“Boutique Cigars” What does that mean? I think that can be very personal for a lot of people. For some it could register as a gimmick, marketing ploy, or a way to describe a smaller brand with less reach and exposure than the normal big label brands occupying most of the shelf space at your local brick & mortar. For others it could mean a focus on the story behind the cigar, smaller batches, insight into the farm that produced it or the Torcedor that built it for you.
For the Cigar Clowns it means a group of friends getting together in 2018 and hustling cigars underground. Sourcing from different places and selling to your closest family and friends to build a brand. It means forming relationships in an industry that rejects almost all newcomers and hanging tough when major legacy brands with a thousand times the reach of yours try to crush you. It means partnering with Privada, releasing “The Ron” in June of 2021 and changing the very landscape of the industry…and all of it without ever looking back.
You may be asking “But Phil, why the history lesson?” or “I know who the Clowns are” and to that I would just say perspective is invaluable. To truly grasp where we are its crucial to know where we’ve been and how things started. I want really to impress upon you just how unlikely and improbable this event truly was. To even think that a few friends could host what would become a major release at Barclay Rex – one of Manhattan’s oldest and among the most storied cigar lounges in this industry – in these economic and social times would be unfathomable to most. Fast forward to it actually coming to fruition, and cigar lovers were already showing up to this historic building even as the setup was underway ahead of the official start.
The regulation of tobacco, the public perception of smoking, coupled with economic downturn and one of the most ardently guarded, commercially saturated, and toxic industries in the world of consumer goods does not spell great prospects of return on investment for anybody, let alone 5 blue collar guys from NYC. Let that sink in for a second and you’ll begin to understand the significance of what is occurring here and what it means for us, the consumers. There should be a smile forming right now, and if there isn’t you clearly aren’t paying attention.
The Draw for this event was massive and widespread with people flying in from as far away as Florida to attend and celebrate the release. Cigar Public is working with the Cigar Clowns to release a video showcasing the event, so if you weren’t there you’ll at least be able to understand what it was like for those who were. This collaboration was exclusive to Barclay Rex, and while they did take online and phone orders, the best way to guarantee you get your Clown Sticks is to attend the event. In fact, usually that’s the only guarantee you’ll get any clown sticks at all. Regardless of batch size, Cigar Clown sticks usually get gobbled up and taken off the market within hours or a day of release. To add perspective to that, the minimum number of cigars to qualify for an LCA release is a specific number that im not going to reveal for several reasons, but it’s between 15,000 and 20,000 cigars. The Not Ron LCA drop was September 2nd and by September 4th 95% of the available stock was gone nationally from LCA shops.
This incredible appeal and demand can be attributed to a myriad of factors. Consistent quality, trust In the brand, and enjoyability. The Clowns haven’t released a stick yet that wasn’t scored an average of 90+ on any reasonable scoring scale so to say there is hype around each release is an understatement. However, two sticks dropping in one day at the same location, especially the second coming of whats colloquially known amongst the largest boutique following in the industry (Privada) as the “GOAT” of Boutique Cigars proved too irresistible for hundreds of people. This release event rivaled the same kind of fanfare that huge commercial events like Drew Estate’s “Barn Smoker” receive. And the idea that a small brand like The Cigar Clowns could achieve something like that after only existing for 4 years is almost unbelievable.
The Clowns have many more projects on pace for release this year, including the highly anticipated beginning of the “Cigar Clown Labs” collaboration series where they will partner with other cigar manufacturers and Privada regional groups of their choosing to co-develop and release cigars under the Cigar Clown Labs brand. This is their way of giving back to the community who has shown them so much support and a way to shine a light on other cigar brands using their commercial appeal and proven track record.
This event redefined what a cigar release, or really any kind of cigar event should look like to a consumer. This is truly the new standard by which all others will be judged moving forward and im so glad I was there. Turning nothing into something substantial is an idea as old as time, but one that remains a nearly impossible thing to actually achieve. I’ve been an avid cigar smoker for the last 11 years and I’ve seen a lot of big names rise and fade from relevance and prestige. They fall in and out of favor because they lack originality, character, and passion.
“In Pursuit Of The Perfect Stick.” This is the Cigar Clowns mission statement. Very simple, and very telling. This event sealed for me what I had already been thinking – the Cigar Clowns are representative of the future of our industry, and it’s a bright, innovative future we should embrace and look forward. Times have officially changed, whether you’re ready or not.
What would your ideal cigar event look like and what brick & mortar would would you host it at? For more background on Barclay Rex’s historic place in the pantheon of cigars, please check out Frank Curto’s recent article detailing the two new releases as well as the build-up to The Recession event. Looking forward to hearing from you in the comments below!