It’s the most meaningful cigar you’ll ever buy: see our picks for best It’s a Boy & It’s a Girl Cigars, and learn the history of handing out cigars to celebrate the arrival of a new baby…
2019 CA Report: 10 Infused & Flavored Cigars Under $5
10 Affordable Infused and Flavored Cigars You Could Be Smoking…
Money matters; so does flavor. And for many first-timers, an infused cigar is a friendly training ground for the taste buds. Likewise, many of us like an occasional flavored treat, but aren’t willing to lay out big money for what we’ll call a… “diversion.” (I refuse to use the term “guilty pleasure” because I’ve smoked each of these, guilt-free.) So today, we inspect 10 budget-friendly infusions that bend over backwards to bring you bonus flavor, each at a sub-$5 price.
Whatever image the words inexpensive flavored cigar conjure up in your mind, I assure you we can find better than Dutchies and Blunts. Every pick below sports a natural leaf wrapper, along with a host of other qualities that set them apart from the “gas station” smokes. Those have a time and a place, but now and here are not it – the cigars we’re talking about, well…you’re not finding these at a Wawa.
The flavored and infused cigar segment is one of the biggest “up-and-comers,” which I think is due to three groups:
- New cigar smokers who get in the game with a flavored stick, because a cigar that’s infused with a familiar flavor – like honey or rum, for example – makes it an easy first step for the untrained palate to take on the journey to understanding premium cigars.
- Experienced cigar smokers who are willing to entertain a “change of pace” smoke, and looking for a different flavor experience for a certain occasion (this is me).
- Those that swear by the enhanced flavor experience this class of cigar can bring, and won’t smoke anything else.
It’s worth taking a second to learn some of the different methods to flavoring and infusing cigars, because there are a few different ways to do it…
How cigars are flavored and infused
In a word, patiently. Let’s take ACID cigars and CAO Flavours, for example: here, the tobaccos are hung in an aroma room that contains whatever combo of herbs, oils and ingredients are intended to show up in the final recipe. These aromas are slowly imbued by the tobaccos over a period of time; and with the flavor now locked into the leaf, lets out a subtle taste as it’s smoked.
Another way to do it is to hang the tobacco leaves in a curing barn, while different essences – think coffee, fruit or liquor – are misted or sprayed onto the leaves, which slowly draw in the flavors.
A quicker solution for a few is to just dip the cigar right into a syrupy, flavored concoction to impart the taste.
Or so they say – infusing tobacco is a trade secret, and very few are willing to divulge their methods. So is their choice of flavorings, whether it’s organic, natural or artificial. Interestingly, it’s usually not the whole cigar that gets flavored: some, like La Aurora, flavor only the fillers, while others will spray or infuse their binder tobaccos to impart their gourmet aspect.
If you plan on adding some of these flavored picks to your hit list, a word of warning: these aromatics are powerful. And because of tobacco’s nature to readily and willingly absorb the flavoring (it’s how some get infused in the first place), it’s very easy for cigars to infuse each other – meaning, if you put a 5 pack of ACIDs in your humidor full of traditional/non-flavored premiums, it won’t take long for all of them to taste a little like Blondies. And you can’t undo it. That’s why we always recommend you store your infused cigars in a separate humidor.
When discussing infused cigars we must also note how the federales are again pulling the chain on the regulation alarm…back in November ’18, FDA hatched a plan for new regulations with regard to the e-cigarette and vaping industries, indicating a flavor ban. In true FDA fashion, even more drastic measures were proposed for menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars:
“We must evaluate our regulatory approach to flavored cigars. Flavors are added to cigars and other tobacco products for various reasons, such as reducing the harshness, bitterness and astringency of tobacco products during inhalation and to soothe irritation during use. Research shows that, compared to adults (25 or older) who smoke cigars, a higher proportion of youth who smoke cigars use flavored cigars.” – Dr. Scott Gottlieb, FDA Commissioner
While FDA readies their Un-fun Task Force, you have time to lock down your humidor – it’s not likely that any ban would go into effect before 2020, and their guidance still isn’t clear (shocking, I know) about whether they’re going to exempt large/premium flavored cigars. But no worries – now is the time to enjoy.
Let it be said that the top shelf is far beyond five dollars a smoke – and while cost isn’t the lone indicator of a cigar’s quality, understand that this list is a stepping stone to many more flavorful premiums down the road, like more ACID, nub Café, M by Macanudo and others. Start with these 10 cigar options if you want to give your taste buds a delicious tweak, but don’t want to overspend…
ACID Subculture Tri-Borough
You don’t talk about infused cigars without a nod to the legend – and yes, you CAN have ACID for under $5 a stick. A 7” x 43 Lonsdale made with (primarily) Nicaraguan tobaccos, the Tri-Borough is aged an extra year longer than its other ACID contemporaries to smoke more medium in body. As for flavor, that ACID sweetness is there, but the aroma is a bit more mellow than, say the ACID Blue/Remi options – making this a great alternative if Kuba Kuba and Blondie are too flowery for your liking.
Arguably, the most popular of the CAO Flavours due to its touch of 100% all-natural fruit extracts (like Georgia peach nectar) and Hawaiian white honey, mated with a bourbon-vanilla combo. Crafted in premium fashion, this handmade Robusto sports Nicaraguan filler tobaccos under a genuine, African-grown Cameroon wrapper. This one’s the whole package: deliciously fresh flavors and pleasingly aromatic, meaning Moontrance doubles as a great dessert cigar. Or, opt for one of the five other Flavours if you’re curious enough to make CAO your first move towards a flavored smoke.
