Balmoral is Agio’s premium handmade cigar and leading brand. It’s hand rolled in the family-owned factory in the Dominican Republic. We caught up with CEO Boris Wintermans to talk about Balmoral’s most exclusive line, Añejo XO. It’s the only Balmoral cigar line that bears Boris’ signature.
Cigars & Leisure: For many readers, this may be the first time they’ve heard of Royal Agio Cigars. Give us a little background on the company.
Boris Wintermans: We are a family business; we started about 112 years ago. My great-grandfather started out with 200 Dutch guilders, which is about $100. He started making and selling cigars. So now, four generations later, [it is] my father, my brother, and myself that are still involved. It’s been a long history. Now we have a partnership with Drew Estate here in the U.S. that enables us to bring our premium brands here to the U.S., so we’re pretty excited about that.
Since you’ve brought Balmoral to the U.S. market, what changes have you introduced?
First of all, we wanted to keep it small. Small as in exclusive and something special. You can make a cigar, but you want to make something that’s exciting and special—something that people will talk about and will enjoy. And for me the starting point is to make something that I will enjoy. And I always have one rule: If it’s not one and one equals three, then it’s no cigar.
How are you promoting Royal Agio Cigars and getting the word out about its cigars?
Personally, I think the best way to get some buzz is to get people talking to each other, especially on the premium side of the business. Social media in general is an important part, and Drew Estate has done an awesome job for us. They’ve got a huge network, they know how to do this, and they are excited about Balmoral. What you need is enthusiasm, people talking to one another, and that’s what’s happening right now.
Agio is best known for the Balmoral Añejo 18. What’s the story behind this particular line?
What we did with this one particular cigar, the Balmoral Añejo 18, was to use a rare 18-year-old wrapper. We have a lot of tobacco in storage, and we wanted to reserve it for something special. Unfortunately, as things go, wrappers run out, especially if it’s 18 years old—you can’t grow 18-year-old tobacco.
What we did was try to create a worthy follow-up, and that’s called the Balmoral Añejo XO. It doesn’t have the 18-year-old wrapper anymore–but the Añejo XO is exclusively made with aged tobacco, filler, binder and wrapper. The tobacco we use is also limited in supply, but we will keep the distribution exclusive to a limited amount of retailers so we can guarantee a steady supply of Añejos. Packaged in 20-count boxes, Añejo XO is available in three sizes: Rothschild Masivo (5 x 55), Torpedo Mk52 (6 1/4 x 52) and Petit Robusto FT (4 1/4 x 48). Cigar Journal, one of the leading European cigar magazines rewarded the Balmoral Añejo XO – Petit Robusto FT with a 91 rating and named it ‘Best Buy’ cigar.
Añejo is about aged tobaccos; this means that we need to have a clear vision about the future. The tobaccos used within 10 years from now are now under discussion in blending sessions. Special bales deserve special attention.
What’s been the response to it so far?
The good thing is that pretty much everyone has liked it. Google ‘Balmoral Añejo XO’ and you’ll find only positive reviews. That, to me, is one of the most important things—people are excited about the Balmoral Añejo.
What would you recommend pairing this cigar with?
It depends on your personal preference, of course, but at the moment I am enjoying it a lot with a particular Taiwaines whiskey called Kavalan, Westvleteren Quadrupel from Belgium, and Lagavulin 16.