Cigar Industry

Altadis U.S.A. Strikes Deal With Boutique Blends

May 15, 2017 | By Gregory Mottola
Altadis U.S.A. Strikes Deal With Boutique Blends

In what's being called a "strategic alliance agreement," Altadis U.S.A. will begin distributing the products from Boutique Blends Cigars, a company owned by Rafael Nodal, his wife, Alina, and partners Hank Bischoff and José "Jochy" Blanco—and Nodal has accepted a position with Altadis as well. Starting June 5, all orders for brands such as Aging Room, La Bohéme, Oliveros and other cigars by Boutique Blends will be taken and fulfilled through Altadis and its sales team.

Boutique Blends, which is headquartered in Miami, is a small cigar company with a portfolio that includes several critically acclaimed cigars, most notably the Aging Room Quattro F55 line, which was named Cigar Aficionado's No. 2 cigar of 2013 in the Concerto size.

Altadis U.S.A. is one of the largest premium cigar companies in the world, the maker and distributor of major heritage brands like the non-Cuban versions of Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta and H. Upmann. The company is headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and is a subsidiary of Imperial Brands PLC, the huge tobacco concern that also owns 50 percent of Cuba's Habanos S.A.

"This strategic alliance will allow me the ability to invest more resources into bringing Boutique Blends to the place I always wanted to take it," Nodal told Cigar Aficionado in an exclusive interview. "The deal will give my Boutique Blends brands access to the largest premium cigar sales team in the business, a strong support structure and, importantly, one of the largest and most diverse tobacco inventories in the world."

As part of the transition process, Boutique Blends dismissed its sales force (made up primarily of independent contractors) and is in the midst of moving inventory from its Miami warehouse to Altadis' in Tampa.

With the new arrangement will come a new position for Nodal. In addition to looking after his own brands, he will also be overseeing development of some Altadis brands as well.

"I am integrating to the Altadis team and will be working with all the premium brands," explained Nodal. "My main focus is on product quality and innovation of all premium brands, and secondly, on the strategic relations of Altadis U.S.A."

According to Nodal, he will continue to support his Boutique Blends brands, but Hank Bischoff will continue to oversee Boutique Blends operations and logistics.

"Rafael Nodal, who has led the Miami-based group since 2002, will support our premium cigar Altadis U.S.A. business," said Javier Estates, head of cigar operations for Tabacalera USA, in an official release. "Rafael will focus mainly on product quality and innovation, on strategic relations with our trade customers and brick-and-mortar operations and other areas of the company."

Formerly called the Habana Cuba Cigar Co., the Miami-based Boutique Blends Cigars gained major attention in the world of premium cigars when it introduced its line of Aging Room Cigars to the market. More recently, Boutique Blends collaborated with Altadis U.S.A. to create Romeo By Romeo y Julieta Aging Room Small Batch F25.

The diverse portfolio of Boutique Blends cigar brands are manufactured in the Dominican Republic at Tabacalera Palma; in Nicaragua and Honduras by the Plasencias; and in Nicaragua by A.J. Fernandez.

"As I look back to May 31 of 1980 when I arrived in Key West in a little boat with 300 other souls, I had no food, no clothes and certainly no money," recalled Nodal, who came to America via the notorious Mariel Boatlift emigration. "But I was full of dreams. My story is the story of millions of people that have come to this country looking for freedom and opportunity."

