2015 CA Report: 10 Recommended Box-Pressed Cigars
Box-Pressed Cigars – The Untold Story
Plus: 10 of the Best Box-pressed Cigars You Should be Smoking
By Gary Korb
What’s the deal with box-pressed cigars? Sounds like the setup for one of Jerry Seinfeld’s bits. I wish I had a funny punchline, but all I can think of is, they’re boxed, they’re pressed, they’re delicious! If you’ve ever smoked a really good box-pressed cigar, like any of the Padrón Anniversary cigars, you know what I’m talking about. Another name for these four-sided cigars that look like Jenga pieces, is “square-pressed.” After all, the box is square…the cigar is square…and yadda-yadda-yadda. Suffice it to say, the terms are interchangeable. You also have cigars that are “trunk-pressed” and “vice pressed.” There is a difference, which I’ll get to shortly. Before I get to that and how they’re made, the big question is, how did they come up with these rectangular cigars in the first place?
Like most things having to do with handmade cigars, the story of the box-pressed cigar begins in Cuba. One day in beautiful downtown Havana, a factory worker was given boxes that were cut a little too small for the cigars to fit comfortably. Because they were supple enough, he got the cigars to fit and sealed the lid. After aging and shipping time had passed, when the box was eventually opened, the cigars had taken on an appealing square-like shape.
In a Q&A titled, “What are box-pressed cigars,” I offered this answer to this question: “Originating in Cuba, this was done to save shipping space.” It may sound a bit far-fetched to some, but I could see how after this happy accident occurred that someone saw the dollar value in being able to fit x-number more of these slightly smaller boxes into a shipping crate. My source for that one was The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cigars by Tad Gage.
The most curious answer regarding the origin of box pressed cigars comes from noted cigar authority, Richard Carleton Hacker, author of The Ultimate Cigar Book in which he writes: “It started in Cuba and was done to keep the cigars from rolling off the table. Don’t let anyone tell you differently, either. You can actually win a friendly bet on this one.”
Do box-pressed cigars smoke better and longer? Many aficionados don’t think so, but in this video about box-pressed cigars, Rafael Nodal of Boutique Cigar Brands, sees it differently:
When CAO Cigars released their “Cuban Press” selections a number of years ago, I remember the rep telling me during an in-store event that box-pressed cigars not only smoke longer, but every draw is consistently as flavorful as the preceding one. Moreover, Rocky Patel prefers the box-press shape, which is why so many of his cigars are made that way.
Some say that due to the pressing procedure, most of the space taken up by air is filled-in by the tobaccos, resulting in a more flavorful smoke. Of course, only YOU can determine if the square shape does more for you enjoyment-wise than the traditional round parejo.
Humidor-worthy Box-Pressed Cigars
Click any image to purchase - or learn more about - each of the cigars.
CAO MX2 Box Press
A long-running CAO selection trunk-pressed in a 5½” x 55 Robusto shape that includes a naturally dark and sweet Brazilian binder capped by a Connecticut broadleaf wrapper. The inner core has a 4-nation recipe. All-in-all, the blend offers a remarkably complex and full-flavored smoke.
Oliva Serie G "Special G"
A good-looking box-pressed cigar in a unique size and shape. Similar only in blend to the Perdomo2 Cameroon above, this medium-bodied 3¾” x 48 perfecto is great for when you want your Nicaraguan fix, but time is short. The Special G is smooth and creamy with a rich, earthy-woody flavor profile, and a good alternative to Fuente “Short Story.”
Jericho Hill “OBS” by Crowned Heads
The Jericho Hill series is my favorite so far from Crowned Heads. Rolled to a 4¾” x 52 robusto, the “OBS” is not only incredibly flavorful and complex, but the aroma is equally inviting. Full-bodied, yet ultra-smooth, this square-pressed beauty will keep you totally engaged from start to finish.
Punch Rare Corojo “El Doble”
The 6” x 60 Punch Rare Corojo “El Doble” delivers big on flavor without feeling all that big while you’re smoking it; I guess that says something for box pressing. This medium-bodied line has been consistent year-to-year offering earthy-woody flavors with an underlying sweetness. (Put two hours aside for this one.)
New World by A.J. Fernandez “Gordo”
The “Gordo” from A.J. Fernandez’s New World selection is another fine example of the 6” x 58 format in a trunk-pressed shape. This dark, smooth-sailing Nicaraguan reveals earthy and creamy pepper flavors in a full-on smoke blended by A.J. and his father. If you’ve never smoked a cigar by this wunderkind, open a slot in your humidor.
CAO Flathead "V554Camshaft"
The Flathead “V554 Camshaft” is one of the most impressive models in CAO’s spacious garage. The cigar features a wider body with sharp edges, an Ecuadorian Connecticut hardtop, and a luxurious Nicaraguan interior. The smoke is full-throttle, well-balanced, smooth on the turns, and burns clean with a sweet, spicy and aromatic flavor profile.
Java Latte Robusto
Made at the My Father factory in Estelí, this Nestor Miranda Special Sel. Robusto is handcrafted to a standard 5” x 50 robusto with savory Nicaraguan long-fillers pressed in a buttery Ecuadorian Connecticut shade wrapper – a rare find! Medium-full in body, and impressively complex with caramelized flavors of nuts, sweet cedar, cocoa and more.
There are several methods you can use to fit a round peg into a square hole. The first is called “Standard Box Pressing.” The freshly rolled cigars are packed tightly into their boxes and sealed. To ensure a proper shape, the boxes are stacked and placed on a manually controlled press with just enough pressure to form a tight seal and avoid breakage.
“Trunk Pressing” involves more time and labor. This method uses a wooden press that is made up of ten shelves consisting of slats that can hold up to 25 cigars, and clamps are placed around them to evenly distribute the pressure for a period that can range anywhere from 30 minutes to 12 hours. Like any box pressing technique, this must be done with extreme care to prevent the wrappers from tearing.
After the specified time period has elapsed, the clamps are removed, the cigars are turned 180 degrees, re-clamped, and placed under pressure for an equal amount of time. When complete, you have a beautiful-looking cigar with an oily sheen and sharp edges. Because trunk pressing is more time consuming, the cost is usually passed on to the consumer, but the end result is magnificent.
Vice pressing is similar to trunk pressing, but on a smaller scale. For this method the molds are clamped together with a large vice, and the cigars are rotated 90 degrees per time period. The resulting shape is a rectangular cigar with even sharper edges than trunk-pressed cigars.
So that's the deal with box-pressed cigars - if you haven't had one, they're worth a try...see if one of the picks from my list above does right by you.
Gary Korb has been writing and editing content for CigarAdvisor.com since its debut in 2008. An avid cigar smoker for over 30 years, during the past 12 years he has worked on the marketing side of the premium cigar business as a Sr. Copywriter, blogger, and cigar reviewer. A graduate of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, prior to his career in the cigar business, Gary worked in the music and video industry as a marketer and a publicist.Show all Gary Korb's Articles