2014 has officially drawn to a close, with the last 365 days passing in a blurry fog of smoke. It would be easy for me to type away on a keyboard filling page after page with clichéd and tired maxims about the preceding 8765.81 hours that were 2014. What have we learned? Has anything really changed? Was 2014 a good year? These quietly contemplative questions will not be found in this article. The rush of the cigar industry paradoxically denies all involved the luxury of quiet reflection promised to consumers. The world of hand rolled tobacco moves at near break neck speed all with the goal of pleasing the ever-changing tastes of consumers; the trends of 2014 reflect this flux perfectly.
The 60 plus ring gauge trend of years past continued its juggernaut onslaught in 2014 with a multitude of manufactures releasing line extensions and new cigars in the new era theme of gargantuan cigars. Alec Bradley’s Texas Lancero, LFD TAA 707, BG Meyer and new lines from Cohiba and others feature cigars measuring in with a ring gauge of 60 or higher. While companies were more than content to ride this consumer pleasing wave, other companies opted to release more traditional sizes. Ashton’s newest release in nearly a decade, Symmetry, lacks the expected 60 ring gauge size while CAO also released the 4.5 inch by 50 ring gauge Flathead Sparkplug signaling a return to, or at least consideration for, 50 ring gauge and smaller cigars. This development is an interesting one to consider because it highlights a growing divide among cigar connoisseurs, those who crave larger cigars and those who desire to savor the flavor of smaller sizes.
Taking a page from the small batch world of craft beers, wines and spirits; limited edition cigars made up a considerable portion of the 2014’s cigar releases. No matter what your cigar preferences are, from Camacho’s Double Shock to Davidoff’s Year of the Sheep, 2014 was an excellent year to smoke limited edition cigars. Crowned Heads deserves a notable mention in this department as they unveiled a mélange of limited editions and region exclusives this year with Las Calaveras, The Angel’s Anvil, and Mason Dixon Project to name a few. A huge highlight of the 2014 limited edition list is the two new releases from Padron. Considering the company tends to shy away from releasing a cornucopia of new cigars from year to year, 2014 witnessed the revealing of the eagerly awaited 2014 Family Reserve 50th and the 50th Anniversary, both of which commemorate the companies half century tenure of providing Nicaraguan goodness to the cigar smoking masses. The yearly releases for the Tobacconist Association of America (TAA) were especially delightful this year with Avo, Tatuaje, LFD and My Father bringing forth new blends and sizes that were truly unforgettable.
The best kept secret of Nicaraguan cigar enthusiasts was unleashed upon the masses in full force during 2014, which is that Nicaraguan tobacco is flippin’ awesome! If you enjoyed any new releases in 2014 odds are at least one of them featured Nicaraguan tobacco in some part of the stogie. 2014 was definitely the year of Nicaraguan tobacco. Once tied to a handful of manufactures, Nicaraguan tobacco has moved to the forefront of cigar blending with Davidoff adding a few sizes to their runaway hit Davidoff Nicaragua and industry leviathans Cohiba and Montecristo blending cigars which take advantage of the diverse, robust and flavorful tobacco from the Estelí, Jalapa and Condega.
If I had to sum up the standout trend of 2014 in one word, it would have to be diversity. Not only did a substantial amount of new lines see their release in 2014, they also took their diversity one step further by being packed in cleverly designed boxes that deviated from the traditional 20 to 25 box count standard. Nat Sherman’s 75th Anniversary and E.P. Carrillo’s highly rated La Historia are packaged in 10 count boxes, while Cohiba Nicaragua and Sindicato were packaged in 16 count boxes. The upside to this trend is that it makes box purchases much more affordable to cigar aficionados everywhere without sacrificing quality and craftsmanship, thus highlighting the simple fact that cigar smokers value quality over quantity.
The Takeaway for 2015
Even with the expected negatives of companies going out of business and the looming FDA regulation, 2014 proved to be cloud with one hell of a silver lining. Whether you enjoy a cigar that may cause TMD down the road or a stick the size of pencil, odds are there is a cigar brand perfect for your taste. Never before have cigar smokers been privileged with so many options to meet their diverse preferences. We can all hope that 2015 will continue to build upon the foundation laid by the trends of past year. So whatever sticks you enjoyed in 2014, be it an ACID or Davidoff, light one up and welcome the next 8765.81 hours with the blue vaporous arms of your cigar.