"Put Me Down For a Five"-- Dollar Cigar A guide to purchasing cigars as gifts without breaking the bank
It's Saturday morning and you're on your favorite golf course getting ready to tee off. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and you've been smashing the heck out of the ball on the driving range. You're ready to go!
You're with your normal foursome, with one exception. One of your regulars couldn't make it, so you've (suggested by your loving wife) invited your brother-in-law, Bob. He's a good guy and a decent golfer. But, he does have one big fault. He's not really much of a cigar smoker.
You're waiting to be called to the tee and you start getting the cigars ready to light. Everyone has brought their favorite smoke and you have filled your three-finger case with something special, for you. The cutting and lighting begins when Bob looks at you and says, “Oh, great! You brought a cigar for me, too. Thanks, brother-in-law!”
You begrudgingly give him one of your hard to find, expensive sticks and he asks you to cut and light it for him (which you do). He takes a couple of puffs, coughs and says, (in his best rot-gut induced whisky voice), “Smooth!”
After everyone else has teed-off, you hit a monster drive and the round is off to a roaring start. When you get to the green, you notice Bob no longer has a cigar with him. When you ask, “Where's your cigar?”, he replies, “Oh, I dropped it after my second shot. It was too strong for me.” Now, you’re the other kind of "teed-off.!"
As much as a cigar shouldn't cause it, your round goes downhill from that point. All you can think of is that poor, abandoned, $20 cigar lying somewhere on the course, never getting to experience the joys of being fully smoked and enjoyed. What about it, Bob? How could you do that?
Don't be mad a Bob. It's not his fault (well, not completely). Some people get excited when they're in a group of cigar smokers and want to be part of the group. But, they aren't cigarknowledgeable or experienced enough to know what they're smoking or how to properly treat the crown jewel of the tobacco industry.
As a “cigar guy,” my friends know that I will always have multiple cigars with me and am happy to share. But, over the years, I've learned tricks for handing out smokes to less experienced cigar enthusiasts. In this article, I'll give you some ideas for humidor fillers that will not break the bank and celebration cigars that are worth giving to the most discerning pallets.
To get a retailer/manufacturer insight into the “best buys” in the industry, I met with Mitchel Hirsh of Cigar King. Not only does his company operate a brick and mortar cigar store in Scottsdale, Arizona, they also offer a leading national internet business (www.cigarking.com) that will ship cigars right to your door.
Here are some great recommendations (in no particular order):
Illusione Rothchilde - $4.99 ea. (MSRP) : This is a 4.5-inch-long, 50 ring gauge cigar that is made of Nicaraguan tobaccos. It's medium in strength and is a good choice for someone who likes spicy flavors. It's not too long, so an average smoker should get a good 30 minutes of smoking enjoyment. They do come in boxes of 50, so you might not want a whole box. Keeping a few on hand would give you a great give-away cigar that you might also like smoking.
Cigar King Cuban Heirloom Connecticut - $4.00 ea. (Based on box pricing): This Cigar King exclusive is available in five different sizes, so I'm sure you can find something that will work for your situation. I personally recommend the Churchill! These cigars come in bundles of 20, and at that price, you can give them away and not feel bad. But, be sure to keep a few for yourself. This is a great cigar that is well worth a try.
Charter Oak Cigars - $5.00 to $6.00 (MSRP) : This is a Mitchel Hirsh recommendation. It's available in multiple sizes and two wrappers (Connecticut Shade or Maduro). It's a newer product and is made in Nicaragua by Nick Melillo. It offers great taste at a very reasonable price. Also, it's two available wrappers give very different smoking experiences. I would suggest the Connecticut Shade for a milder, lighter smoke and the Maduro for more flavor and strength.
Cigar King Aged Reserve - $2.88 to $3.16 (Based on box pricing): This is a double recommendation! Mitchel and I both agree that this is a great quality, medium-bodied, premium cigar. It's available exclusively at Cigar King. Most of the time a cigar of this price comes in a cellophane bundle. However, these cigars are beautifully-boxed and carefully-crafted to give you a rich, flavorful and well-balanced smoking experience. It's available in multiple sizes and comes in boxes of 25. That puts the box price ranging from $72 to $79 dollars (with on-line discounts). This is a cigar that you can give (or keep) and know that you and the recipient will both be happy.
Aurturo Fuente Flor Fina 8-5-8 - $6.50 (MSPR): If you want to give a cigar that has some name recognition, but still maintains a lower price point, look no further than the Arturo Fuente 858. This 6-inch x 47 ring gauge mainstay is available in many wrappers (Natural, Claro, Sun Grown and Maduro). Fuente offers some of the finest and most consistent cigars on the market. It's manufactured in the Dominican Republic and has a milder, yet rich, flavor. It's smaller ring gauge and length lends well to celebrations or every day smoking when you don't have more than an hour to devoted to cigar enjoyment. It possesses a long heritage from a highly-respected company and it's a great value.
Now that you've found some inexpensive cigars to share with your less-experienced cigar smoking friends, what about something for a special occasion or for a gift? Working in the cigar industry, I have had many customers come in to buy cigars as gifts, but they don't smoke or know anything about cigars. How do you recommend a cigar for someone who you don't know?
Here are some guidelines:
Unless you know the specific brand(s) someone smokes, stick to well-known cigar brands or special edition cigars. These may include Opus X, Herrera Esteli Edicion Limitada and My Father Limited Edition Fifth Anniversary, or anything produced by Arturo Fuente, Padron Anniversary Series and Davidoff. These may be a bit more pricey than some other brands, but they are well-known and highly respected brands/cigars that almost any cigar enthusiast will cherish and enjoy.
Ask a tobacconist. They should have the knowledge and experience to guide you through buying the perfect cigar for that memorable gift. (If you go to a local cigar store, the employees may know the person you're buying for by name and be able to tell you what (s)he normally smokes.)
I know this one is going to sound crazy, but...ask the person, for whom you're purchasing, what (s)he likes to smoke! I'm sure (s)he will be happy to tell you.
Buy a gift certificate. It may sound like a cop-out, but giving a gift certificate is a great way to let the recipient get exactly what (s)he wants.
Lastly, if you are planning on buying a large amount of cigars for a special event (birth of a child, wedding, party or celebration), try to remember that you can't please all the guests by buying their favorite cigar. And, just like Brother-in-law, Bob, from the start of this article, not everyone is going to appreciate the choice you've made or smoke much of his/her cigar.
For large groups of cigar smoking, it would be a good idea to choose a milder, (I would recommend something made in the Dominican Republic), and a smaller sized cigar. Larger, longer cigars take longer to smoke and cost more (on average) than shorter ones. Stick with Robusto or Corona sizes. (Don't worry, your local tobacconist will help you with those size terms, or, if ordering online, the products will be clearly marked with those terms in the description.)
If you want something really unique, many companies will “private label” cigars for you. This means they will either replace the company's band or place an additional band with your message, logo or name for your special event. (I am having some done by Cigar King for my wedding in January). Whether they smoke it or not, your guests will have a great, personalized favor to remember our special day!
I hope my advice is helpful and the next time you end up giving away a cigar to a novice smoker, you will be able to give them something that they will enjoy and that you won't lament giving away. There are so many good quality, inexpensive cigars on the market, I'm sure you will have no trouble finding something that fits you and your friends to a tee.
Remember the words of Thomas Riley Marshall, "What this country needs is a really good five-cent cigar." Well, good luck with that. But, factoring in inflation, I think you can find several good five dollars (or less) cigars!