Driving Curiosity: Royal Agio Cigars’ Boris Wintermans, Part 1

When it comes to expanding Royal Agio’s horizons, CEO Boris Wintermans begins with one question: “What if?”

Boris Wintermans, CEO of Royal Agio Cigars

Boris Wintermans likes to quote Albert Einstein when he talks about his philosophy for life. Passionately curious about what the world has to offer, Wintermans squeezes every bit of adventure and discovery out of each day.

The 40-something Dutchman has served as CEO of his family’s company, Royal Agio Cigars, since 2013. He represents the fourth generation of the Wintermans family to lead the company, which is one of the world’s largest cigar producers, making more than 800 million cigars each year. In his free time, Wintermans pursues adventure through sports such as racing cars and motorcycles and boxing—hobbies that are definitely not for the faint of heart—or travels the world seeking the next great voyage of discovery.

Wintermans’ joie de vivre extends to the management of Royal Agio Cigars. Never satisfied with the status quo, he inspires himself and his employees by constantly pushing the boundaries of where Royal Agio Cigars might go. One of the first tasks Wintermans undertook as CEO was to commission the company to create a premium handmade cigar blend that reflected his personal sense of adventure as well as signaled to the world that Royal Agio Cigars, known primarily for its premium cigarillo products, could make an extraordinary premium hand-rolled cigar.

Balmoral Anejo XO

“That cigar was about discovery and a journey of exploration,” Wintermans recalls. “I was lucky enough to be involved with a company with more than a century’s legacy of making great cigars. We buy premium tobacco from all over the world, and I thought that we should work on creating a cigar that was truly exceptional. We didn’t know what the outcome would be but wanted to take the first step, and that’s the really exciting part of beginning any endeavor, especially in blending cigars. You’re making a new expression of your taste and presenting it to the rest of the world.”

The result, Balmoral Anejo 18, hit the market in 2014, using an 18-year-old Brazilian Arapiraca wrapper. While limited due to the scarcity of aged tobacco, Balmoral Anejo 18 gained a lot of fans worldwide, so many in fact that Royal Agio Cigars followed a year later with the regular production line, Balmoral Anejo XO. This line was based on a similar blend and the continued use of its exclusive, signature Brazilian Mata Norte filler tobacco to accentuate the flavors of the other tobaccos in the blend and to provide a smooth, underlying sweetness. Since its launch in 2015, Balmoral Anejo XO has consistently delivered both sophisticated complexity and smoothness, winning consumer loyalty and consistently high industry ratings in the process. Each Balmoral Anejo XO cigar is meticulously crafted from extensively aged tobaccos at Royal Agio’s premium cigar factory in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. Only the top 5 percent of select premium tobaccos available are sourced and used to make Anejo XO cigars.

“Our first big hit was the Balmoral Anejo XO,” Wintermans recalls. “That surprised many cigar lovers, and it received stellar reviews and positive comments from various cigar publications, online bloggers and consumers via social media. That’s what drives me­—to come up with something new that is exceptional and provides a new taste in its own right. That’s not easy when there are so many new cigars that come out every year and we’re all using the same basic tobaccos. Making something unique that is specific to you and your passion is special, and it’s what I try to do with every cigar brand we create.”

Sharing the Adventure
Being courageous enough to take chances—that first step in a journey without knowing where you’ll end up—has been the hallmark of Wintermans’ leadership at Royal Agio Cigars. Truly passionate about premium cigars, he developed Balmoral Anejo 18 and Balmoral Anejo XO to bring his voice to the American cigar market, the biggest stage in the premium cigar industry. He’s since directed his company to open an American division, Royal Agio Cigars U.S.A., which debuted in mid-2017, to focus on serving American retailers and consumers. With a company the size of Royal Agio Cigars, Wintermans is interested in expanding its premium presence in the U.S., not because his company’s survival depends upon it but because it’s a challenge that Wintermans is happy to accept.
“We’ve come a long way, and we have a dream team together with a laser focus,” Wintermans concludes. “They are passionate industry veterans who have spirit, and that’s what you want in a group. We’re creating something together that’s special, and from all points of view we are here to stay. We have a great team, and now we have a great range of products that shows that we will be here for years to come. We are definitely on a mission to discover new tastes and convince consumers and retailers to join us on the voyage of discovery.”

This story first appeared in the September/October 2018 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.

– By Stephen A. Ross, senior editor of Tobacco Business Magazine.