204 - November 20, 2008
The Budget Cigar
To quote Manuel (from Fawlty Towers)"I learn, Mr Fawlty, I learn". Well, we too have learnt some things over the years – and cigarwise one thing is that despite thepopularity of the thicker Robusto or Pyramid cigars, for all-day / everyday smoking many cigar smokers favour medium size cigars (length about 130/140mm by about Ring 40/42). These cigars are big enough to be complex in flavour - giving a satisfying, balanced smoke - yet not taking more than 45 minutes from start to finish.
This suits the modern lifestyle.
The most popular format is the Petit Corona, and the Benchmark is the Montecristo No.4 (featured in a current Selection – R265.00).
But some of these cigars can be very pricey – more maybe than we’re happy to spend with the economic climate being what it is at the moment.
So what can we do for December – when the time is right for a good Cuban, but it is also the time that involves the pleasure of buying many gifts for friends and family?
And it’s the time for lazy days when cigars may not be restricted to an after dinner delight but will also be enjoyed early evening and round a braai.
Is there such a thing as a “Budget” Cuban cigar, about Petit Corona size?
The answer is yes – but in the past such a cigar was not particularly good.
Then, the cigar was completely machine-made and usually came out with uneven filler, and bumps and bruises all over the body. For machine-rolling, the wrapper had to be fairly thick and with heavy veins, otherwise it would keep breaking. One could always recognise the cigar by its pointed head.
And the cigar smoked as it looked – rough and ready!
Today, things have changed and many budget cigars are machine-bunched but finished by hand. The machine-bunching ensures that the correct pressure is applied so that the draw is free and easy – very few cases of plugged cigars. The arrangement of the leaves can be done by less-experienced rollers – cost-saving. Hand-finishing allows for a finer wrapper to be used, benefiting the eye, the feel and the smoking quality of the cigar. With the round head and cap, combined with the better quality wrapper leaf, many of these are not easy to distinguish from a fully handmade cigar (except for the price).
Because there are several ways to create a “Budget cigar,” we’ve put together an interesting “Budget Selection” for you highlighting two of the ways:
Los Statos de Luxe Cremas (Slim Corona - 140mm x Ring 40)
Machine made, its blend is composed of leaves from the Vuelta Abajo region that are judged not to be suitable for the prestigious marques. This cigar has the pointed head, but the leaf shows relatively little bruising, and the wrapper is pretty good for a cigar of this price. A single cigar in a glass tube is currently R46.00 (special price). They are selling well in the shop – the acid test is that customers are returning for repeats. The cigar is slightly thin for its length, remember to draw slowly.
Jose L Piedra Nacionales (Petit Corona - 134mm x Ring 42)
This is a slightly unusual range of cigars, because the leaf is grown exclusively, not in the Vuelta Abajo region, but in the Vuelta Arriba region of Cuba where cigar leaf has been grown since the 16th century. The cigars are in cellophaned bundles of 25 – which saves the cost of boxes – or in cardboard packs of 5. The wrapper looks particularly good. The Habanos website tells us that these are made by hand, but from shorter filler leaf – easier to blend and to handle. The Nacionales received a 4 star rating from the late Theo Rudman, and compliments from our customers.
(In fact many of the cigars in the range have proved to be favourites, mostly for round the braai or on the golf course. Look at the thicker than usual half corona – Petit Cazadores.)
But it is difficult to form an opinion on the budget cigars without a comparison with a fully handmade version, so we’ve included:
Romeo y Julieta Petit Corona (Classic Petit Corona - 129mm x Ring 42)
This is also featured in our current Benchmark Petit Corona Selection and has proved a worthy companion to the Montecristo No.4. Romeo y Julieta is one of the best known Havana brands. The balanced and aromatic blend makes it the classic medium-bodied Cuban cigar. This is an excellent handmade cigar with plenty of taste for its size.
There is life after “Robusto” cigars (which are all in the superior cigar price bracket).
As the Americans used to say – “what the country needs is a good 10c cigar”.
Maybe what you need for a casual smoke is a good “Budget” cigar.
No.204 November 20 to December 3, 2008
The Budget Selection is available from November 27
Pack of 3 Glass tubed cigars – R195.00
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