Cigar Buying Guides

2020 CA Report: 10 Top Box-Pressed Cigars Recommended

Updated Feb 2020

Box-Pressed Cigars – The Untold Story

What’s the deal with box-pressed cigars? Sounds like the setup for a Jerry Seinfeld bit. 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 outstanding box-pressed cigar, like a Padrón 1964 Anniversary, 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. In other words, the terms are interchangeable. You also have cigars that are “trunk-pressed” and “vise pressed.” There is a difference in those cases, which I’ll get to shortly. Before I get to that and how box-pressed cigars are made, the big question is, how did they come up with these rectangular-shaped cigars in the first place?

A number of stories, myths, and legends have circulated over the years about the origin of box-pressed cigars. Take this one, for example:

Once upon a time. . . 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 was able to make the cigars fit, and sealed the lid. After the aging period passed, and the box was opened the cigars had acquired an appealing square-like shape.

trunk_press cigars

In a 2011 Q&A titled, “What are box-pressed cigars,” I offered this answer to the question: “Originating in Cuba, this was done to save shipping space.” It may also sound a bit far-fetched to some, but I can see how after this alleged 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.

But 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.”

Although I have a lot of respect for Mr. Hacker’s expertise, I wonder if he was being just a little tongue-in-cheek on that one.

However box-pressed cigars came to be, there are a number of methods used today, mostly involving molds and varying degrees of pressurization to create everything from sharp corners to slightly rounded edges. I’ll get to those shortly. But of the three aforementioned methods, placing the cigars in smaller boxes to achieve a squared shape seems to be the most genuine story. That’s how the La Gloria Cubana Spanish Press cigars get their shape.

Many aficionados don’t think so, but in this video about box-pressed cigars, Rafael Nodal of Boutique 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.

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.

trunk pressing cigars
Most square-pressed cigars are rolled with thicker wrappers. Due to its delicate nature, Connecticut Shade is rarely, if ever, used for box pressing.

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.

Vise pressing is similar to trunk-pressing, but on a smaller scale. For this method the molds are clamped together with a large vise, 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.

vice-press 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 below does right by you.

Aging Room Quattro Nicaragua Maestro

Size: 6″ x 52 Torpedo
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Sun Grown
Binder & Filler: Nicaragua

One of the best examples of Nodal & Fernandez’s work together, the Maestro received a “Classic” 96 rating, landing it in the #1 Cigar of the Year of 2019 spot. This handsome, Nicaraguan puro boasts a plush sun grown wrapper with a crimson patina that caps a full-flavored, all-vintage core. The smoke is creamy as all get out with a complex pastiche of sweet spices, dark chocolate, roasted almonds, and oak. You could say the Maestro is “a true connoisseur’s cigar” in terms of how it checks all the right boxes; yet, even a fair amount of experience will get you to cigar nirvana.

C.L.E. Azabache Toro

Size: 6″ x 54
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés
Dual Binders: Honduran Corojo
Filler: Honduran Corojo, Nicaraguan, Peruvian Pelo de Oro

Here’s a cigar that not only looks like a candy bar, it practically tastes like one, too. Much flatter pressed than your average box-pres sed vitola, the wrapper looks like it was dipped in dark chocolate. The pre-light teases you with berry and raisin notes. Light it up, and this CLE’s four-nation blend lets go with a barrage of woody nuances, some saltiness, coffee bean, and nuts, culminating in a peppery-spice finish. Additionally, a river of sweet spice runs through it keeping everything in perfect balance. One of the most seductive cigars you’ll ever smoke. Plus, it’s a match for every level of experience.

CAO Flathead V554 Camshaft

Size: 5½” x 54
Strength: Full
Wrapper: U.S. Connecticut Broadleaf
Binder: Connecticut Habano
Filler: Nicaraguan ligero and Dominican Piloto Cubano ligero

The Flathead V554 Camshaft continues to be one of the most impressive models in CAO’s spacious garage. Modeled on the American-made muscle cars of the 1960’s, the Camshaft features a wide, 54-ring body with sharp edges, a dark Broadleaf hardtop, with a luxurious ligero interior. The chewy smoke is full-throttle, well-balanced, smooth on the turns, and burns clean with notes of leather, caramel, cinnamon, espresso, and dark chocolate for a sweet, spicy and aromatic flavor profile. Geared more toward experienced smokers, the V554 Camshaft really does hit on all cylinders.

Encore Majestic by E.P. Carrillo

Size: 5 3/8 x 52
Strength: Full
Wrapper/Binder/Filler: Tercio-aged Nicaraguan Estelí, Condega, and Jalapa

Here’s another #1 Cigar of the Year. For this magnum opus from Ernesto Perez Carrillo, it was 2018, earning the Majestic a “Classic” 96 points. Blended with vintage, tercio-aged tobaccos from Nicaragua’s Estelí, Condega, and Jalapa regions, the cigar offers wads of chewy, velvety smoke. The flavors introduce themselves in layers culminating in a vivid chorus line of cedar, oak, sweet spice, white pepper, and a slice of orange peel. In their review, Aficionado wrote: “It’s elegant, refined and nuanced from first puff to last.” Well put, and true, but I’ll add this: The Encore Majestic is exceedingly luscious, opulent and worthy of taking that extra bow.

