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CA Report: 5 Great American Cigars

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Five Top Premium Cigars Made in the USA

Updated July 2022 by Gary Korb

The American Cigar

We American adult cigar smokers have a soft spot in our hearts for our cigars. They run in our blood. Americans also smoke more cigars than just about any other country in the world and the United States has been producing them – and unabashedly enjoying them – for more than 250 years.

 American cigars were one of the original jewels in our nation’s manufacturing crown. It started with Israel Putnam, an American Army veteran and survivor of a shipwreck during the British expedition against Cuba that led to the capture of Havana. “Ol Put” returned to Hartford, Connecticut with a hefty personal stash of roughly 30,000 cigars and enough black tobacco seed to get a lucrative industry rolling. Those very seeds are what led to the growing of what we smoke today as Connecticut Shade and Connecticut Broadleaf tobaccos. Moreover, the sale of Cuban seed tobacco even helped to fund the American Revolution.

cigar advisor top 5 american cigars - Tobacco field in Connecticut with cheese cloth shade over top
Connecticut Shade – the most popular cigar wrapper shown growing in the Connecticut River Valley.

With a steady supply of leaf coming from Cuba, U.S. cigar makers reached a “golden age” of sorts, from the late 1800’s to just after World War I. American cigars were being produced in ridiculous quantity, by the billions—yes, billions!—by the countless hands of workers at tens of thousands of U.S. cigar factories. In addition to blending with Cuban-grown tobaccos, cigar manufacturers in the USA churned out dozens of cigar shapes and sizes, blended with a wide variety of tobacco varietals grown right here in America. Yet it was the rise of another tobacco product, including a confluence of events, that would cause the gradual decline of the American cigar…the cigarette.

 

The Rise of Cigarettes

Cigarettes became the go-to smoke for millions of Americans. Society embraced them as an “in-style” pleasure for both men and women to enjoy in clubs and music halls – even through Prohibition. Cigarette packs were even included in war rations. The automated cigar rolling machines started being imported from Europe made cigarette manufacturing cheaper and faster. By that point it was pretty much curtains for handmade American cigar brands.

There was also a financial aspect that affected the production of hand rolled cigars. Up to Fidel Castro’s Communist Revolution in 1959, it was still more cost effective to keep importing cigars from Cuba; that was until President John F. Kennedy signed the embargo on Cuban cigars in February of 1962.

Fast-forward to the mid-90s cigar boom. Even with the meteoric resurgence of cigar popularity thanks to the boom, it’s more cost effective to roll cigars in the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua, and other Central American locales including Jamaica and the Canary Islands.

 

Cigarmaking is Alive and Well in America

Although the majority of premium handmade cigars continue to be imported from Nicaragua, the DR, and Honduras, there are still some reputable cigar factories here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. 

In 1886, Tampa, Florida became one of the major centers for the import of Cuban tobacco and cigar manufacturing. Tampa is also known for having the first hand rolled cigar factory in the U.S. Over 200 cigar factories bloomed over several decades. By the turn of the century Tampa’s cigar factories were producing over 500 million cigars every year earning Tampa the nickname of “Cigar City.” J.C. Newman Cigars, which is still headquartered in Tampa, as is Arturo Fuente Cigars, continues to make budget value brands such as Moya Cigars and Tampa Trolleys.

cigar advisor top 5 american cigars - j.c. newman cigar factory in tampa, florida
The oldest cigar factory in America: J.C. Newman’s El Reloj factory in Tampa, Fl. Photo credit: J.C. Newman

Another American cigar company, Topper, has been making handcrafted cigars since 1896. Originally located in McSherrystown, Pennsylvania, they’re now based in Meriden, CT. By the 1930’s demand for Connecticut handrolled cigars was off the charts. Before the Cuban embargo, Topper did handmade cigars with Cuban-grown tobaccos and Connecticut Broadleaf wrappers. Rising labor costs during the 1960s caused Topper to return to machine-made cigars. Then in 2013, Topper decided to go handmade again in the DR for their “Original Handmade” line., Topper continues to make mixed filler machine-made cigars, starring their prized Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper.

Then there’s Scranton, PA, home to the Avanti Cigar Co., the only producer of dry cured cigars in the United States. Their brands include Avanti, De Nobili, and Parodi, to name a few. In 1901 brothers Dominic Anthony and Frank Suraci left their Italian village in Calabria to begin a new life in New York City. Since they were familiar with the small, dark, hand-rolled cigars known as Toscano®, the brothers grabbed the opportunity to make the cigars they loved while serving New York’s growing Italian-American population. By 1912 they had founded Suraci Brothers. Many years later, Suraci Brothers became the Avanti Cigar Company, which was acquired in 2015 by Manifatture Sigaro Toscano.

However, today the most popular locale for many of the best American made cigars is Miami, Florida. Three out of the five cigars in this report have Miami cigar factories in common and the vast majority of American cigar brands reside there.

