In September of 2010 I wrote an article on aging Seconds and Bundle cigars. As I was writing that piece I went off on a tangent I began to write about some of the misconceptions about bundles. Realizing I had the makings of a follow-up article, I saved my notes.
Misconception #1: “All bundle cigars are seconds.”
Wrong. Not all, but a lot of bundle cigars are “seconds,” and there are a number of reasons for this. For one, many bundles consist of cigars rolled by apprentice torcedors. After all, what would you expect from a trainee? But even experienced torcedors can produce cigars that draw poorly, are rolled too tight, too loose, or have bunching issues. In some cases, the wrappers may be too veiny or unevenly matched in color; the cigars could have plugs, etc.; all things that usually don’t pass “first” quality level inspection. So, these cigars are sold as “seconds,” which is also why they’re much lower in price.
Alternately, many bundles are made specifically as “firsts.” One of the best examples I can think of are my all-time “go-to” everyday cigars, Flor de Oliva. As the “bread ‘n butter” line for Oliva Cigars, they can’t afford to make “cheapo” cigars, nor would they ever consider it.
Moreover, many of the top-tier factories produce bundled “firsts” if for no other reason than to cut costs. (Remember, you also pay for the box.) Other good examples of bundled firsts are La Floridita, GH2 by Gran Habano and Occidental Reserve from Alec Bradley,
Imperial, and of course the Famous “Thousands” series cigars.
Misconception #2: “Bundle cigars taste bad.”
Well, a lot of boxed cigars taste bad, too. I think this comes from the idea that the tobaccos used in bundle cigars are of lower grade. Most of the bundles, especially those from the better factories, contain the same filler tobaccos used in the higher-priced boxed brands. No doubt, there are manufacturers who will use lower grade tobacco for filler, but the farms don’t have specific tobacco fields for bundle cigars and others for boxed cigars. As the tobacco is sorted, the factory supervisor decides which leaves are used for each blend. All of the tobacco is eventually used regardless of the length of the leaf. For example, one of the better “mixed-filler” bundles (long, medium and short filler) are the Flor De Gonzalez Bundles.
No doubt, there are plenty of toss-away bundle sticks made with low-grade ingredients, but a lot of bundles are also surprisingly tasty. Moreover, seconds of already popular brands should taste as good as the original, even if they’re not as pretty.
Misconception #3: “Bundles are not premium cigars.”
Almost all bundles are “premium cigars” by definition. Unless the cigars are entirely machine-made, hand-bunched and rolled cigars are considered “premiums” even if it doesn’t say “hecho a mano” on the package.
In some circles, “seconds” are not considered premiums. But like anything else, some seconds are better than others, too. Good examples of these are the Rocky Patel Seconds, Factory Selects, and Originals. Technically they’re seconds, but mostly due to imperfections in the wrappers, not necessarily because of construction. And since these cigars are seconds of some of Rocky’s bestselling high-priced cigars, they are premiums in every way. Supervisor Selection is another great “seconds” buy since it is identical to another highly popular Alec Bradley mainline edition.
Misconception #4: “Bundles are only for middle-class cigar buyers.”
Class warfare has no place with regard to what a given cigar smoker prefers to put to their lips. To each his own, as they say. There are plenty of upmarket and luxury cigar smokers who buy bundles for any number of reasons; from being able to smoke a decent cigar when a high-priced stick is not in order, for handing out to friends, smoking on the golf course, etc.
The reverse is also true. By buying bundles, a lot of so-called “middle class” cigar smokers usually save enough money to pick up a box of a high-priced box brand they want for those special occasions. By the way, there are plenty of cigar smokers who are so loyal to their bundle brands they’d just as soon pass on a box of anything else.
Finally, and this is not a misconception, bundle cigars can serve as an economical introduction to many a brand’s premium cigars. As mentioned above, popular brand seconds will give you a good, yet cost-effective taste of what you can expect, not only from the boxed version, but the overall quality of the manufacturer. If they make a good bundle cigar, chances are other cigars in their stable will be good as well.