Altadis U.S.A. Inc.
"Another great boutique giving into the cigar titans. As a businessman I certainly understand the move. As a small bricks and mortar that tries to always support the boutique brands and the little guys, this is still another defeat. I won't buy from Altadis for many reasons and now I won't buy a boutique brand I have supported in the past!" —May 23, 2017 15:24 PM
"There is no doubt that all the fear about unfair regulations is filling these type of alliances Altadis and Boutique Blends Cigars working together is probably the only good thing to come out of the FDA. I never smoke big company cigars. I am more of a boutique smokers, but today I will smoke a Montecristo, a Romeo & Julieta and one Aging Room Quattro of course. " —May 22, 2017 01:08 AM
"This is a win win. Must people are congratulating Boutique Blends and Mr. Nodal. ( of course it is well deserved) but the one that has to be congratulated is Altadis for making an incredible decision. To the President of Altadis- You Sir deserve a big bonus. " —May 22, 2017 00:58 AM
"Congratulations to Rafael Nodal and the entire staff. Once I read the news I was thrilled for your company and the wonderful staff. This new move would create new opportunities. It's a new way to take the brand to new markets and reach new fans. " —May 19, 2017 15:11 PM
"As a Cuban, I feel personally proud for Rafael Nodal and Boutique Blends. Congratulations to Altadis as well for choosing such a great partnership." —May 19, 2017 14:59 PM
"I am so happy for Rafael! You are a fantastic example of people who come to this country and I will support you." —May 18, 2017 21:31 PM
"I met Rafael Nodal at a cigar event in NYC. I was expecting the tennis player and I was disappointed for about 5 minutes until I started talking to Rafael. Incredible gentleman and an incredible journey. I love Carlos Fuentes and the Padron family but the story of Rafael is unique. From refugee to one of the biggest names in the cigar industry. My respect to him, to Altadis and to Cigar Aficionado for always keeping us inform of his accomplishments" —May 17, 2017 16:25 PM
"The article said that it is an strategic alliance. I am a business owner, and this alliance is one of the best strategic moves that I have seen in the cigar industry. A big company with lots of resources, but with no one person that represent their cigar lines. A small company with little resources, but with a soul, great cigars, great ratings and a man that earns the respect of everyone he meets. Bravo Altadis USA, Bravo Raphael" —May 17, 2017 16:15 PM
"I heard Mr. Nodal at the 2014 Big Smoke seminars in Las Vegas. His story touched me very deep and ever since, I tell everybody about the greatness of this country and the greatness of people like him that come to this country not to get handouts but to work and contribute to society. Congratulations Mr. Nodal. Well done. I am smoking an Aging Room cigar tonight on your name." —May 17, 2017 16:07 PM
"Congratulations to both Mr. Nodal and Boutique Brands. Certainly Altadis has hit the jackpot! RT Elkin Elkanah Cigars" —May 16, 2017 21:53 PM
"Gabe, Rich & Ernesto ... thank you all for the kind words. Hank" —May 16, 2017 13:01 PM
"I have known Rafael and Hank by way of the cigar industry for 16 years. I have personally seen them put tremendous effort and into their brand. I have always enjoyed speaking to Rafael about his his experiences not only in the cigar industry but in has past business. Rafael and his team are a sharp addition to the Altadis team. Congratulations to all. Ernesto Padilla Padilla Cigars" —May 16, 2017 11:57 AM
"I am exited to be part of one of the most profecional teams in the Cigar Industry. Thank you to the Altadis USA management team for believing in me. Thank you to everyone that has help me in my journey, my partners Hank, Joshi and my partner in life, my wife Alina. And thank you to my kids, Rafael Alejandro, Carlos Manuel and Sandra María and my whole family for the support and love. " —May 16, 2017 00:36 AM
"Congrats Rafael and Hank! The sky's the limit for you all now....looking forward to what we'll see in the future from your talented team...." —May 15, 2017 16:50 PM
"Congratulations to Rafael Nodal and his team for such a strategic move. In business if you are not growing, your shrinking. The passion and ability that Rafael has to make premium boutique cigars is one that can not be contained. Unleashing a powerful and efficient sales team will allow him the freedom he needs to continue creating exquisite blends. The only negative aspect to all of this, is the fact that his independent cigar reps are no longer able to represent his brand. I welcome an open invitation for them to reach out to me. Good people are hard to find, and I need them on my team. God bless and I wish Rafael all the best. Have a great day. " —May 15, 2017 10:51 AM

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