Going into the 2018 IPCPR, it was a big year of change for the brands of Rafael Nodal and Hank Bischoff’s Boutique Blends. The changes saw a massive restructuring of their portfolio, probably the biggest restructuring we’ve seen from any company at this year’s IPCPR. It was one that saw the company restructure its lines into four pillars under a single brand, Aging Room Cigars. It has been six years since Nodal and Bischoff re-organized Oliveros Cigars into Boutique Blends, and the moves made this year appear to position the company well for the next six years.
Back in 2017, Boutique Blends would enter into a strategic partnership with Altadis U.S.A. Under the partnership, Altadis U.S.A. would now handle distribution, sales, and marketing for Boutique Blends. At the same time, Nodal would come on to Altadis U.S.A. as Head of Product Capability, where he would be responsible for product innovation. From my point of view, the restructuring would definitely help position Boutique Blends more strongly as a value proposition with Altadis U.S.A.
The big change was not only the consolidation of the portfolio under Aging Room Cigars, but more of an emphasis on regular production offerings. Since joining Altadis, Nodal has emerged as a face and de-facto ambassador for the company, and with the Aging Room lines, his presence and visibility continues under that line.
There are some other changes. The unique naming system for blends consisting of a letter for day of the week and number for day of the year the blend was created (e.g. F55 stood for Friday and 55th day of the year) has been abandoned. The consolidation under Aging Room has meant that brands like Swag, La Bohéme, and the recently resurrected Oliveros brand have been put on hold.
Aging Room by Rafael Nodal
This gives the Aging Room portfolio a core line of blends. This new line consists of three blends. Each of these cigars is produced at Boutique Blends long-time manufacturing partner, Tabacalera Palma. While the names are more mainstream, the vitola names still reflect Nodal’s passion for music.
The Aging Room by Rafael Connecticut adds a core offering Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade blend over Dominican binder and filler. For all practical purposes, it seems it is replacing the old Aging Room Havao line. It is packaged in 20-count boxes and available in three sizes: Rapido (5 x 48), Vivase (6 x 50), and Adante (7 x 50).
The Aging Room by Rafael Habano is a 100% Dominican puro featuring a Habano seed Dominican wrapper. It is packaged in 20-count boxes and available in three sizes: Rondo (5 x 50), Mezzo (6 x 54), and Major (6 1/2 x 60)
Finally, the Aging Room by Rafael Nodal Maduro is a cigar featuring a San Andres Maduro wrapper over Dominican binder and filler. It seems this cigar is replacing the old Aging Room Maduro line. It is packaged in-20 count boxes and available in three sizes: Rondo (5 x 50), Mezzo (6 x 54), and Major (6 1/2 x 60).
Aging Room Quattro by Rafael Nodal.
Aging Room Quattro by Rafael Nodal is positioned as a box-pressed pillar. The Aging Room Quattro F55 and Aging Room Quattro Maduro F55M move into this pillar. Both blends remain the same and get new names and new packaging. The Quattro pillar will also add a Connecticut and Nicaraguan blend while the Aging Room Quattro F59 has been retired.
Aging Room Quattro F55 now becomes Aging Room Quattro Original. Production remains out of Tabacalera Palma in the Dominican Republic. The blend remains the same, consisting of a Sumatra wrapper over Dominican binder and filler. The line is streamlined to four sizes: Espressivo (5 x 50), Vibrato (6 x 54), Concerto (7 x 50), and Maestro Belicoso (6 x 52). Each size is presented in 20-count boxes.
Aging Room Quattro F55M now becomes Aging Room Quattro Maduro. Production remains out of Tabacalera Palma in the Dominican Republic. This line went national last year and no changes have been made other than the name and packaging. The blend remains the same consisting of a San Andres Maduro wrapper over Dominican binder and filler. The line keeps the same four sizes: Espressivo (5 x 50), Vibrato (6 x 54), Concerto (7 x 50), and Maestro Belicoso (6 x 52). Each size is presented in 20-count boxes.
New to the Quattro pillar is the Aging Room Quattro Connecticut. Production comes out of Tabacalera Palma in the Dominican Republic. The blend uses an Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade wrapper over Dominican binder and filler. Consistent with the other Quattro blends, the Quattro Connecticut comes in four sizes: Espressivo (5 x 50), Vibrato (6 x 54), Concerto (7 x 50), and Maestro Belicoso (6 x 52). Each size is presented in 20 count boxes.
Finally, there is Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua. This is a 100% Nicaraguan puro. While the other Quattro offerings come out of Tabacalera Palma in the Dominican Republic, Quattro Nicaragua comes out of Tabacalera Fernandez in the Estelí, Nicaragua. Consistent with the other Quattro blends, the Quattro Connecticut comes in four sizes: Espressivo (5 x 50), Vibrato (6 x 54), Concerto (7 x 50), and Maestro Belicoso (6 x 52). Each size is presented in 20-count boxes.
Aging Room Solera
The Aging Room Solera cigars, which were first introduced in 2016 have their own pillar.
The story of the Aging Room Solera goes back 14 years ago when back in 2004, Nodal and his wife Alina were visiting Andalucia, Spain. Nodal (who is now a citizen of Spain) became impressed with a method of aging sherry wine and Brandy called Solera. This involves combining different vintages of wine together, thus the finished product is a combination of wines of different ages. The more Nodal learned about the Solera process, the more he thought it could be applied to the aging of tobacco.
By applying this process to tobacco, tobaccos from different vintages are combined into bales and aged – resulting in a marriage of the tobaccos before rolling a cigar.
There are four blends in the Aging Room Solera line: Ecuadorian Connecticut, Maduro, Sun Grown, and Corojo.
Aging Room “Specialty” Line
This wasn’t positioned as an official pillar, but essentially this fits the limited editions and special projects. The Aging Room Bin No. 1 and Aging Room Pelo de Oro lines have been moved into this pillar.
The recently released Aging Room Puro Cepa has also moved here. Puro Cepa is a Nicaraguan puro produced at Plasencia. It utilizes tobaccos from the four main growing regions of Nicaragua: Condega, Estelí, Jalapa, and Ometepe. It is produced at the Plasencia S.A. factory in Estelí, Nicaragua. The cigars come in three sizes (Rondo – 5 x 50, Mezzo 6 x 54, and Grande 6 1/2 x 56) – each packaged in 20 count boxes.
2018 Product Reports
- Boutique Blends Overhauls Aging Room Portfolio
- Boutique Blends to Release Aging Room Small Batch Pura Cepa
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop, except where noted.