According to recent reports on the global premium cigar market, the premium cigar market is expected to grow from $13.33 billion in 2021 to $14.58 billion in 2022. That’s a 9.3% spike in stogie sales year over year!
But with projections hinting at the fact that the premium cigar market will reach $19.56 billion in 2026, one begins to wonder what cigar smokers will be fawning over by that point.
Since the early 2000s, an intriguing dilemma has surfaced for traditional legacy cigar brands, tobacco tycoons that have long relied upon the smoking preferences of previous generations.
Recent spikes in premium long-filler cigar sales have been the result of millennial buyers delving into the art of cigar smoking. This demographic is not afraid to shy away from the norm and tends to gravitate toward unique cigar types, boutique cigar brands, and non-traditional cigar flavor profiles. As these younger cigar smokers continue to drive sales and form the future of the luxury cigar market, a few intriguing insights emerge.
While North America continues to puff more long-filler cigar types than any other continent, regions within the Asia-Pacific continue to purchase premium cigar blends at an astonishing rate.
From a premium cigar blend trend standpoint, there are a few key topics to consider. Long-filler tobacco leaf cultivation, fermentation, and production are in a continuous state of evolution. All in the hopes of keeping up with (and creating) the trends that dictate the future of cigar smoking as we know it.
Increasing Interest in Obscure and New Tobacco Strains
Limited release and seasonal varietal cigars are nothing new. But as boutique cigar brands continue to formulate fantastic annual premium cigar blends, the need for more obscure tobacco becomes a hot topic of conversation.
From cigar master blenders like AJ Fernandez creating renditions of classic cigars, blending the old with new, and resurrecting and reblending legacy cigar brand staples has become a major incentive.
As the owners of the farms that produce much of the leaf that gets rolled, cigar manufacturers have continued to pursue their own proprietary strains of tobacco and post-harvest curing and fermentation methodologies. Part horticulture experiment, part signature marketing tool, the emphasis cigar manufacturers have placed upon bespoke tobacco strains is immense.
While combating pests, fungal diseases, and drought are all leading causes of new tobacco strain cultivation, that is only half of the intent here. Unfathomable flavors, funky fermented nuances, cleaner combustion, and extended curing capabilities all warrant consideration when creating a fresh tobacco seed strain.
Since not everything can be grown on-premise or in a specific regional environment (single source puros being the obvious exception), the art of blending tobaccos hailing from various countries continues to be the way to go.
Some of the more notable obscure/unique tobaccos that continue to see a surge in popularity include:
- Brazilian “Mata Fina”
- Brazilian Sumatra
- Nicaragua “Ometepe” Island Tobacco
- Pennsylvania Broadleaf
- Kentucky Fire Cured
- Barrel-Aged Tobacco
Pushing the Potency Envelope
As the media reports that cigar market buyer interest in intense tobacco refuses to falter, we have witnessed this trend expand firsthand here at Klaro Cigars. Sales of stout stogies and customers requesting Klaro Cigars monthly membership plans focusing on potent tobacco have been unprecedented.
Sun-grown upper leaf Ligero heavy cigars, robust Nicaraguan Finca strains, hardcore Habano cigar wrapper options, volcanic Ecuadorian “cloud-grown” Maduro Broadleaf variants, and dozens of other intense tobacco options all remain in heavy circulation here at the KC warehouse.
Although the throngs of mild cigar wrapper enthusiasts and medium-strength stogie smokers will never dissipate, the overall interest in potent tobacco is impossible to ignore.
Part of this trend is due to the cigar market’s infatuation with Nicaraguan tobacco. From seed to cigar box, Nicaragua produces more than half of the cigars sold in the United States today, with the capital of Estelí serving as the hub for the vast majority of the factories rolling up these pungent, heavily fermented tobaccos.
A separate report by the Cigar Association of America on cigar trends for 2021, goes on to illustrate that America’s consumption of premium cigar blends and cigar types jumped over 50% year over year. Of these sales, a vast amount was of the stronger, vivacious variety, as buyers favor cigar flavor profiles with deeper smoking dynamics.
“In 2021 sales of all cigar types, large and little, soared to record numbers. Total cigar volume increased to 15.25 billion. Premium cigars also showed record numbers at 456 million imports for U.S. consumption, a 25% increase compared to 2020. Even with the record growth in premium cigar imports in 2021, growth has been consistent over the last 10 years. The 10-year compounded annual growth rate has been 5% for premium cigar volumes. Indications in early 2022 are showing that the upward trend in cigar sales is continuing.” —Cigar Association of America
Girthy is Good
While we’re on the topic of “ big-n-bold,” it might be worth discussing the market’s obsession with portly premium cigar blends. Sure, large ring-gauge cigars have been trending for the past couple of decades, but unlike other tobacco fads, this one has shown zero sign of dissipating.
What was once considered to be a gimmicky publicity stunt by many has evolved into a major money-maker for cigar manufacturers. Nowadays, almost everyone has at least one 60-ring-gauge cigar on deck, with Maduro, Claro, and everything in between being rolled in this size, if not larger.
Sixty-ring gauge cigars have become so widespread that many people no longer consider them to be big cigars, something many would have thought laughable a couple of decades back.
What began with guys like Ernesto Perez-Carrillo rolling contracted limited runs of large cigars for bikers back in the ‘70s, eventually evolved into the emergence of the infamous La Gloria Cubana Serie R in the early 2000s. Today, “Gordo” premium long-filler cigar types are everywhere, with circumferences reaching an 80-ring-gauge and higher in certain cases.
While a girthier premium cigar blend will result in a far more flavorful smoking experience due to having the ability to embody more tobacco types, there are other perks to rotund stogies.
Even though value continues to be a major deciding factor, construction and combustion manifest a very different set of reasons. Thicker ring-gauged cigars burn slower and cooler (when puffed at a leisurely pace), and tend to hold an ash far better. This results in silkier smoke, fewer burn-rate and construction issues, and a finish that is not nearly as abrasive.
The only downside to this cigar trend is finding cigar cutters that can accommodate these hand-rolled monoliths.
Tobacco Nerd Note: Celebrity-endorsed products: they’re not just meant for sneakers and bottles of organic salad dressing anymore. From Michael Jordan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Matthew McConaughey, to Jennifer Lopez, Jack Nicholson, and Demi Moore, the VIP appeal of premium cigar blends is only amplified when a celebrity is blowing the smoke rings. More recently, celebrities have begun to get into the cigar business themselves, with New York-based rapper Nas announcing that he is now the co-owner of Nicaragua-based Escobar Cigars.
But as with all trends, it is just a matter of time until something fresh comes along, and what was once considered the norm turns into a passe point of discussion around the campfire.
Premium long-filler cigar trends are no different, as the Millennial demographic’s continues to form the future of cigar sales. Chlorophyll-rich candela cigar wrapper options, skinny and long Lonsdale cigar types, and the flavored cigar craze have all experienced their own level of adoration and demise over the decades.
But unlike these previously popular cigar types, consumer interest in strong, unique tobacco, and having it all rolled up in a 60+ ring-gauge smoke remains in vogue.
Will it last forever? Not a chance. So we might as well get to enjoying these specialized trend-setting smokes while we still can, throw a few favorites in a Klaro Cigars 5-pack bundle, and wait to see what the next big cigar craze will be.