For those of you who are among the uninitiated, or who are curious about those un-banded, cello-overwrap packages, you probably have your own ideas about where those cigars come from and how they’re made. Actually, if it wasn’t for bundle cigars, there might not be much of a cigar business. Having first appeared in the 1960s, today bundle cigars offer much higher quality, making them an even more practical solution as alternatives to higher-priced boxed cigars.
First, let’s clear up the difference between “seconds” and “bundles.” “Seconds” are “ungraded” or “unselected” cigars that didn’t meet the manufacturer’s standards as “firsts” due to minor flaws in the wrapper, the wrapper’s color, or the overall construction of the cigar itself. That doesn’t mean the cigars are bad, they’re just not the “up to snuff” (you’ll pardon the expression). Because these cigars are still high enough in quality to sell, they’re packaged in bundles and sold to retailers at reduced cost, which is passed on to the consumer, making many bundle buys a “win-win” for both parties.
Another way cigars get to be bundles is if a manufacturer has an overrun on a particular size or gets a cancellation on a large order, and in some cases, they’re just closeout deals – when they’re gone, they’re gone. There was a time when bundles were just thrown together without bands and given a name if for nothing more than inventory purposes. (There are still plenty of these around, too.) However, since I first wrote this article, over the years more and more manufacturers now regularly produce their own “banded & branded” bundle cigars of much higher quality, often competing with their own higher-priced boxed brands. Many of these bundles are produced exclusively for certain retailers.
Choosing a good bundle cigar
Ready to shell out your cash? First, there are some things to consider when buying bundles, even if you know they came from a well-known source:
1) The cigars may not often match in color as they normally would in a box.
2) The taste may be inconsistent in flavor, draw, or burn quality.
3) If you’re “on the fence” about a specific bundle, don’t be afraid to ask questions first.
When it comes to “inspecting” a bundle cigar, you start with a disadvantage. Because of the way bundles are packaged, you can’t just pick one up and check it out like you would a boxed cigar. Probably the only thing you can do is inspect the package to see if the cigars have been bruised, ripped or squished. So what else CAN you do?
- Try to buy “premium cigar” bundles that contain long leaf filler. Most do, however, there are some very good “Cuban Sandwich” (mixed filler), and short filler blends out there, too.
- Check the blends. Chances are if the blend and body is similar to what you already smoke, you may also enjoy that bundle.
- Try a “private” blend like those made exclusively for the retailer by a particular manufacturer that you trust.
- Read and learn: Carefully read the descriptions and the customer comments about each bundle. Check some of the online cigar forums, too. Sometimes the copy will name the factory that produced the cigars and can often be the deciding factor in choosing a bundle.
- Price: Don’t let the price fool you. Price can be determined by any number of reasons: From the quality of the cigars, to what the retailer paid for them, or best case scenario, finding them on sale. Though today some bundles may be close in price to boxed cigars, there are some really excellent buys starting as low as $24.95 if you take the time to look.
Finally, Not unlike searching for a good boxed premium cigar, searching for a good bundle cigar takes some experimentation to find the best quality and value for you.