5 Sticks: Bargain Cigars

After writing a handful of these “5 Great” list/articles, I thought of a better way to frame the concept…as a game…and you, the reader, can be part of it. Let’s call it this game “5 Sticks.” Here’s how to play…

Come up with a category…could be a type of wrapper, a country of origin for rolling, a specific company, a strength/body level…then name 5 cigars that you consider the best in that category, for whatever reason. Could just be you had one yesterday and loved it…could be something you’ve loved for years and can never get enough of. Your list will be different from my list which will be different from the list of the person sitting next to you at your local B&M cigar shop.

I’ll be playing this game online, probably about once a week, but you can play along…after I have my say, you can list your 5 for the same category in the comments section. Make it even more interesting and challenge me with a new category. I’ve thought of a couple dozen categories, but that doesn’t mean I have the corner on the subject…I’m sure you can come up with interesting topics I haven’t considered. Challenge others at your local B&M…it’s a good way to spark conversation about what cigars you like the most.

Today I’m going to give you 5 Bargain Sticks to consider…

Everyone has times when they are on a budget…but you still want to smoke something good. I’ve decided for myself that if money ever gets to a point where I have to choose between smoking Quorums every day or just save up my money and smoke Tatuajes (or Dunbartons or Padrons or Davidoffs…you get the message) once or twice a week, I’m going to take quality over quantity. But you don’t always have to spend $10 or $15 or $20 to get a great cigar. Everything I’m listing here today can be had for $8 or less in almost every state.

LaTrav5. La Traviata by CAO Cigars

When La Traviata debuted, it quickly became my favorite cigar. It was medium-plus in body with tons of flavor and a price that was a steal. After General Cigar took over CAO’s operations, the quality seems to slip a bit, but these days, I’m seeing a lot of people picking this stick up and the big company behind the brand seems to have found their way…while I won’t say it’s exactly the same as it was in the beginning, it’s still a very good cigar at a very decent price point.

tm027_angle14. Vault Purple by Toraño Cigars

And speaking of General Cigar leveraging they’re immense size to produce cigars for much cheaper prices…have you tried the new Toraño Vault series? The Toraño Cigar company seemed to be really struggling when General bought them out…the branding was a little confusing and while the blends were sometimes fantastic, they weren’t having the lasting impact they needed to have. The new Vault series has been criticized for aping the look of the Camacho re-branding, but the cigars themselves are very good…and cheap. Robustos for $5, Gordos for $5.50. My favorite is still the Purple, but the Green is certainly something you should try.

NewWorld_angle3. New World by AJ Fernandez Cigars

La Traviata was one of the catalysts for a wave of less expensive sticks that hit the market in 2008 and shortly thereafter…New World caused another wave in the past 2 or 3 years. AJ Fernandez and his father developed a great Nicaraguan puro blend that they were able to make lots of, be consistent with, and sell for very little money…4 different sizes typically run from $6.50 to about $8.00 apiece. Earthy, spicy, and slightly sweet, at the shop I work at, we can hardly keep these in stock, even three years after they came on the market.

CharterOak_angle2. Charter Oak Maduro by Foundation Cigars

Another AJ Fernandez production, this time for Foundation Cigars, the Charter Oak is a cigar Nick Mellilo and company developed to honor the state of Connecticut. They make it in a Connecticut Shade or a Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro version, but the only one I’ve had is the Maduro. It’s a little lacking in the complexity department, but it is very good all the way through, which makes the $5 to $6 price tag very hard to argue with. This is definitely a great “Bargain Broadleaf.”

PadronLondresAngle1. Padron Series Londres

Who would think that Padron, the makers of some of the best high-end, expensive cigars in the business, would also have the top spot on this list? Bottom line is that the Padron Series (also known as the “Thousands Series”) is a great introduction to the brand and a fantastic everyday smoke. They are all available in Natural or Maduro wrapper, and while I vastly prefer the Maduro, I can’t argue with the fact that the shop’s #1 selling cigar is the Londres Natural. Either way, you’re getting a rough and rustic cigar, sometimes verging on harsh, but always delivered at a great price…right at $6 a stick where I work. I tell customers a lot: “It’s hard to go wrong with a Padron.” This is a prime example…you don’t have to completely give up on quality and flavor to get your hands on an inexpensive cigar.

What are your favorite “cheap” smokes? Do you stick with all long-filler cigars while looking for the best price? Or do you go to the bundle section of your shop?

David Jones

David has been smoking premium cigars since 2001. He is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Leaf Enthusiast. He is a full-time retail tobacconist, working for Burns Tobacconist in Chattanooga, where he has also organized the Chattanooga Tweet-Up for the last four years. He is also an independent graphic designer and typesetter. Twitter: @dmjones1009

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