Gurkha’s Royal Courtesan fetches a cool $1.36 million per cigar. Made from Himalayan tobacco, grown with Fiji water, and banded in diamonds, it is the most expensive cigar in the world. With a price tag like that, you might think that a Yeti (the legendary abominable snowman) rolled your smoke. If that’s too rich for your blood, there is always the Mayan Sicar. Uncovered in Guatemala in 2012, these six hundred-year-old smokes rank second as the most expensive cigars. A collector paid just over half a million for the still smokable relics.
Compared to those prices, Gurkha’s His Majesty’s Reserve -allegedly former president Bill Clinton’s favorite- is a reasonable $750 per cigar. No, these are not everyday cigars, even if you are an ex-president. Rare and collectibles are in a category all their own.
Most premium cigars fall within the $4-30 range. A price tag is not necessarily indicative of the quality of a good smoke, but a good smoke isn’t “good” because it costs a bundle. The average smoker does not need to smoke a million-dollar cigar to get premium quality.
Seasoned smokers know length and ring gauge matter—a cigar’s construction matters. Sometimes the packaging factors into what you smoke, but does price matter?
Are Expensive Cigars Better?
The short answer is a decisive no. Plenty of cigars provide premium quality without a hefty price tag. However, cigar pricing is not arbitrary, and for all the novices and nonsmokers out there, cigars are not “all the same.”
What Makes Expensive Cigars?
The quality of any product shows the time and care it takes to create it. Raw materials and craftsmanship are integral. It’s the difference between a chair from Ikea and a chair from Bernhardt. It is the difference between furniture hand-crafted from sturdy wood and furniture mass-produced with particle board. Cigars are no different.
The most respected cigar lines have been honing their blends for decades. The intricate process of cultivating various tobacco leaves and then aging and fermenting them takes time and money. Before a cigar is even rolled and boxed, cigar makers are developing new combinations of tobaccos. They are also careful to maintain time-honored techniques in making traditional favorites.
Premium cigar companies take pride in their product and employ the best rollers to create top-shelf cigars. It is in the company’s best interest to find the best rollers in order to deliver the best products. Having experts construct cigars is also in the customer’s best interest, even if it costs a few extra dollars.
Davidoff has long been a benchmark in the industry. Even their standard blends have price tags to prove it. A Davidoff can cost anywhere from $10 to $30. They have been in business for over 100 years. Noone’s palate is the same, but most smokers can attest to Davidoff’s balance, flavor, and quality.
Specialty Cigars and Rarity
Many companies come out with specialty cigars and limited edition blends each year. There are only a certain amount of these cigars, so sometimes pricing is simply a case of supply and demand.
Smokers and collectors have long coveted Arturo Fuente’s Opus X line because of its scarcity. The company is notoriously secretive about this unique blend. Fuente won’t even reveal an exact timeline for how long they’re aged. In any year, there are only a few hundred thousand Opus sticks to go around. It’s no wonder they cost a bit more than the average stick.
Branding and Packaging
Taste is the highest priority for most smokers and cigar makers, but packaging and presentation is also vital to branding and pricing. The best companies hire top designers to create cigar bands and boxes. Like the quality of the taste, good companies take pride in the look of their product. The most recognizable brands often have the most recognizable presentation. Think of Ashton’s minimalist boxes, Davidoff’s elegant white bands trimmed in gold, Padron’s insignia in a wine red background flanked by golden tobacco leaves.
These lines have developed a loyal clientele and consistently deliver top-shelf cigars. However, some boutique lines and upstarts often go for a sleek look and skimp on the quality. Beware of frilly boxes, flashy bands, and giveaways. They may deliver on the image, but might not deliver the quality big price tags promise.
The Upshot on Expensive Cigars
“Expensive” is relative. One guy’s everyday smoke is the next guy’s trophy cigar. Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with buying that end table from Ikea or smoking that $4 stick. The beauty of the cigar industry is that premium lines are all hand-rolled, and companies hold their products to high standards. If you can’t afford to smoke a Davidoff every day, there are plenty of quality lines to choose from that are priced in the medium to lower range.
What cigar to smoke is often about context. Taking your best cigars to the golf course might not be the best idea. A windy day can ruin even the finest rolled cigar. A cheaper stick might be the best bet. Mark Twain preferred the cheapies all his life, and some guys stick to a few brands, but aficionados taste around regardless of cost.
Some occasions might call for something special, and that might entail shelling out a few extra bucks. In most cases, you will not be disappointed. Our best advice is to rely on a knowledgeable smoker, a friend from your local lounge, trusted reviewers, and your own palate to decide whether a pricey cigar is worth it.
Photo credit: Cigar Life Guy