Seriously. I admit it. I’m a cigar snob. I like my handmade cigars and truly appreciate the fine art of creating a good smoke. But, since we’re in a recession (possibly a D??), handmade smokes are fast becoming a luxury for many and the only alternative is sometimes to go to the local convenience store and get the machine-made ones. They are cheaper (a few cents compared to a few bucks) and can last without the efforts of maintaining a good humidor (a somewhat scary concept when you think about it). The main ones I’ve tried — in no particular order — are the Swisher Sweets, Mild’n’Black, Captain Black, Backwoods, Garcia Y Vega English Corona and Game.
Most machine-made cigars are more of the really small cigar format: roughly about a 4-5 x 28-32 form. One of the biggest downsides to machine-made cigars is that there is often more than tobacco in these cigars and it makes their quality often questionable. Sure, they are a shorter smoke but the chemicals, paper and other “scraps” that can be included make me wonder how good they are compared to a handmade cigar which is always 100% tobacco (it’s more of a crafted combination of tobaccos) Think of a chef that combines foods and you get the same idea: you can have McDonald’s and not be sure of what’s in it or you can have the professional chef and be sure.
I think if I was stuck with machine-made, I’d stick with the Game cigars. While they overall lack flavour, I have to admit that the Game Green cigars actually had accents of flavour in them. That did surprise me, especially after having the Game Blue (Vanilla) ones. Black’n’Mild are interesting in that they use pipe tobacco but I found that the odour left behind really leaves a lot to be desired. It took a few days of airing out my office to get that smell out, an indication of a “stogie” versus a “cigar!”. A good cigar has a pleasant odour (to most — again, palate does determine this) and often can disappate from an area within 2-6 hours.
Brands like Swisher Sweets and Backwoods all are made with American tobaccos and, to my taste buds, have no flavour what-so-ever. In fact, yesterday I went through about 3-4 Backwoods (these are the cigars that Clint Eastwood made famous — interesting since he’s a non-smoker!). Captain Black and Mild’n’Black are both made with pipe tobacco, so they tend to have a little more “oomph” in regards to flavour but I doubt it’s the same as smoking a pipe.
Now, there is one other machine-made that I haven’t mentioned and really, it is in a class on it’s own: Villiger. These come from Switzerland and are based on a Havana-seed. Their growing regions are around the world and they have been doing this since 1888 so it comes with a long history. That said, the flavour that comes out of these is far above standard machine-made cigars. The little premium cigarillos and square-pressed mini-cigars are worth the extra few (although still cheaper than handmade ones). These ones, however, are often not at the convenience store and you’ll likely find them in a decent cigar shop.
So if we had to put an order to it all it’d be like this:
- Pipe tobacco based machine-made
- And then all the others
The ideal is, of course, handmade but if one is stuck or don’t have enough for more than one handmade and want more than one, then go to the local convenience store and grab one of these.