I recently received the following email from Cliff, one of our CigarAdvisor.com readers who writes to me pretty often, usually with a question or a comment about cigars. He had seen the newsletters in which we offered “blind” samplers.
The first blind sampler had 4 cigars, all the same cigar, without their bands. You had to guess the blender. The second blind sampler had 5 different cigars, all top-flight luxury cigars, except you didn’t know what you were buying until you opened the package and saw the bands, which were left out of the photo. For some reason this compelled him to write to me about bundle cigars, so here goes…
I would like to put in my 2-cents on bundle cigars. This is based solely on my personal experience, not visuals or personal recommendations. Almost all of the bundle cigars I’ve smoked were perfectly rolled (as far as I could tell) and smoked as most any other good cigar would with relation to taste and burn. Some were ‘generic’, some were marked as Rocky Patel Seconds, etc.
Now here’s the part where most experts won’t agree with me: They were good sticks, but just not quite the same or up to par with the name brands. Perhaps a bit of it is psychological, perhaps not, but I’m old fashioned when it comes to price, quality and comparisons. If it’s supposed to be “as good as,” or “similar to” the name-brand sticks, it would be a name-brand stick. For the most part, an $8 cigar is priced at $8. In other words, if they could take a bundled stick and put a band on it and get more money for it, they would. Or, to put it another way, it’s kind’a like saying the Android is just as good as the iPhone, yet, when you compare one thing to the given standard, it seldom measures up. I do enjoy bundled cigars though, especially the Famous Nicaraguan 3000′s.
Actually, I agree with Cliff that many un-banded bundle cigars which are seconds of name-brand cigars don’t hold up to the latter. One reason is, the wrappers, though the same leaf as the banded version, are usually lower quality, which is why they are not sold as “firsts.” But the general character, strength and flavor, of the cigar should be pretty much in the ballpark. That’s what makes bundles such great values. I also agree that there is a negative psychological aspect to buying un-banded cigars. Isn’t it amazing how that little roll of paper can make all the difference? That said, there are plenty of bundles, good and bad, that are banded.
Where Cliff and I part company is when he says, “For the most part, an $8 cigar is priced at $8.” If you’re an experienced cigar smoker, chances are you’ve purchased some $8 cigars that weren’t worth the price of the cello they came in. If the copy says the seconds are made in the same factory as say, Arturo Fuente cigars, you would expect the cigars to be decent at the very least. However, this is not always the case. Think of the movie ads where they say, “From the producers who brought you The Hangover, comes Blah Blah Blah.” Sure, the studio may have a great reputation for one or two previous box-office smashes, but the latest film may be a total stinker. However, there are some bundles that are the exact same cigar as the label version. These are usually closeouts, orphans, or overruns.
When it comes to buying bundle cigars, think of them this way: Just as you would search for good “name brand” cigars, you have to scrutinize the bundle and value-priced brands just as carefully. The Nic 3K Cliff likes so much is a great example of a “hot” bundle cigar brand. Suffice it to say, never judge a book by its cover, nor a cigar by its price.