Avanti is included here because it’s more than a nod to my upbringing (spent in Avanti Cigar’s home of Scranton, PA), it’s because Avanti is a classic. It’s also my go-to when I’m looking for a cheap “snack.” Yes, it’s machine-made, but this Italian style cigar is in a class all its own. These “93” customer-rated toscani are made with only USA-grown Kentucky tobacco leaves, which are hung in the curing barn over a smoldering wood fire (hence, fire-cured) to pick up that smoky flavor before they’re fermented, chopped and rolled. A dark and full-bodied smoke, Avanti’s anisette flavored cigar may be the standard – but if you’re inclined to do a shot of Sambuca, the Avanti Licorice is a very aromatic upgrade. Bonus: no humidification required.
Isla Del Sol Sungrown
This is a good opportunity to talk about the differences between Drew Estate’s coffee-infused cigars…Tabak Especial is a long filler blend that’s aged and infused with Fair Trade Nicaraguan estate-grown coffee. Isla Del Sol is an excellent budget-friendly alternative: it’s a tripa mezclado (mixed filler, aka Cuban sandwich) blend of Nicaraguan tobaccos imbued with a sweeter, more cocoa-forward flavor derived from Sumatra Mandheling bean coffee, then finished in a sweet-tipped Sumatra wrapper (there’s a new Maduro version, if you prefer a darker roast). A tasty and cost-effective diversion from your traditional cigars, that pair very well with coffee – as you’d expect.
Maroma has been a Famous fan favorite for years because it checks all the boxes: sweet, easy-smoking and exceedingly budget-friendly. You can nub ‘em one after the next. For flavored cigar lovers, Maroma Sorrel cigars are a sweet, cost-effective treat you can hang your hat on: each of the four traditional sizes here are a mellow, creamy and chocolatey-sweet smoke that’s rolled in a fine Connecticut Shade capa, treated to a sweetened cap. The included HumiJar is a nice extra – not only because it keeps them fresh, but doubles as a standalone humidor jar to keep your flavored cigars fresh…and separate from your non-flavored premiums.
Havana Honeys Dominican Del Sol Rum
A nicely handcrafted premium in its own right, where aged Dominican Seco and Olor long fillers are clad in an Indonesian-grown Sumatra wrapper. On paper, the blend is designed to smoke mellow; normally imbued with a sweet touch of honey, this one adds an extra shot of rum. If you’ve been known to stash a couple of Backwoods in your tackle box, I’d say seize upon a tin of the Havana Honeys cigarillos (they’re a perennial flavored favorite) – but you could just as easily step up to this 5 ½” x 42 Corona, which gets high marks for consistent, satisfying taste.
Rough Rider Sweets
The most straightforward (or should I say, most “traditional”) premium on our list, Rough Riders Sweets get their name from the sweetened cap that Jochi Blanco has applied to this Ecuador Connecticut-wrapped treat. Dominican Piloto, Cubano and Criollo ’98 make for a smoking experience that’s much more subdued than its name implies; and because the sweet tip isn’t an over-the-top saccharine bomb, there’s just enough extra flavor if you’re the new cigar smoker who’s still unsure about going all-in on a flavored cigar.
Ventura Cigar’s Dominican-made, and featuring a Sumatra wrapper leaf…that’s notable because you’ll find that many inexpensive flavored cigars are machine-made with a homogenized wrapper. A true change of pace, I chose the Cherry Mojito because it’s rare to find that kind of lip-smackingly tart flavor in a Parejo; you’ll find most infusions this size go the floral route or are treated to a liquor infusion. This 40RG Lonsdale is the largest in the line, but these flavored cigars are made to satisfy in as small a size as a cigarillo – and tastes that include Café Royale, Spiced Rum and Vanilla Bourbon.
I have long said that you should smoke what you like, if you like what you smoke – it’s not my place to judge, if your everyday go-to just happens to be a machine-made cigar. Among my occasional diversions: Billions Palmas, especially this Caramel Mocha. Last time I lit one up, the sweet, lingering aroma turned every head in the room, and I was pleased by the positive comments aimed my way. Originally offered as an alternative to the Dutch Masters and Phillies of the cigar world, Billions have a much more impressive pedigree: they’re made at the famed La Aurora factory in the Dominican Republic. A 5 ½” x 42 Corona that’s clad in a natural tobacco leaf and individually-wrapped, this budget smoke is a cheap thrill that may just surprise you with its soft, creamy flavors.
So many of us up North are relegated to smoking cigars in the garage when the weather turns; the basement workshop offers similar refuge, even with its smell of machine oil, sawdust cake and fear brought on by the unease of not knowing if today’s the day the blade gives on your old band saw. Alta Gracia is a nice little Euro-style, dry-cured knockaround (I’m showing the Maduro) that’s rich with the flavor of sweet Irish cream. Also serves as a quick n’ cheap St. Patty’s day indulgence as you barhop on parade day, if only because you’re keeping your cigar choice in tune with the festivities.
As I said before, not everyone comes to the cigar game with deep pockets; and for many beginners, and those of us in that “once-in-a-while” smoking group, we don’t want to drop big money on what is only an occasional treat. So let me know in a comment below if any of these affordable smoking options gave you a flavorful experience.