“They had no good cigars there, my lord; and I left the place in disgust.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson
In 2019, 362 million handmade cigars entered the U.S. Based on quantities sold, Arturo Fuente supplanted Padrón as the top brand. According to sales, the best-selling brands were:
- Arturo Fuente
- Rocky Patel
- My Father
- Romeo y Julieta
- Monte Cristo
(My Father and Romeo y Julieta tied for the eighth position.)
Most (46.8%) premium cigars are purchased at smoke shops or outlet stores, while another 29.9% are purchased at cigar bars/cigar clubs, with the remaining percentage, which are most non-premium cigars, being purchased at gas stations or convenience stores. Only about 5% of cigars are purchased online, which is surprising as online prices for premium cigars are dramatically less.
The author, yours truly, prefers to order online simply because of expenditure. Smoking premium cigars is an expensive habit.
Online vendors of cigars include Cigars International, Holt’s Cigars, Cigars.com, and JR Cigars, along with myriad others. The author has done business with all of them. Each outfit has its own peculiarities. Cigars International is risk-free, fulfilling orders promptly. JR Cigars, once you provide them with a photocopy of your driver’s license – which is a bit of an inconvenience – is a good outlet. Cigars.com is problematic: slow to ship, and when you complain, offers a discount coupon that never materializes. The only drawback to Holt’s is you have to be home to sign for the shipment.
Lately, Holt’s has received most of the author’s business, simply because they carry Room 101’s Master Collection Three cigars at reasonable prices. At the time of writing, Room 101’s Master Collection Three, Monstro, is the author’s favorite cigar.
Of the Top 10 brands listed above, the author has tried Arturo Fuente, Padrón, Ashton, Rocky Patel, Oliva, and My Father. Price, of course, is the moderating factor. For example, Padrón cigars, which are at once smooth and draw well, are quite expensive, running from $20 to $30 per stick. Ashton cigars, although a bit cheaper, still command first-rate prices but deliver a great smoke, if you can afford them.
Rocky Patel cigars didn’t please the author’s palate, being harsh and bitter, especially on the finish. Oliva is acceptable, but nothing to write home about, while My Father’s (Jaime Garcia) Double Toro, another of the author’s favorites, remain pricey enough to limit consumption: if ordered online, and if they are in stock, My Father’s (Jaime Garcia) Double Toro comes in at circa $9 per stick. Smoking two per day would set you back around $600 per month.
The author has never smoked Perdomo or Romeo y Julieta. The latter equates to bargain-basement machine-rolled cigars in the author’s mind because they’re behind the counter at 7-11, Walgreen’s, etc. Buying Romeo y Julieta is akin to considering the purchase of a car from Kia or Hyundai because the author remembers when Kia and Hyundai were rubbish. So, it’s a perception issue rather than anything else.
Davidoff cigars, which by the way manufactures Room 101 cigars, are unbelievably tempting but exceedingly pricey. Thus, the author is constrained by his wallet from partaking, although he admits to an inordinate lust to try a box of Davidoff’s Escurio Gran Perfectos.
Speaking purely subjectively, the author’s favorite cigars include My Father’s (Jaime Garcia) Double Toro, Room 101, Obsidian, Diesel’s Shorty, Ave Maria’s Ark of the Covenant, Cuba Libre’s The Brute, and Casa Blanca’s Jeroboam.
Every cigar smoker, of course, dreams of puffing away on an authentic Cuban cigar, which is portrayed as heaven on earth and supposedly tastes like Creamsicles. Never having smoked a ‘real’ Cuban cigar, the author can only hope the embargo against Cuba ends. Ostensibly, ‘real’ Cuban cigars may be purchased through third-party vendors in Canada, Mexico, or Europe. But the risk is twofold: 1) are they really Cuban cigars, and 2) it’s still illegal, with fines as high as $55,000. Patience is the preferred route.
So, until then, if you’ve got ‘em, smoke ‘em.