Village Cigar Co. is set to release the Black Market Bootlegger, a new store exclusive from Alec Bradley that will be available at its three Toronto-area locations on Saturday.

The new cigar is a 5 1/4 x 54 box-pressed robusto, with a blend that is a spin on the original Black Market. It uses a Nicaraguan wrapper, Sumatra binder, and fillers from Panama, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

The cigar got its genesis in early 2017, when Jerry Filice and Ryan Baker, founding partners of Village Cigar Co., began discussing the idea of doing an exclusive, co-branded cigar with Joe and Justin Bondi of Alec Bradley Canada. Filice tells halfwheel that the idea was met with both “enthusiasm and immediate optimism.”

“Our intention was to take the Illicit and Esteli projects Alec Bradley had done in the States to a new level where we would not only give our version its own name, but also adorn the cigar and boxes with a new set of graphics, alter the blend slightly, and, for the first time ever, box press this iconic cigar,” Filice said.

The project got its green light in June, when Alec Rubin visited Village Cigar Co.’s newest location in Guelph, with Ralph Montero, vice president of Alec Bradley, giving his blessing from the factory.

A total of 5,000 cigars have been produced by the Plasencia’s Tabacos de Oriente factory in Honduras, with the cigars packed into 100-count crates. Each cigar is priced at CAD $15, approximately USD $11.66.

Keeping with the desire to create a co-branded cigar, the band “respectfully” resembles the original Black Market foot band, but this version is adorned with logos and detail to compliment the “Bootlegger” theme, which is based on the legend of Pine L. Cork, a bootlegger famed for what is referred to as “The Lost Crates.”

As Village Cigar Co. tells the story:

A hero to many, yet known to so few, Pine L. Cork defined what it is to be properly defiant in the face of extreme bureaucracy. Through a story passed from generation to generation, the legend of “The Lost Crates” was born…

It was a full-lit night, well almost full. See it was the fog, the kind of fog that you can feel with your lungs. It was August 1929, and we were speeding toward our last delivery through the unmarked logging trails we’d come to know better than the freckles on our own wives’ faces. We could barely see past the edge of the hood as my brother Pete lit his last cigar of the night, when suddenly we hit something that almost tore the axles clean off of her. We came to a complete halt, me and Pete thrown almost a hundred feet from the truck. I could barely see but for the ember of my cigar when we picked ourselves up to see what could have delivered such an impact. As we approached the backside we realized the rear doors had been blown wide open and it was then I heard Pete “GULP” and I turned to see what was wrong: the entire truck had been emptied, save for a few broken crates and loose jars.

To this day, those lost crates haven’t been recovered. Nothing but whispers of them being spotted up north, in Canada, but no concrete evidence has come. Honestly I don’t expect to ever hear of their whereabouts. It’s one of those things. When you have something so precious and sought after, those who know, keep it that way. As they should.

With this Exclusive Box Pressed Black Market BOOTLEGGER you are indulging in something unlike any other. Something that stares adversity in the eye, and doesn’t flinch!”

The inside lid of the crates features a graphic that tells the story as well:

Village Cigar Co. operates locations in Burlington, Oakville, and Guelph, Ontario.

Update (Dec. 3, 2017) — The factory producing the cigars was incorrectly identified as being Raíces Cubanas in the original version of the story; it is in fact Tabacos de Oriente.

Images courtesy of Jerry Filice/Village Cigar Co.

Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.