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Commentary: Give Us More than Country of Origin

22 Mar 2012

A good cigar enthusiast is an informed cigar enthusiast. That’s why I’m so thankful for the vibrant online cigar community as a whole, and why my colleagues and I continuously strive to accurately and comprehensively provide information about the cigars on the market, who makes them, which ones are worth smoking, and what legislation is threatening cigar rights.

In each cigar review, for example, we always try to provide the country (or countries) of origin of the wrapper, binder, and filler, when that information is available. And it often is. So most of our full reviews include a sentence like this: “The blend boasts an Ecuadorian wrapper with a Nicaraguan binder and a three-country filler blend from Nicaragua, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic.” Now that information is important, but it doesn’t really tell us all that much about the cigar or how the cigar will taste. Almost every cigar on the market is some combination of the aforementioned nations, or maybe it also has tobacco from Connecticut, Mexico, Cameroon, etc.

Do I want to know that a cigar has a Mexican wrapper? Yes. But I also want to know a whole lot more. And what I want to know isn’t typically so easily found.

Now I’m not calling for industry standards or government regulations. But it would be nice if cigar manufacturers and retailers listed the kind of tobacco in a cigar, not just the countries of origin. Most already do this for the wrapper, listing it as maduro, corojo, criollo, etc. It gets tougher to find this info on binders and fillers. In a perfect world, I would be able to tell if a stick is, say, stuffed with ligero.

Another huge variable is time. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone listed the box date, or the age of the tobaccos within the cigars, or both? That would help us all better determine if recently purchased smokes need more age or if they’re ready to smoke immediately. And personnel can also make a big difference, especially in terms of setting expectations for quality and consistency. We often know who blended a cigar and where the cigar is rolled. Sometimes, though, those answers are either vague or hard to come by.

As someone who writes often about cigars, you could say I have a vested interest in getting access to information. True. But I would say the same thing about cigar smokers, who need that information in order to make decisions about purchases. To those cigar manufacturers and retailers who already make a lot of the above information available, I applaud you. Those that are more secretive might consider opening up a little.

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

8 Responses to “Commentary: Give Us More than Country of Origin”

  1. Cigar Coop Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 6:46 am #

    This was a very good article. I do have some mixed thoughts on this topic. On one hand, I do like to keep my readers informed of as much specifics about tobacco as possible. On the other hand, I do like a little mystery and guesswork around a cigar in terms of trying to figure out what the blend is.

    I do like what you mention about box dates, where it was rolled etc.

    In the end I just want these decisions to be the decision of the cigar maker and not some bureaucratic agency telling the cigar companies what to do.

    • Patrick Ashby Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 9:04 am #

      I agree that some mystery is nice. But, at the very least, I would prefer the mystery about the age of the tobacco to be solved.

      When you say, "In the end I just want these decisions to be the decision of the cigar maker and not some bureaucratic agency telling the cigar companies what to do," please know that I couldn't agree more. The last thing the industry needs is more government oversight.

  2. George E. Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 8:10 am #

    I've never understood why manufacturers don't at least put the origin of the wrapper, binder and filler on the box. After all, when you run across a cigar you've never heard of in a shop, how are you going to decide whether to give it a try? Sometimes the store owner/employees can fill you in, but not always. It is difficult to imagine providing more details doing anything but helping cigar makers.

  3. cigarphil Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    Does the Short Story you smoke this week have the same tobacco as the one you smoked last year? IMO it probably doesn't. Like wine there are yearly variations to growing of tobacco. The same field will not produce exactly the same leaf it produced the year before. If you buy a bottle of Scotch it will be a blend of casks selected by a master taster and he will match the taste of the year before but with different casks. Is Rocky Patel still pulling leaves from that same 1962 pile, probably not. So I think EXACTLY what makes up a certain cigar will only be known by a select few. COMMENTS PLEASE

  4. tarheelcigar Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    I would also like more information relating to the team of rollers for a box of cigars. For example, most Pepin stuff exhibits near perfect construction. However, once i got a box of San Cristobal's and probably one out of every three had an extremely tight draw. Compare that to a recent box of My Father cigars I got that were spot on. Each box displays stickers on the bottom indicating the rolling team, but when rollers are replaced does the company recycle the roller team number or retire it and issue a new number for a new team? I would like each team to have their own number.

  5. Swede214 Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    Patrick, great thoughts, could not agree more, thanks.

  6. Skip Martin Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 2:56 am #

    This is one of those topics that I've changed my opinion on since I began manufacturing cigars vs. consuming them and selling them as a retailer.

    I've learned the hard way that while informing consumers as to the details of your blend goes a long way to increasing their engagement it also has the simultaneous affect of letting every other manufacturer know exactly how to recreate the blend you spent months to develop.

    While there are many people in the business that can disassemble a cigar and tell you exactly what it contains and in what proportions, there are many brand owners that really don't know the first thing about tobacco. I'd prefer not to give the latter a roadmap to follow.

    Unfortunately, 'recipes' can't be protected by intellectual property laws. This is why KFC doesn't tell you there secret blend of spices, why Coca Cola and Bush protect the ingredients and processes that make their products unique.

    By the way, I won't tell you what's in my award winning chili or steak rub either….but like our cigars, the proof is in the pudding. What i can promise you is that we do everything we can to ensure the quality of the tobacco in the cigars, the processes used to manufacture them and the care of the finished product until they are in your hands.

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