former head of CAO Cigars, who launched a new line at PCA called Bosphorus Cigars. What Crowned Heads has done with their limited lines, most notably Las Calaveras, they are company on the rise that is sure to move up and off this list by next year.

Luciano Cigars

For many of the same reasons obviously listed above, Luciano is also doing things his way. With the split from Crowned Heads over but maybe not done with, Luciano is restructuring himself and aligning himself with a new staff with Ed Trevino as Sales Director, Peter Gross as COO, bringing in ATL Cigars under their distribution, and of course with the rebranding of ACE Prime to Luciano Cigars. As ugly as that split might have gotten, the fact of the matter is Luciano has been making great cigars that have been getting a lot of exposure and praise across the industry. This year, Luciano released Mas Igneus which also coincides with a wine by the same name. That cigar is full bodied with plenty of sweetness and character. As I said before, companies can change on this list, they can either move up or drop off. 2023 will be a very telling year for Luciano Cigars to see where exactly they go from here.

Room101

Earlier this year, Room101 and STG announced that STG would be buying out Room101 Cigars (and only the cigar division) and Matt Booth would be kept on as a creative director for the brand. Room101 will now belong under the Forged Cigar Company umbrella at STG and it will be interesting to see where the big company takes something that has been so carefully curated by Matt for some time now. Will the brand blossom and grow and become bigger than we all imagined? Or will it simply just be another brand in the portfolio for Forged to sell to its existing retailers? Time will tell but my bet is this brand will grow and outshine the rest.

Dissident

At the beginning of 2022, word hit the streets that Dissident cigars, a Fabrica Oveja Negra family brand had been sold to Cynn and Josh Coburn. The couple had previously been around on social media, and I got to know them before they bought the brand, and I was excited by the news because they are great people. Now, running a brand is another story. However, since then, the Coburns made Cynn the face of the brand and launched a new limited edition called the Molotov. They even partnered with a craft distillery to make an event only obtainable Dissident whiskey. The brand seemed to suffer from not really getting a ton of love. It is early but Cynn has been making that brand more relevant than ever so in my opinion, let’s see how she does two to three years from now.

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