Boutique Smokes was set up because we wanted to do something that would make New World cigars more accessible and affordable in the UK market. We wanted to import these cigars and sell them directly to you, the consumer, via an online platform and try to give you some interesting cigars at good prices. We're proud to offer you, a personally curated selection of cigars and vitolas.
We’ve chosen the brands based on several factors:
· We like the people behind the brand and their story
· They own their own factory or have very close links to the factory
· They have registered their brands in the EU tobacco registration program
· We liked their cigars and think others would like them
Everyone has different palates but, we hope you will give them a chance. We’ve kept tasting notes as simple as possible, as it's better to you make your own tasting notes about the cigars, and join in the conversation on our social media channels.
We smoked all of these cigars and many hundreds more, in order to procure boutique brands that we hope you will enjoy for many reasons including taste and value for money.
Boutique Smokes - The Origins
We are entering our third year of business and we are delighted to be still here. Here’s how Boutique Smokes started;
Hi, I'm Mike Choi, and I'd like to welcome you to Boutique Smokes, the UK centre for boutique cigar brands. I'm taking 5 years experience running the Edward Sahakian Cigar Shop and Sampling Room (one of the most exclusive cigar lounges in London, 2015 Cigar Journal Cigar Lounge of the Year, where I won the UK Habananosommelier of the Year 2013 and was the Runner-Up in the 2014 Habanosommelier World) and have turned my attention to New World cigars (any cigars which aren't Cuban).
Since 2013, I have been visiting Intertabac (the largest tobacco trade show in the World) and smoking around 25 New World cigars per 3 day show. Whilst this may sound like many smoker's idea of heaven, I can attest that it's much harder than you'd think and you smoke a lot of mediocre cigars to find maybe one that stands out. To put it simply, I've kissed a lot of frogs to find the true princes of the New World Cigar market.
What I set out to create with Boutique Smokes, is a personally curated selection of new boutique brands to the UK cigar smoker, that I put my reputation behind as a Champion Habanosommelier and hope you enjoy smoking them as much as I did. Not only do I think they are stand out brands but, more importantly I respect the people behind them.
Not long after I had the idea of launching a new style of cigar business in the U.K. I quickly realised I knew nothing about websites or e-commerce. As an award winning Habanosommelier I knew what I could bring to the business but I needed someone I could trust and had a similar mindset to cigars as me.
Enter Joe Berg of Prod Designs. I think I met Joe first when I was still managing the Edward Sahakian Cigar Shop and Sampling Room in the Bulgari London hotel and then through the Soho Whisky Club. Joe was a cuban smoker predominantly, but was open minded to New World cigars as much as Cubans. His skills of product design, marketing and websites was exactly what I needed.
We met a few times and I explained my ideas and aims. He was interested, and saw the value of the approach we were taking, as he himself was being introduced to the New World cigar offering.
I think over 18 months passed since our early meetings before we started to finalise the brands we wanted to launch with. From late 2017 I had started talking to brands at the Intertabac show but never got anything going. 2018 trade show passed and still no movement. In my defence I was working on another business and saving funds for Boutique Smokes. As 2019 started Joe was really responsible for kicking me into action. I decided to take Joe along to the trade show in September and this was a very fortuitous move.
Just before we arrived at the show, I got the flu (just the flu) and it caused me to lose my voice. For me it was a disaster because I could neither smoke or talk (some might say that’s a blessing😆). Luckily Joe had listened to my ideas and was able to talk to many brands, whilst I was the mute guy standing next to him. Without doubt, we wouldn’t have El Viejo Continente, Epic Cigars or Dapper Cigars onboard now if it wasn’t for Joe finding these brands and talking to them.
Not only does Joe manage the website, Shopify, marketing and shipping, he’s also directly involved with all the cigar tasting we need to do. I am fortunate that Joe also has a similar palate to myself so when we taste cigars, our thoughts are aligned. Of course the final decision of what we take on is down to me but it’s kinda reassuring Joe feels the same.
We came back from Germany with a bag full of samples and renewed vigour. We smoked our way through many cigars. Now I’m neither rich nor do I have a group of investors behind me. Every penny I have scrimped and saved to invest it all into this project. Nothings changed since then. We have grown organically, every penny reinvested in to the company to buy stock and slowly expand.
We launched in Feb 2020 with just 3 brands and 3 lines per brand. Everything we sell is unique to the U.K. market and we are the exclusive distributors. We do not sell cigar brands already in the U.K. market because we cannot offer anything with these brands other than to fight on prices, which is pointless for a new company.
Fast forward 2 years and Boutique Smokes now represents 5 brands and has 20 lines available. Our business is small and personal. When you are dm’ng our Instagram account, you’re speaking to me. When you message our sales email, you are talking to Joe. We try and respond to all messages quickly.
The Pandemic has reshaped the way we do business and interact. Zoom meetings are now the norm and whilst we look forward to face to face meet ups, Zoom has allowed us to meet customers all around the country which is amazing as well as talking to our brand owners in the USA, Switzerland and Spain. Online shopping has exploded in a way none of us predicted but are happy to be able to do business in any form.
We have to thank each and every one of our customers and the thousands of subscribers we have along with Gaby (Kafie 1901 Cigars), Laurent (Skull 77), Daniel (El Viejo Continente), Dean (Epic Cigars) and Ian (Dapper Cigars). It goes without saying that we wouldn’t be here without you.