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Stogie Tips: Fill ’er Up

19 Mar 2009

If you go looking for cigar bargains in these tough economic times, you will undoubtedly come across some sticks labeled “short filler,” “mixed filler,” “sandwich,” or “Cuban sandwich.” You may have to hunt for the description, though. While manufacturers love to tout “long filler,” they often aren’t nearly as eager to proclaim any of the other terms.

Short FillerHere‘s what the terms generally mean:

Long filler involves leaves that are folded or rolled to create the inner part of the cigar, which comprises the majority of the stick. This is where specific leaf sections and different leaves are combined to create the blender’s desired taste. I’ve never heard of a premium, hand-rolled cigar that is anything other than long filler.

Short filler is the opposite. Small pieces of tobacco, and occasionally chopped stems, are secured inside the binder leaf. These pieces may be leftovers trimmed from leaves used in long filler cigars, or simply poorer grade tobacco chopped specifically for short filler.

Mixed filler is a combination of the two, though the longer part of the mix is often not true long filler but simply larger pieces that haven’t been fully chopped. And to make it more confusing, the term “sandwich” is sometimes used interchangeably with mixed filler.

Cuban sandwich, or sandwich cigars, are a mixture, often said to have the short filler rolled inside the longer filler leaves. Another variation is to use the longer leaves at the head so there’s less likelihood bits of tobacco will come off on the smoker’s tongue or lips.

Obviously, the poorer quality and inconsistency of the tobacco as well as the simplicity of construction means cheaper prices for any of these styles. However, that doesn’t automatically make them bad. I enjoy Pepin Garcia’s Benchmade, others swear by Arturo Fuente Curly Heads, Drew Estate’s La Vieja Habana, or the Tatauje Series P. Still others tell of finding bargains among the no-names.

Here are a few of my suggestions to help explore these lower-cost cigars:

1) Don’t buy bundles or boxes of anything without smoking it first. Period. Some of these cigars aren’t just bad, they’re horrible. Unless the seller is going to pay you to take them, there’s no bargain in an unsmokeable smoke.

2) Increase your odds of success by purchasing at a B&M. When you smoke one you like, buy more then and there. It’s likely they were rolled at the same time, using most, if not all, the same tobacco. Order online or wait to purchase and you could get a radically different taste.

3) Remember that short and mixed filler cigars from well-known manufacturers usually cost a little more because they’re much more likely to be well-constructed and consistent.

4)  Smoke these cigars even slower than usual. The draw is often loose, and the tobacco can burn ruinously hot. And don’t expect to nub many of them.

-George E

photo credit: CigarPass.com

Drew Estate