It was an interesting year for new cigar companies. We as a staff probably spent more time determining what the rules were for eligibility than we did ranking companies. Should Warped, who disappeared a few years ago and basically restarted the company from scratch, be eligible? Should La Sirena, who kept trademarks, but found new distribution channels, manufacturing partners and lines, be eligible? What about BG Meyer Co.—is it a company or a new brand within Davidoff of Geneva?
Those were the most challenging questions to resolve in regards to making sure everything was as close to fair and within the spirit of the award we could.
Turns out, we deemed all three eligible. And B.G. Meyer Co., Caldwell and Warped along with Crux and Las Cumbres Tabaco were finalists amongst votes from the four staff members of halfwheel. When naming this award the goal isn’t to find the company with the most sales or best products, rather, we take a holistic approach and just rank the companies based off of our own personal preferences.
NEW COMPANY OF THE YEAR: CALDWELL CIGAR CO.
In the end, a trade show probably won it for Caldwell Cigar Co. While Caldwell may have not made our list of booths to cover prior to the trade show, it was apparent by the second day it probably should have been. And it wouldn’t have been, had we not been collectively a day behind already. Regardless, we continually heard and saw how busy the Caldwell Cigar Co. booth was and talked to numerous retailers who said they were buying into Robert Caldwell’s new company.
Caldwell started by acquiring old cigars from an unnamed factory in the Dominican Republic. While the quality was okay, the practice is on par with Lew Rothman stories regarding $1.50 bundles. It’s hard to imagine calling that a good starting point for the company, but it seemed to have worked. Because when you look at the Caldwell portfolio now, it look like a company that has been around for a few years. Given our conversations with retailers it seems Caldwell is also getting a few simple things right like shipping products on time and keeping some diversity between the lines.
In a year where many new companies were with familiar faces, perhaps most impressively, Caldwell managed to not be the second coming of Wynwood.