No matter where you look these days, prices are higher. Whether you’re booking a flight, filling up the gas tank or ordering a ribeye at your favorite steakhouse, you’re likely to be spending considerably more than you did a year ago. And now, inflation is heading for the humidor as well. Cigars are getting more expensive.
For the past few years, the meat of the market in the American handmade cigar industry has consisted of cigars with suggested retail prices of $7 to $10 each. For a box of 25, that comes out to $175 to $250—before taxes. Few of the latest releases this summer at the industry’s largest trade show, the Premium Cigar Association, came out in that range. We found new cigar after new cigar with prices of $15, $18, even $20 each. A few were $30. Some of these cigars are already on sale, while others will make their way to stores by the end of the year. In this issue’s taste test, 26 non-Cuban cigars sell for less than $10, while 34 retail for $10 or more. There are six with price tags north of $20.
A more expensive cigar doesn’t guarantee a better cigar, something our blind tastings have proven again and again, and you can certainly still find some bargains. Nevertheless, higher-priced cigars are becoming far more mainstream, something that seems inevitable given the higher cost of so many consumer goods and services in today’s economy.
But if you think a $30 cigar is expensive, brace yourself for the new world of Cuban cigars. This summer, Habanos S.A., the company that controls Cuba’s cigar industry, raised prices, most markedly on Cohibas and Trinidads. In high-cost markets, such as the United Kingdom, some prices went up by 30 to 50 percent. In low-cost regions, such as Spain, some prices tripled. Some cigars now have prices of $50, $60, even $90 or more.
If you enjoy Cohiba Robustos, expect to pay $64 or $70 for one, whether you are buying in Cuba, Spain or London. If Cohiba Esplendidos are your choice, don’t expect much change when you hand your retailer a $100 bill. That cigar is now $97. A box will cost you nearly $2,500. Cohiba Behikes (when it’s possible to find them) sell for even more, up to $177 for a single cigar. See the story about Cuba pricing on page 85 for much more.
The question is, how much will a consumer pay for a cigar? Many years ago, when cigars were commodities, smokers were extremely price sensitive, so much so that one brand was nearly ruined by going up a penny in price, from a nickel to six cents. Back in 1992, when Cigar Aficionado was founded, a $10 cigar was considered extremely expensive, a $20 cigar unimaginable.
Cigar sales are vibrant right now and have been for the past two years. In order to safeguard the industry for the long term, we hope that manufacturers will restrain themselves from further price increases and pay heed to the end consumer—lest they risk cooking the golden goose. If good cigars become unaffordable, some cigar smokers will inevitably be priced out of the market. And that would be bad for everyone.