Cigar Buying Guides

2020 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:

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.

Top Infused and Flavored cigars - Acid Kuba Kuba cigars being banded at the drew estate factory
Extra care is taken with infused cigars, even at the factory level – these ACID Kuba Kubas are being banded and boxed in a completely separate room, apart and away from where other DE cigars are being made.

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 regularly 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:

While flavors are on FDA’s radar, you still have time to lock down your humidor – the government’s guidance on how they plan to regulate these cigars still isn’t clear (shocking, I know). They’re also not exactly forthcoming on whether they’re going to exempt large/premium flavored cigars. So now is the time to enjoy.

As for our $5 spending limit here…cost isn’t the lone indicator of a cigar’s quality, as I firmly believe there’s a “good cigar” for any budget. And I think you’ll also find these infused and flavored cigars are great stepping stones to other flavorful premiums down the road, like more ACID, Oliva nub Café, M by Macanudo and others.

So is all this extra flavor right for you? Start with these 10 cigar options if you want to give your taste buds a delicious tweak, but don’t want to overspend…

ACID Croqueta

You don’t talk about infused cigars without a nod to the legend. And yes, you can have ACID for under $5 a stick with Croqueta: there’s a pair of 2 1/2″ x 50 shorties packed into the tube, making this two-fer ideal for sharing with a friend. As for flavor, Croqueta’s creamy, medium-bodied smoke has a bit of spice – and adding the ACID Purple infusion’s aromatics gives it a very intense aroma. A great alternative if Kuba Kuba and Blondie are too flowery and delicate for your liking.

CAO Moontrance

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 Licorice

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.

Solo Cafe Dark Roast

Solo Café has been a Famous fan favorite for years because it checks all the boxes: sweet, easy-smoking, and imbued with an enticing touch of Central American coffee. The Dark Roast is a top pick here for a couple of reasons: first, the thick Brazilian Maduro wrapper adds some eye-opening complexity to the blend. Second, Solo Café foregoes the aggressively-sweetened cap used on most of the other coffee-flavored cigars out there. So the Dark Roast smokes a bit more bitey-sweet, almost like you’d find in a venti cup from that exotic gourmet coffeehouse.

Prefer your brew less robust? Try the Solo Café Medium Roast: it’s wrapped in an Ecuador Sumatra leaf that still adds plenty of perk to the smoke. More mellow taste buds will appreciate the creamy Ecuador Connecticut capa of the Natural Roast; but if you’re latte-all-the-way, the Solo Café Grasshopper’s creamy, chocolatey flavors will fit you just fine. Best of all, each is exceedingly budget-friendly – so you can nub ‘em one after the next.

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.

Pacific Twyst

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.

Billions Palma

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.

Alta Gracia

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, along with those of us in that group of “once-in-a-while” cigar smokers, we don’t want to drop big money on what is only an occasional treat. It’s also important to note here that some anti-smoking laws are being discussed that target flavored and infused cigars (unfairly, we feel): Massachusetts has already banned the sale of flavored tobacco products, and New York isn’t far behind. The FDA is also considering its own strict regulations. But as these rules are nowhere close to being settled, there is still plenty of time to give one – or all – of these affordable smoking options a try. Odds are, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the flavorful experience, and how little it costs to enjoy it.