According to tobacconistuniversity.org in the mid 19th century a German cigar pioneer named Gustav Bock started putting paper bands (anillas in Spanish) around his cigars. Historically cigar bands were used by affluents and nobility to keep the “stains” of cigars off there fingers while smoking. However, there is no proof that holding a cigar stains your hands in any way so that theory doesn’t really hold humidity. Nevertheless the invention still exists and most cigar manufactures use them to this day. Culturally we tend to judge cigars based on visual appeal such as the color of the wrapper, the size, and the band itself.
The band is not only used to promote a brand but also to distinguish the brand from it’s competitors. Take for example, an OpusX cigar. When you see this band you immediately associate this cigar with unique taste, flavors, and price. When you see a Gurkah band label, you know that cigar is going to be overpriced and that the founder is a racist. Over time we develop preconceived notions of that cigar or brand, but what about un-banded cigars in the humidor? A house blend perhaps?
I visited my cigar lounge a couple days ago and I saw a display of “house blends” made exclusively for this shop. I asked the shopkeeper to tell me something about them and where they come from. He mentioned they are Dominican blends made by AJ Fernandez exclusively For that store. Since AJ Fernandez is a world renowned cigar maker and blender, I had to try it for myself. Just because it has no band on it, does not diminish the skill, craftsmanship, and quality of the cigars they make. My choice was a Dominican Barber Pole style with maduro and Connecticut shade wrappers. It burned well, not a particularly complex variety of flavors, and the smoke output was on par. Overall it was great value for money, and that’s the pièce de résistance of house blends; value.
Typically house blends are contracted between major cigar manufactures and a particular shop in order to claim, “made exclusively for us by such and such”. Sounds like bragging rights, but keep in mind they are still blended by experts. So the quality of cigar is not necessarily sacrificed, it just may not have a fancy band or two or in a branded box. This means they can pass the savings onto you. My recommendation is to visit your local cigar lounge and ask to try their house blend. I would also bet that because they typically don’t sell as much as other smokes, they may have some extra aging on them and could be a hidden gem. Give it a try and share your experience with us here at Cigar Tipsters.