 

Why Miami? 

Because Miami was the epicenter of U.S. emigration from Cuba. There were so many expatriates flocking to Florida seeking refuge from Castro’s regime during the Cuban Revolution, a bustling Miami district formed just west of downtown and became known as “Little Havana.” Among them were cigarmakers like Ernesto-Perez Carrillo, Rafael Nodal, Nick Perdomo, and many others who still call the Miami area home.

cigar advisor top 5 american cigars - el titan de bronze factory
Cigars line the aging room shelves at El Titan De Bronze’s factory in Miami. Photo Credit: El Titan de Bronze

Little Havana is now a tourist attraction and considered a must-see for any cigar fan. Many of the factories offer tours and employ a handful of rollers, or even just one. According to Terence Riley of Aganorsa Leaf Cigars, “Miami’s cigar scene is kind of like a time machine.” You’d be hard-pressed to find a Lieberman machine, or any part of the process, frankly…not being done by hand. And with its proximity to Nicaragua, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic, Miami serves as a natural headquarters for cigar companies to import their cigars. 

But there will always be holdouts. Small shops known as chinchalles on backstreets and longstanding store fronts that house a few torcedores still roll and box some fine American cigars for sale fresh off the bench. Using great tobaccos from around the world, these places gave rise to the so-called “Boutique” class—very Cuban in their construction but carrying on the great tradition of making American cigars.

So, put out the red, white, and blue bunting. Here are five American made cigars you should try.

 

Herrera Esteli Miami 

top American cigars made in the USA Herrera Esteli Miami cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

Made at the El Titan de Bronze factory in Miami’s Little Havana, Herrera Esteli Miami is the marriage of Willy Herrera’s incredible blending skills, and the ‘Level 9’ rollers who have made the factory famous since 1995. The flavor is lightly creamy with notes of nuts, cocoa, and toast on the finish. Of course, there’s some pepper too – thanks to Nicaraguan fillers balancing the rest of the core. Among the remaining tobaccos are a chocolate brown Habano Oscuro wrapper, an Ecuador Sumatra binder, and Dominican fillers. This is full-bodied at its finest, folks. Absolutely worth your time. 

 

La Colmena No.44 By Warped

La Colmena, “the Beehive” in Spanish, is the flagship cigar of Warped Cigars and the “most traditional ‘Cuban style’ blend” they craft. With production provided by El Titan de Bronze in Miami and limited to 100 cigars per day, the cigars are bunched in the time-honored entubado method and finished with a twisted triple seam cap. Medium-bodied, the Corona-sized No.44 above boasts a plush, Ecuador Habano desflorada wrapper, Ecuadorian binder, and perfectly-aged Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers. Rated 93 by Aficionado, the smoke issues well-balanced notes of cream, honey, vanilla, white pepper, and cedar, making it one American made cigar worthy of your “must smoke” list.

 

Parodi

Parodi cigars come by way of the aforementioned Avanti Cigar Co. in Scranton, PA. Not your typical “premium” Parodi are dry-cured, machine-made cigars blended with an all American-grown blend of “Dark Fire-Cured” tobaccos from Tennessee and Kentucky. Yes, even the tobaccos are American! Additionally, these tobaccos come from at least three different crop years rolled in shimmering wrappers virtually dripping with oil. Called, “the KING of our iconic mainstay on size and flavor,” the Parodi Kings above are medium to full in body revealing an intense character with a rich, smoky roasted aroma. If you’ve never had an authentic Italian-style cigar Parodi offers a most unique tobacco experience.

 

 

Tatuaje Miami 

top American cigars made in the USA Tatuaje Miami cigars at Famous Smoke Shop

Follow the bouncing ball: tobacco seeds leave Cuba, find their way to the Garcia family farms at My Father in Nicaragua. They’re grown, harvested and fermented, then blended into a super-tasty morsel by Pete Johnson before it’s all moved to – look familiar? – Pepin’s El Rey de los Habanos for assembly. Or something like that. By the time this journey is done, Don Pepin Garcia’s finest rollers will have hand rolled a small but high quality batch of super-premium Tatuajes made to Pete’s order. Crafted to taste like Havanas, but they’re all American cigars rolled right in the Sunshine state. 

 

Topper Broadleaf Dark

The bread & butter line for Topper Cigars are their mixed filler, machine-made cigars. As mentioned above, in 2013 they began making handrolled cigars in the Dominican Republic for a separate handmade selection. However, the Broadleaf Dark cigar above is the genuine, machine-made in Connecticut article. Rolled in Topper’s prized Connecticut Broadleaf wrapper, the core consists of a Pennsylvania binder that houses mixed filler tobaccos from the DR, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Called, “the ultimate yard gar,” the per-cigar price is insanely low, but these rustic looking smokes also deliver a rich taste and a natural sweetness that you may find very satisfying.

