When you think of a cigarillo, often the image that comes to mind is Clint Eastwood chewing on a tiny cheroot. Or a distinguished cigar slightly bigger than a cigarette carried in an exquisite silver case, a la James Bond. Whatever you envisage, there is more to cigarillos than meets the eye!
Where Did Cigarillos Originate?
The literal Spanish translation of “cigarillo” is “little cigar.” Given Spain’s early domination of the cigar market, it is assumed that cigarillos were a Spanish invention. The first recorded mention of a cigarillo was in the 1830s. Their real popularity didn’t catch on until almost a century later. Then, rules were enforced to ensure they were hand-rolled and maintained specific size and shape ratios.
The Golden Age of Cigarillos
The influx of European blockbusters hit American cinemas in the 1950s. Then, the American cigar-smoking public fell in love with the jaunty, quick little smokes featured on screen. They enjoyed tremendous popularity in Europe, particularly among the working class who smoked one during a lunch break. Their popularity waned in the 1960s through the 1980s, though. This was mostly due to aggressive American cigarette industry marketing campaigns.
Are Cigarillos Made Different From Cigars?
Today, cigarillo makers create these little smokes, most often using machines. The cigars of many leading brands feature an all-tobacco wrapper. However, these same cigars may also contain up to 25% cellulose in their homogenized binder. Although purists often scoff at the homogenized binder, it provides a more even burn when lit. It also is what makes cigarillos a very cost-effective smoke! While there are no specifics for the size and shape, typical cigarillos are between three and four inches long. They also offer a slight taper, not to be confused with torpedoes.
Can You Taste the Difference?
Because of their small size, cigarillos offer a perfect, quick smoke. In fact, they are often flavored and used as an after-dinner “snack” in lieu of dessert. Henri Winterman’s Café Crème cigarillo is one of the top-selling brands in the world. Duty-free airport shops often feature it. In the United States, Swisher Sweets have been a longtime favorite. They are often featured in TV Westerns and on the big screen as the smoke of choice by gruff leading men.
The Renaissance of Little Smokes
High-end smoking lounges are embracing these little trophy cigars. Many cigar smokers enjoy the ability to smoke several little treats for the same time it would take to smoke a massive Churchill! Better production from smaller, independent cigar makers has been at the forefront of the cigarillos’ popularity in the States. Europe, however, remains the top-selling market, with almost 45% of cigars sold in Belgium alone being cigarillos.
Cigarillos Are Growing in Popularity
Cigarillos have captured a fast-growing segment of the cigar-smoking population: female smokers. With pop superstars like Rihanna and Shakira seen smoking them, it’s not hard to see why. The advent of flavored cigarillos has become quite popular as options at bachelorette parties and weddings. They offer a sort of his and her option for those who want a lighter, flavored smoke. The quality and consistency continue to improve, carving out more space and certainty for these little smokes. Cigarillos will continue to occupy a prominent niche in the cigar market for cigar lovers wanting a quick, easy smoke.
Photo credit: Fox Cigars