2016 CA Report: Smoke Break – Best Small Cigars
Ten Small Cigars to Try on Your Next Smoke Break
by John Pullo
I never used to be really big on small cigars. My favorite size has actually been the Toro, an hour-plus long exercise of relaxation, head-nodding approval and thinking about some really deep shit. Others have shower thoughts, we have cigar thoughts – along with two cups of coffee alongside to wash them down right.
But then I felt the Cigar Smoker’s Conundrum – capitalized, because of the gravity of the situation…you don’t have 90 minutes to burn, figuratively or literally. My fellow Advisor, Jonathan, has written about this over a few articles about short and small cigars for winter smoking; turns out, people down south share the same outdoor limitations due to the heat. But as we’ve said before, being short on time doesn’t mean you need to be short on flavor, or satisfaction. You’re looking for something a little less substantial, yet still tasty, and fits the sweet spot between a cigarillo and a full-sized smoke.
What we’re really talking about today is the Petit Corona. Or Petite Corona, depending on who makes it and how Spanish you feel when you spell it. Smoking time for these flavor-rich small cigars is on average about 40 minutes, or half-Toro time…and flavor-rich, because of the higher wrapper-to-filler ratio: more wrapper, less filler = more flavor.
The criteria to make this must-smoke list here were as follows: setting aside some of the old go-to’s (like Fuente, Cohiba Pequeños, Punch Bolos, Oliva cigars, etc.), some exceedingly obscure boutiques and a bunch of brands we’ve smoked the bejeezus out of over the past few weeks, we considered small cigars under 5” long, under 44 ring gauge, and under $8 per stick. That last factor I figured to be most important of all: while some very good premium toros and such can be had for 8 bucks, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to choose small cigars that were completely out of whack price-wise with their bigger ring counterparts, no matter how super premium they were.
That meant leaving out some very good smokes. Because we limited the list to cigars under 5”, that left out the spicy-full My Father Cedros Cervantes (a 6 ½” Lonsdale), the complex and flavorful Montecristo White Vintage No. 3 (a 5 ½” Corona), and the beefy, 93-rated H. Upmann Sun Grown Corona (also a 5 ½” Corona). Capping the price also removed some very respectable top shelf entries from consideration: the powerful, Ecuador-wrapped Davidoff Millennium Blend Petit Corona checks in at north of $12 per cigar; the Winston Churchill Artist Petit Corona hovered around 9 and a half, while the Ashton VSG Tres Mystique, the AVO XO Notturno and the Nat Sherman Sterling Perla just missed at a hair over $8 each. But no worries, as I think that if you make the time to try these small cigars – you’ll find that sampling session is time well spent.
Tatuaje Havana VI Verocu No. 5
Pete Johnson gets his Cuban on. Nice and bitey Nicaraguan taste on the inside, earthy and punchy on the outside via the dark Oscuro wrapper. Once a limited edition smoke, you’ll be pleased to know this Havana VI is now available for daily consumption. The Tatuaje Verocu is an excellent coffee & smoke break candidate…and at under $4/stick, probably costs you less than the coffee.
La Palina El Diario KB
Though a modest 4 ¼” x 40, the El Diario KB – or “Kill Bill” – earned its nickname: incredibly overwhelming in body and strength, La Palina brand owner Bill Paley thought he was going to die after smoking the original sample. The KB has mellowed a bit since then, but remains stuffed with full-bodied Nicaraguan Corojo and Criollos, framed in a spicy Honduran wrapper. El Diario is proof that some small cigars can (and will) exceed their larger RG counterparts in body and flavor – sometimes with reckless abandon.
Aging Room Havao Breve
If you’re going to make the most of your 30-minute smoking session, consider going the small batch route with the Aging Room Havao. In a word: complex. Rafael Nodal’s blend shows some medium-bodied edge with a core of Dominican Criollo, then tops it off by slathering on some thick, buttery-sweet flavors from an Ecuadorian Connecticut shade leaf. Still in that $4-a-piece sweet spot, the Havao Breve tastes much bigger than its small smoke size.
Epoca by Nat Sherman Breva
Some history here: originally a speakeasy proprietor, Nat allowed a “business associate” to “settle some debts” by handing him half of the company that made Epoca cigars. Originally made in both Havana and Tampa, Epoca was revived as a medium-plus blend of Cuban-seed Dominican & Nicaraguan tobaccos; with an Ecuadorian wrapper, it’s chock full of creamy smoke and flavor. Nat Sherman’s first cigar – and a nice +/-30 minute treat.
Perdomo Limited Cameroon Edition Petit Corona
While the Perdomo Habano Habanitos are more widely seen and enjoyed in this small smoke format, you’ll kick yourself if you pass on the Perdomo Limited Cameroon. First, because it’s…well, limited: debuting in 2011 as a throwback to the old La Tradicion Cabinet series, there’s only so much of this sweet, high quality Cameroon wrapper left to go around. Second, because it’s deliciously complex with the Nicaraguan core flavors. Try it, and I doubt you’ll need much arm-twisting to go back for more.
MUWAT Bait Fish
Ahhh, the legendary Bait Fish. Concocted at the Joya de Nicaragua factory in collaboration with Drew Estate, these small cigars were in very high demand following their 2011 limited release. And rightfully so: slightly more intense than the standard MUWAT sizes with rich, sweet and bright flavors, the Bait Fish burns surprisingly slow and cool for a Petit Corona – if you treat it right. Tobaccos from Brazil and Nicaragua are clad in dark, tasty San Andres to satisfy when time is tight.
Asylum Premium Petite Corona
Asylum Cigars, they of the enormous-ring 8×80 monstrosities, are equally as talented when it comes to producing small cigars at the other end of the vitola spectrum. Witness the Asylum Premium: crafted of all-Nicaraguan tobaccos, it’s full bodied, alright…but the Habano wrapper is what shines here, with oversized flavors – like earth and leather – pouring from such a little smoke. A delicious development, indeed.
It’s Padron, so, yeah…I’m not going to tell you anything you don’t already know. When time is not on your side and a Padron 5000 is off the table, it’s the handmade Corticos that step into the picture with the same Cuban-seed filler mix and medium-bodied flavors that built their tasty reputation. At 3 bucks and change, a box or tin of Padron Corticos should be on your short list.
CAO MX2 Dagger
Besides the fact that Connecticut Broadleaf is coming into a bit of a renaissance, I am a sucker for a diverse tobacco blend – and the CAO MX2 is a veritable melting pot, hitting up the Dominican, Nicaragua, Honduras and Peru for fillers, along with a second maduro wrapper from Brazil wrappers. Yes, two maduro wrappers, making your smoke break a real eye-opener when adding this uber-full small smoke to the mix. More short Panatela than Petit Corona, but it sure doesn’t feel that way.
Rocky Patel Vintage 1992 Juniors
Most of the heritage Rocky Patel blends are now available in this smaller, almost-40 RG size, but it’s the highly-rated and well-regarded Vintage 1992 blend that made the cut for this must-try small cigars list; Ecuadorian Sumatra is the reason why. Similar in body to the larger vitolas in the ’92 line, the Sumatra’s blissfully smooth, creamy and somewhat dark flavors really charge to the forefront to make the most of your 30 minutes or less.
What other small cigars are you smoking? I’m always looking for something to try – make a comment with what you’d add to the list, or let me know how you fared with one of my suggestions.