Cigarillos: Get To Know Them, Get To Love Them
I remember the first time I ever lit a cigarillo. I was sitting outdoors for lunch on a hot summer weekday, roasting away at some swanky New York City restaurant that’s probably turned over twice by now. I knew that being in the company of my superiors meant I’d be able to fully enjoy the meal without the burden of watching the clock. I was certainly in good company—these guys signed my checks, were fans of the same sports teams, and shared my love for anything wrapped in a tobacco leaf. Time may not have been a factor that afternoon, but once the plates were cleared and the ice had melted in our glasses, break time was clearly over.
“We’ll have another round,” my supervisor said to our server. I gazed at him half bewildered and half blatantly enthused. “Cigar?” he casually asked.
Right then? Really? I probably even looked at my watch! He grabbed his blazer from the back of his chair and pulled out a little silver tin. I immediately recognized the Davidoff logo, as any seasoned cigar buff would…but what was this miniscule packaging? He opened it and handed me the tiniest cigar I’ve ever seen. Was this legitimate? Did Davidoff really make something this small or did this guy shop on Canal Street for his smokes?
I probably lost all credibility in my supposed cigar knowledge as I stared at and examined this thing. I gave it a little squeeze and it sure felt like a cigar. I gently slid my finger up and down its wrapper; it was definitely rolled like a cigar. I held it up to my nose to give it a whiff, and it certainly smelled like a cigar. I put it to my lips, grabbed his torch, and lit up—and dammit, it actually tasted like a cigar!
Because, despite its size, it was a cigar.
Put simply, cigarillos are a shorter, narrower variation of the standard cigars you know and love. Larger than cigarettes (their greatly inferior cousins), cigarillos are wrapped in tobacco leaves or brown tobacco-based paper and, like cigars, are typically made without filters. They smoke exactly like their big brothers (so don’t inhale!) to provide the same satisfaction and bold flavor…but in a quick 10-minute window.
I’ve always had a borderline obsession with compact things. Less is more; portability and convenience are two constant necessities in my current lifestyle. Realizing that I could essentially keep a pint-sized version of my cigar humidor in my pocket or briefcase, I quickly embraced this change. I began to study and sample these distinct offerings. And now I welcome you to this greatly underrated and underappreciated fold.
The first rule of cigarillo culture is—actually, there are no across-the-board rules other than they’re small. But the options never end! There are such unique blends and offerings out there that you couldn’t possibly fathom their existence without opening up to them. There’s something for everyone and, I assure you, I’m not overcompensating with that statement. I’m so adamant about the top-notch quality and convenience of this superior cigar style that I’m going to break down all the pros one by one.
Luxury: There are big, premium offerings in the cigarillo world. The aforementioned Davidoff brand become an icon in Europe back in the ’70s and it’s still going strong. But Davidoff isn’t alone; there are plenty of brands that offer high-quality handmade cigarillos or premium-tasting machine-made ones. Industry giants like Montecristo, Cohiba, Ashton, Romeo y Julieta, and H. Upmann, to name a few, all manufacture exceptional tasting and well-crafted cigarillos that exude high-end class and luxury. Other brands that have conquered this market are just as familiar: Panter, Nat Sherman, Garcia y Vega—all names you’ll recognize, but absolutely must try in order to understand the elegance and robust flavor meticulously crafted into these compact marvels.
Quality: With such notable names producing cigarillos, you can expect the same top-quality construction and flavor complexities as you would from their full-size offerings. These sticks have a pretty decent shelf life due to being almost universally sold in stay-fresh tins or pouches. It’s another plus for those forgetful smokers who let their cigar humidors dry out, or even forget to throw their newest selections in. Mostly precut and ready to go, these top-quality cigarillos almost always provide a smooth burn and great pull.
Taste: Don’t be fooled by their shortened stature! These little sticks pack as much bold and savory flavor as the big boys. These premium-tasting smokes can be as pleasantly mellow as a sun-aged Cuban, or as robust and decadent as some of the finest full-sized maduros. In fact, due to their size and the improved logistics of machine-manufacturing, there are some exceptional blends and distinct flavors that are only available in this smaller size. Which brings me to…
Variety: Whether they’re handmade or machine-made, there are myriad cigarillo options available. In fact, I’d even go beyond that to say that this class of cigars may have the widest selection of them all—the world of cigarillos isn’t limited to miniature versions of the classics. The lower cost of producing and increased technology have allowed for some of the most innovative types of tobacco products out there. Vast flavor selections from popular machine-made brands like Phillies, White Owl, and Zig-Zag range from exotic fruit infusions, to rich and aromatic decadence, and even boozy varieties like wine- and cognac-infused delights. Old-school brands like Toscani and Backwoods offer straggly-looking sticks that pay homage to the old west. Prominent manufacturers like Black & Mild even switch up the tips for an extra bang for your buck. Seriously, this paragraph could go on and on; there’s flavor for every palate, and a top-notch pairing for any meal or cocktail.
Affordability: Perhaps the best thing about cigarillos is that there’s something for everyone; there’s a smoke for your premium aficionado, a basic offering for your rookie smoker, and even a fruity blend for when you force the Mrs. to head to the cigar lounge with you. But most importantly, there’s a type that fits any budget. Cigarillos are typically less expensive than standard full-sized cigars; even big names like Davidoff and Montecristo craft cigarillo-sized offerings that are cost-effective without compromising taste or quality. And makers of already affordable full-sized stogies, like Dutch Masters and Toscani, offer cigarillo-sized assortments for an even more economical smoking option. (Just be on the lookout, especially when shopping online, as some of the more inexpensive names only market their products under its brand name; despite technically being a cigarillo, the term may not be used on its packaging or online listing.)
So I think I’ve kept you here long enough. If you made it this far, you’re definitely as intrigued by these tiny treasures as I first was. Check out some of the names I’ve mentioned and browse our first-rate assortment of top-quality, premium-tasting cigarillos in all our available varieties. Knowing is half the battle, and now you’re right there. Give cigarillos a shot by taking advantage of our superior selection and unmatched prices. See for yourself what all this fuss was about! You’ll be glad you did.