I’ve been getting a lot of inquires about so-called “gas station cigars” — the machine-made smokes that often get a bad rap. I started in this hobby smoking quite a few machine-mades, and don’t ever want to give the impression that I’m against them, or that they are all sub-par.
The reality is — in this age of high tobacco taxes — you can usually get a good hand-rolled for the same price as a machine-made. If faced with this choice, I would always opt for a hand-rolled cigar.
But, in the spirit of fairness, I’ve decided to review a few machine-mades here. I hope this information will be helpful.
Al Capone: I am not a big fan of these cigarillos, as I find them too small and the flavorings a bit overpowering. That said, Al Capone does offer a natural tobacco wrapper. It’s a good pick if you’re looking for a quick, short smoke. As with many cigarillos, however, they will burn hot toward the end.
Backwoods: This “rough and natural” blend features 100% tobacco (filler and wrapper). Don’t expect anything in the way of looks, though. The name is apt. It’s a real mangy looking smoke, but a fine pick if you’re wiling to sacrifice a bit of flavor.
Dutch Masters: This brand is fast becoming the new favorite. The smoke is smooth and quick, but still offers a bit of the ‘buzz’ favored by many machine-made cigar fans. As with many “gas-station” cigars, though, they have a tendency to become stale fast. Most of the packs I’ve picked up have at least one molding stick (wrapper turning green or blue).
Garcia y Vega: When it comes to machine-made cigars, Garcia y Vega is king. GV is of the few machine-mades that still uses a natural tobacco leaf wrapper (as opposed to brown paper). Many fans will swear by the Corona tubes, but GV’s Game offering is definitely worth checking out. Even if you’re not a fan of flavored ‘gars, I think you’ll find these sticks to be a pleasant smoke.
Middleton Black & Mild: If you’re a pipe smoker getting into cigars (or a cigar smoker getting into pipes), this is a good choice for you. The smoke is short, but features sweet and tasty, all-natural pipe tobacco. These cigars come with a plastic tip, which helps alleviate the sometimes overpowering flavor dip they put on. Be advised, however, that they are wrapped in paper, and the ash will be flying around almost immediately after lighting.
Phillies: The ‘go-to’ cigar for blunt smokers, Phillies are (how can I put this nicely?) not for cigar smoking. The fact is that this brand is most often used for smoking marijuana. Manufacturers — perhaps privy to this reality — offer sub-par tobacco bound by a nasty brown paper wrapper. If you’re looking for a machine-made cigar you can actually smoke, I’d opt instead for Dutch Masters or Garcia y Vega.
Swisher Sweets: This cigar is perhaps second to Garcia y Vega in terms of machine-made quality. Offering more than a dozen varieties, Swisher Sweets has a cigar to suit the palate of almost every machine-made cigar smoker. I started smoking cigars with the Swisher Sweets Wood Tip Cigarillo — which I still recommend for a quick smoke that won’t leave your mouth tasting like you licked an ashtray. Be advised, however, that not every Swisher Sweets variety features a natural leaf tobacco wrapper; many are still wrapped in paper.
White Owl: Though this brand has been around for longer than most of us have been alive, White Owl is getting new attention — primarily for their new flavored cigars, which come in unique shapes and sizes. This brand uses paper wrappers, though, which negatively affect the taste. If the manufacturers would consider switching to a natural leaf tobacco wrapper, this brand could be up there with Swisher Sweets and Garcia y Vega.
Other Machine-Mades of Note
- Blanco y Woermann
- Good Times