How are famous cigar producers’ “second brands” made?
A range of cigars appeared in the 1990s that were simpler and more affordable than premium cigars. Long called “bundles” due to their cellophane wrappers, these cigars have evolved to such an extent that this name doesn’t make much sense anymore and it seems preferable to use the expression “second brands” – a reference to the “second wines” that many winemakers produce. We reveal the back story!
Modest prices thanks to rationalized production
Retailing at an average of €3 for all brands and formats, it is impossible for second brands to have the same quality as premium cigars, whether it be in terms of the tobacco used, the production value or their appearance. Moreover, whether they be made with tobacco clippings left over from rolling premium cigars, or down-graded leaves (i.e. leaves not considered suitable for premium cigars), second brands don’t guarantee a consistent smoke from one batch to the next.
A less distinctive style
One cannot demand great precision in terms of flavor or a well-defined and easily identifiable personality. Despite a certain family resemblance with the premium brands, the blends’ lack of precision and inconsistency makes reviewing them a very hazardous task.
They have things in common…
- The tobacco used is of inferior quality – and therefore less expensive – than that used in premium cigars: premium tobacco clippings or down-graded leaves. These leaves are generally small and poorly stemmed (or not stemmed at all), hence the occasional presence of large veins in the filler;
- A less precise, less sophisticated blend than for premium cigars. And less traceable: the origin of the leaves – trimmed or whole – lacks transparency;
- Hand-made, with the help of a machine (commonly called the “flip-flap”) to roll the filler.
… as well as differences
- The filler can be made with whole leaves (this is referred to as a long filler) or shorter leaves (the leaves are cut but not chopped like cigarillos – this is called a medium filler).
- The packaging: In shrink-wrapped bundles or traditional wooden boxes.
An intermediate category
Premium seconds – made with more carefully selected tobacco and sold in traditional wooden boxes – are slightly more expensive, so they are an intermediate solution between standard second brands and premium cigars. Is there a real drop-off in quality between premium seconds and standard second brands though, or is it a marketing gimmick? Make up your own mind. Cusano, Ligne O and Villa Zamorano are some examples currently available in France.