Herrera Estelí Norteño Lonsdale

Size: 6½” x 44
Strength: Medium to Full
Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés Maduro
Binder: Honduras
Filler: Nicaraguan Estelí & Jalapa

Portraying a Panatela from a distance, this Norteño (Spanish for “northerner”), boasts an almost flat, oval pressing which, at closer range, looks like a carpenter’s pencil, yet feels good in the hand. A staunch perfectionist, Willie Herrera created a well-balanced, full-flavored juggernaut by using a thick San Andrés maduro wrapper, a Honduran binder and long fillers from Estelí and Jalapa. Medium in body, but full in flavor, the smoke is copiously creamy and virtually opaque revealing layers of black pepper, espresso, cedar, and sweet spices on a long finish. A cool treat for both experienced cigar lovers and the newly-initiated.

La Gloria Cubana Spanish Press Robusto

Size: 5½” x 50
Strength: Medium
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Jalapa
Binder: Mexican San Andres
Filler: Brazilian Mata Fina, Nicaraguan Jalapa, Dominican Olor, Dominican Piloto Cubano

Well-built upon a four-nation blend, topped with a semi-sweet Jalapa wrapper, this cigar is full of savory surprises. Using a traditional Spanish pressing in which the box serves as the press, the Toro serves-up a tempting appetizer of leather and sweet tobacco in the cold draw. Once lit, it’s all hands on deck as the smoke renders well-defined flavors of sweet tobacco, sweet cream, leather, cedar, nutmeg, and coffee bean, layer by sumptuous layer—even the aroma is sweet. Priced fairly, the Robusto offers a well-balanced, medium-bodied treat that satisfies any time of day.

Oliva Serie V Melanio Robusto Maduro

Size: 5″ x 52
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Mexican San Andrés Maduro
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaraguan Jalapa Habano ligero

No one makes a straight ligero cigar like Oliva, and when you apply that kind of blending acumen to their stellar Serie V Melanio collection, you’ve got something really special between your thumb and forefinger. Solidly built, this Robusto has a dark, oily San Andrés wrapper that clads an all Jalapa-grown ligero core. The result is a vibrant, full-bodied cigar that welcomes you with a smack of earth and red pepper, then rounds-off to a creamy, cedary-forward treat escorted by a caravan of sweet tobacco, dark chocolate, cocoa, and hazelnut with a spicy finish. All-in-all, a worthwhile departure from the original Melanio blend in the Ecuador Sumatra wrapper.

Plasencia Alma Fuerte Nestor IV

Size: 6¼” x 54 Toro
Strength: Full
Wrapper/Binder/Filler: Nicaraguan estate grown; aged 10 years.

The Plasencia Alma Fuerte collection (“strong soul” in Spanish), was the company’s first major release under their Plasencia 1865 label. It hit the charts with a bullet, and the 93-rated, Generacion V Salomon even made #9 Cigar of the Year in 2017. The Nestor IV – a Toro named for fourth generation Plasencia son, Nestor Andrés – is pretty astounding, too. Teeming with flavors of earth, oak, coffee, cocoa, and sweet spices throughout, it’s the poster child for balance and complexity. Tailor-made for the connoisseur, it’s an unforgettable smoke. And although it ain’t cheap, it justifies its cost by dispatching almost two hours of immeasurable pleasure.

Rocky Patel Olde World Reserve Corojo Grande

Size: 6″ x 60
Strength: Full
Wrapper: Honduran Corojo
Binder & Filler: Nicaraguan estate-grown

Here’s an oldie-but-goodie that has enjoyed a marvelous resurgence after its 10-year hiatus. This more gently box-pressed Grande carries plenty of flavor on its wide shoulders, starting with a Honduran Corojo wrapper that shimmers like freshly tanned leather. Starting out with a creamy and medium-bodied, this 60-ringer abounds with flavors of pepper, cedar, oak, leather, and sweet spices. One of Rocky’s finest, full-flavored creations, all you need to do is sit back and relax for a long, luxurious journey through tobacco wonderland. A smart choice for big ring cigar smokers with a few notches on their belt, this Olde World Reserve takes it to the limit, and beyond.

Southern Draw Rose of Sharon Desert Rose

Size: 5½” x 52 Belicoso
Strength: Medium-plus
Wrapper: Ecuadorian Cloud Grown Claro
Binder: Nicaragua
Filler: Nicaraguan Corojo 99 ligero, Dominican Piloto Cubano ligero

The spice is nice in this box-pressed beauty that don’t know she’s beautiful.” Modeled on the original Rose of Sharon blend, but with all-ligero fillers, Desert Rose moves the strength dial into medium-plus territory. This figurado begins with a peppery slap, then rounds-out to a velvety-smooth smoke with caramel-like sweetness and a vivid toastiness in the early stages. Later on she transitions to a heartier smoke revealing notes of earth, cedar, roasted nuts, and white pepper, garnished with some appealing floral touches. A savory, satisfying experience for cigar smokers at every level.

Whenever we do these listing reports, we inevitably get comments asking why we didn’t include this cigar, or that cigar. So, in the comment field below, let us know what box-pressed cigar you’d add to the list.