 

Believe it or not, there are countless more small scale cigar factories still in business here in America, and there are even more marques that El Titan de Bronze, Pepin, Aganorsa, and others are making on behalf of other brands like the Cohiba Serie M. So the making of American cigars is still alive and well. Find one of these out-of-the-way places, or a chinchalle near you that rolls and sells their own and experience these cigars for yourself.

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Oj Miles
6 years ago

I’m not an aficionado, but I do like my cigar every day. I may be biased, I live in Austin, but I have enjoyed every cigar I’ve bought from Bobalu Cigar. They seem to really care about making a good quality cigar. My opinion based on what I like to smoke.

Erik Molnar
6 years ago

Jon any idea on how people kept their cigars humidified back in the day ( if at all)?

Jared Gulick
2 years ago
Reply to  Erik Molnar

Likely shot glasses with water, or nothing at all.

Jeff Stache
6 years ago

Sure these are great cigars, but in fairness, these are great American-rolled cigars, but the tobacco is Carribean. There are also North American cigars made (mostly) from North American tobacco, and they don’t get no respect! This year we saw the loss of 170-year old Marsh Wheeling company, which not only provided the cigars to both the 19th century cowboys AND the 20th century cowboy movies and TV shows, and gave us the moniker of “stogie” from the conestoga wagons they originally provisioned.
Unfortunately the gawdaful mass produced drugstore cigars have led us tho think all the American cigars are only fit for starting barbacues, but there are still some tasty, fun, historical smokes out there that deserve our attention.

Robert
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Stache

What are cigar companies still making cigars from grown in USA?

Jared Gulick
1 year ago
Reply to  Robert

Robert,

Check out Avanti. They’re machine made but extremely tasty and feature American-grown tobaccos. Additionally, any cigar using PA Broadleaf or U.S. Connecticut Shade, and most fire-cured tobaccos would be good to try, even if they aren’t purely U.S. tobaccos.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jared Gulick
Craig Etheredge
2 years ago

Remember a little shop in New Orleans that still press cigars. Great local cigar company not far from infamous Barbon Street.

Jared Gulick
2 years ago

Thanks for reading, Craig. Hopefully you can get back there sometime!

Bob
2 years ago

There are a handful of really great cigar shops in Ybor City, near Tampa, where they hand roll some fine vitolas… I never miss a chance to go there and watch them roll, have a Cuban coffee, and fire one up… good times and worth the visit!

Jared Gulick
2 years ago
Reply to  Bob

Bob, it’s an amazing experience ain’t it?! :) Thanks for reading!

Francisco Laureano
2 years ago

You forgot Puerto Rico.

Jared Gulick
2 years ago

Francisco, thanks for your comment. I don’t believe Famous carries any premium cigars rolled there, which would be why you’re not seeing them. Apologies for any confusion.

Chuck
7 months ago

Parodi, Topper? Come on. A passing mention of the Cohiba M. Phenomenal cigar. Anything rolled at the Titan De Bronze factory including their own line would easily top those

Jared Gulick
7 months ago
Reply to  Chuck

Chuck,

Thanks for reading. The first two cigars listed here are from Titan de Bronze. And while Cohiba M is a very good cigar, pricewise, it’s outclassed by other choices that offer similar flavor and quality for a lot less.

Gary recently added Parodi and Topper. Can’t speak for Topper myself, but Parodi is a hill I’m happy to die on. One of the tastiest machine made cigars on the market. Without question. Premium-level flavor. We all fell in love when we toured their factory a few years back.

Just keep in mind, our reviews are subjective. We appreciate your feedback and who knows…maybe you’ll find one of your suggestions in our next update! Have a great holiday :)

Jared Gulick
7 months ago
Reply to  Chuck

Almost forgot! We’ll have a review out on the Cohiba M really soon. Keep an eye out! :)

Michael
7 months ago

There’s also Rodriguez Cigars in Key West who make great cigars!!

L. Fortuna
6 months ago

Jared you mentioned the company that makes it but you didn’t mention the greatest American made cigar of all time! “The American” by JC Newman! Every small detail from the label down to the metal hinges on the boxes are pure American! This cigar is literally 100% made in America! And IMO, an UNBELIEVABLE smoking experience! I’ve had three and all were EXCELLENT! You probably didn’t mention it because FS doesn’t offer it for sale, but they really should!

Jared Gulick

Jared Gulick

Features Editor, Jared Gulick, is a Certified Tobacconist, nerd of all things science, musician and serial abuser of the Oxford comma. He made his way to the Famous Smoke Shop retail store in 2018 and joined the Advisors when it was discovered that he could locate the shift key. Prior to his work in the cigar industry, he was a recording studio engineer, songwriter, and a journalism major at Northampton Community College.

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